I was 17 and in in high school when “Pulp Fiction” came out in late 1994.
I first saw the movie with my parents at an art house theater in Rochester. I will never forget watching my Mom, a small woman at 5’1″, curling up into a fetal position during the infamous “needle scene”. Nor will I ever forget the shock and laughs of the audience when Vince (John Travolta) accidentally shoots Marvin in the face.
“Pulp Fiction” is the movie I generally credit with lighting the biggest fire under my ass to make movies. It wasn’t a loud big action movie, but it had something movies to that point did not: it was different. It got you going, it was just a few stories interwoven, but it was done so originally with such jarring and shockingly creative style that it opened up my mind and heart to what is possible when making a movie.
I loved “Pulp Fiction” so much I took 9 different friends to see it… just to watch their reactions during the needle scene, the rape scene, and the Marvin shooting scene. I’d never been to a movie that got those kinds of visceral reactions.
It inspired me to realize what makes for great movies: TOUCHING, moving, or PUNCHING your audience. Good comedies make you laugh, good action movies make you squeeze your knuckles, a good drama can make you cry. Bad movies may not be poorly lit or even have bad plots or acting… but they just don’t get through to the audience. That’s why there are so many lame indie dramas out there.
When I was 17, back in the 90s, long before texting… I assumed that Tarantino had gone to USC. I don’t know why I assumed this, I think it was because I heard he was from Los Angeles. Back then the net was just a baby and you really couldn’t find out that much about your favorite stars or filmmakers. When I went to NYU I somehow assumed they were going to teach me to make movies like he did… but they did not. In fact we spent the first two years rehashing all the stuff I’d already learned in high school.
When I get emails from young people asking for advice on making movies, I now say “Watch ‘Pulp Fiction'”. Then watch it again. That’s how Quentin learned to write; from watching a bazillion movies.
October 14, 2012 will be the movie’s official 18th birthday, making the movie legally old enough to see itself. (Actually, that’s 17 right?). I can’t believe that was almost 20 years ago. Makes me feel old; but when I watch the opening credits blast out with Misirlou, I feel young again, and inspired. Fast forward to 4:20 for the adrenaline rush: