Joel Schumacher poses with Ryerson students. Photo: Josh Jensen Nagle

Students learn about flawless directing

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By Emily Bowers

Renowned film director Joel Schumacher showed Ryerson image arts students how to be Flawless last Friday.

Schumacher was on campus for a special advance screening of his new flick, which stars Robert DeNiro and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

About 200 students filled the sound stage in the image arts building to watch Schumacher’s new film, which hits theatres this week. Flawless centres around Walt Koontz (DeNiro), a homophobic retired New York police officer a stroke and can’t speak properly. Reluctantly he begins vocal therapy with Rusty Zimmerman (Hoffman), a transgendered drag queen who lives in his building.

Schumacher, who has directed such films as St. Elmo’s Fire, Batman Forever, Falling Down and 8mm, wrote, produced and directed Flawless.

After the screening, image arts chair Brian Damude introduced an up-beat Schumacher, who opened the floor to questions.

He urged the young crowd to follow their dreams and to avoid discouragement from “repeated rejection” that many emerging filmmakers are likely to face from the television and film industry.

Many of the audience members were fourth-year film students who were interested in directing.

James Haliburton, a first-year new media student, was excited to have Schumacher on campus.

“I think it’s an amazing thing to get that kind of a professional aspect,” he says. “It’s a great way to get your feet wet in the industry.”

Schumacher offered some words of advice to the audience about directing and life in the public spotlight. “If you can’t be willing to be called an asshole on print or on the air, don’t be a director,” he says.

Schumacher was on a tight schedule, but he made an effort to answer every question from the crowd as the students ate up his directorial advice. “If I can do it, you can do it,” he says. “And you can do it better.”

Flawless is Schumacher’s fourteenth film, and it’s one he’s proud of. “I don’t think any of us understand what it feels like to be born in the wrong body,” Schumacher says of the New York drag queens in his film.

But he’s quick to point out, “This is not a gay movie, it’s about transgender.”

While he realizes the film will turn heads in certain communities, Schumacher is no stranger to controversy.

“I don’t believe in seals of approval — you make a movie and see what happens,” he says. “Political groups should not run art, ever.”

He credits a stellar cast for making the movie work. Academy Award winner DeNiro spent weeks studying for the role of a person living with the effects of a stroke. Schumacher says DeNiro wore prosthetics in his mouth and weights on his right shoe and arm.

“He is, after all the years of awards and kudos, one of the most dedicated people I’ve worked with,” Schumacher says of DeNiro. “

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