Paul Schrader Says Creating, Writing Is "A Form of Therapy"

"When you're always thinking subtractively, it's not good for your creative process," the 'First Reformed' writer and director told the Writer Roundtable.

Paul Schrader has a lot to say about the creative moviemaking process.

"I feel strongly that the additive process is much more creative than the subtractive one. If you can have a first draft that works at 70 pages, you know you're going to have a draft that works at 90 pages, and it's just going to get better," Paul Schrader told the Writer Roundtable.

"And the same thing with the editing process. At some point you say to the editor, 'Let's make a cut of the film with just the stuff that's good.' See how long it is, maybe it's 45 minutes long, 55 minutes long," Schrader continued. "Then see how much of the rest we have to put in. Now you're thinking in an additive way, rather than in a subtractive way. When you're always thinking subtractively, it's not good for your creative process."

Schrader says his whole creative process, particularly writing, is "a form of therapy."

"Of course you're going to get into, 'What are the things that are motivating you?' And the first script, Taxi Driver [1976], was loneliness. You find a metaphor — a taxicab — take a plot and run through the metaphor," he told the Roundtable, lamenting that he isn't a "better employee, because there's certainly money to be made."

"I've tried a number of times, and it's not really worked," he said, adding that he hasn't been "so much fired as: You hand in a first draft, you get no notes, you get paid for your rewrite and the phone doesn't ring."

Schrader isn't in the remake business like much of Hollywood is today, but noted, "That's all we do. You're picking and choosing; you don't actually originate anything. You just go through this huge buffet of cinema and make your own plate. And even though all the elements are out there at this endless Chinese buffet, everybody's plate is different."

Schrader has two career Golden Globe nominations for writing Raging Bull (1980) and Taxi Driver (1976). He wrote and directed 2018's First Reformed starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried.