Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom), posted this
e-mail he wrote during the editing process on Bloom
about possible detractors taking issue the influences in his film. Certainly something Wes has suffered from in reviews.
An email response I made to a friend late in the Bloom editing process. We were discussing the danger and place of other filmmaking influences, specifically in how the film would be received. As a very film-literate director making deeply personal films for an even more film-literate audience, it's something I've given some thought to, and this pretty much sums up where my head's currently at regarding "influences" and the creative process.
You’re probably right that I’ll get that specific criticism, especially from those who just don’t enjoy the film and are looking for an easy way to dismiss it. But honestly I think if you actually start making creative choices based on whether other people are going to perceive your ideas as original or not, it’s a dark bad road. If I had looked at Brick with that eye, I would have gone through and stripped out everything that anyone might have perceived as being too Coen brothers or David Lynch. If Paul Thomas Anderson had done that with Magnolia, he would have taken out all the Altman. If Wes Anderson had done that with Rushmore, he’d have taken out all the Ashby. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s an ok (if painfully reductive) basis to criticize a film from, but I don’t think it’s a useful basis to make (or adjust) a film from. At the end of the day all I can do is know where the stuff on the screen is coming from, and for me the one thing I’m sure of is that it all came from me. I can totally see how Ricky Jay’s narration and the Cat Stevens song could be perceived as mere lifts from other movies or directors, but I know they’re not - they’re things I love, and things I arrived at through an organic process and put in the movie because I deeply believe they belong there. In other words, they come from me, and I think it might be a dangerous thing as a filmmaker to apply any other filtration device to the creative process other than that.
Stripping those things out for fear that they’re unoriginal wouldn’t make something more purely mine, in fact I think it would work to the contrary. If it emotionally distances some people, I can’t really control that. But I think the negative effect of constantly worrying which creative choices will be perceived by critics or audiences as “original” would be much more detrimental.