Tom Ford Panel Discussion november 2016

On Friday evening at TheTimesCenter, Tom Ford sat down with Philip Galanes, columnist for Social Q’s and Table for Three at The New York Times, to discuss his new film and second directorial effort, “Nocturnal Animals.” The thriller, which stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, won the grand jury prize at the 2016 Venice Film Festival.

The hour-long conversation, part of the newspaper’s TimesTalks series, also touched on Ford’s first film, the Oscar-nominated “A Single Man,” and his work as a fashion designer for Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and his namesake label, launched in 2004.

Below, some highlights from the chat and Q&A session:

On how he got into film and how it fulfills a different creative need than fashion:

“I’ve always loved film. I think that like anyone who ultimately becomes a filmmaker, I consumed film….I lived through film. I had a wonderful childhood but so much of it was living an imaginary life I had seen in film, and I learned so much about the world through watching those films….In the mid-Nineties, I had already had a great deal of success as a fashion designer. I love fashion. It moves. It’s quick. It definitely satisfies a creative need of mine. But I also felt that in some ways, it was impermanent and I really wanted to direct film. And if you’re a designer that likes to direct things, [film] is the ultimate design…and it is forever sealed in a bubble. It is the most permanent thing. A beautiful dress…can take your breath away. Years later, you’ll see that same dress in a museum, and you’ll say ‘Wow,’…but it’s lost that power that it had the first time you ever saw it. Whereas a film, you can turn on an old movie, you’re crying, you’re laughing, you’re emoting with these people…and they’re dead. The writer’s dead, the director is dead. But there you are, crying with them. It’s forever.”

On his brief stint as an actor in New York:

“I had a brief moment as an actor when I was 17 in New York. I went to see an agent, booked the first thing I did, and I thought, ‘OK, great, I’ll be an actor.’ I hated it…I was so self-conscious in front of the camera. I decided acting was not for me. I think it might be one reason I’m good with actors. I understand what actors go through.”

On what makes a great filmmaker and a great fashion designer:

“Something to say. A point of view. You can’t be an established designer at an established brand unless you have something to say. You’re speaking to people. You’re speaking to your customer. Same goes with being a filmmaker: You can be technically good, but you need to have something to say.”

On how his clothing and accessories have given his customers ‘roles’ of their own:

“One of my favorite things is when I see someone who just buys one piece and mixes it [with their wardrobe] and makes it their own, and it gives them great pleasure and great joy….Fashion, for me, is about figuring out what you like, what you feel good in, how you feel comfortable — and that’s what you should wear…and I’m not talking about comfort with a stretch waist band.”

On success and the pressures that come with it:

“I thrive on [the pressure]. But at the end of every [Gucci] fashion show, if it was a successful one — and I had a string of them — I would get to the end of the runway and you could feel in the room that it had worked. And I would turn my back, and think, ‘F–k. What am I gonna do now? How am I gonna do this again?’ Because that’s fashion — what are you gonna do next? It just moves. But it’s addictive.”

On the character of Susan, played by Amy Adams:

“Susan is somewhat autobiographical…I made it personal. This is a woman who’s struggling with the attraction of materialism. She’s a victim of her own insecurity. She hasn’t done what she thought she wanted to do with her life, and she has fallen back on very strong pressure from her family and from our culture in certain parts of the world. She’s living this life where everything looks flawless, yet she’s dead inside. She’s neglected people in her life. I’ve certainly gone through that at periods of time where I’ve neglected people and neglected the spiritual part of my life. So I can relate to her struggle.”

On whether or not Ford relates to Tony, the character played by Gyllenhaal:

“When you write a character, you can’t help but write yourself into it. You’re literally writing their dialogue…Amy’s mother thinks of [Jake’s character] as weak because he’s not ambitious, he’s not driven, he doesn’t want to be a stock broker, he doesn’t have a lot of money. And Amy is trying to break away from her family upbringing, which is pushing her toward marrying someone with a certain amount of means. Jake’s character is perceived of as weak, both in the outer world and in this inner novel. He’s sensitive….He’s not the kind of guy who’s big and strong….I grew up in Texas and New Mexico and I was not the guy playing football, I was not the guy who was good with a gun. I was the one drawing, sketching, the sensitive one who might have been seen as weak, but I persevered.”

On how he balances work and family life:

“I’m highly, highly scheduled. A lot of my friends and family would say, ‘Can’t you just ever be spontaneous?’ When people call or e-mail and say let’s hang out, I’m like, ‘What the hell is hang out? What does that mean?’ I don’t understand hanging out unless it’s scheduled for two hours on Thursday of ‘hanging out’….I’m just very organized and highly scheduled.”


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