TRUST gets the story behind Poetica’s Anthony Furlong, a director with a love for art, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and prehistoric amusement parks.
How and why did you first get into the world of directing?
Imagine yourself when you were a child, sitting on your bedroom floor and acting out the next heroic adventure with your action figures. Life, death and everything in-between are played out on a daily basis. I loved being in the center of these intense sagas so much that I quickly turned to theatre where, as an actor, I could be anyone and be anywhere. The thrill of being in these stories – figuring out how to live inside each character – was like a drug and it consumed me into my early 20s. When I was 14, though, I saw Jurassic Park and it really opened my eyes to the world of cinema. Seeing that film was like one of my Saturday morning sagas come to life and I immediately knew this was what I had to make of my future.
Fate led me through two more careers before I would make it into the world of directing. However, both computer programming and graphic design turned out to be invaluable experiences. They provided me with an understanding of both form and function, a visual language as well as the engineering skill set to make it come to life.
To me, directing is the culmination of these different forms of thinking funneled through an intense curiosity to explore and create.
Where is the most amazing location that a directing opportunity has taken you? What happened there to make it so memorable?
Traveling is a passion of mine because it allows me the opportunity to learn more about life, to expand my consciousness beyond the stale suburb in which I grew up. To me, every chance to go on location is like a dream come true. One trip, in particular, really changed me forever. I had the fantastic opportunity to be in Paris for two months while working on the French music video awards. While there, I met Alejandro Jodorowsky and spent a lot of time with his star pupil, Moreno Fazari. With them, I learned about the deep meaning that symbology plays in our cultures and our psyches. Alejandro’s methods of using the “language of dreams” to speak directly to the unconscious mind is fascinating to me. It was an experience that I will always carry.
What is the most ambitious thing you’ve ever done? (No cheating by saying that you haven’t done it yet.)
I am currently working on a feature documentary about the Mexican drug war. Brutal violence touches so many innocent people every day without us ever hearing or knowing anything about it. Even lawyers and people in the media have been killed because they wanted to speak out against the cartels. It struck a deep chord with me when someone we interviewed said, “In Mexico, we used to wish great things for our children. We wanted them to be doctors, lawyers, actors and business executives. Now it is different. Now we wish for our children to be invisible.” With humility, I hope to help bring some light to this very dark place.
Good art is food for my soul. It has the power to make me laugh, cry, think and wonder. I can lose myself in a single great piece of artwork for hours.
Hypothetical scenario: you can only have good food, art, or sports. Pick one and the others will disappear from the world forever. Which one do you choose?
Between food, art and sports I would absolutely need to choose art. Good art is food for my soul. It has the power to make me laugh, cry, think and wonder. I can lose myself in a single great piece of artwork for hours.
How did you guys come up with the name for your new creative collective Poetica?
I began with my own personal philosophy. Whenever someone asks me what I do, I always say that I love making things. Whether it is art, music, a piece of furniture, a photograph, a car engine, a film, or even just a nice dinner – I love to build and create. To me, it seems to be something that all artists share.
At the same time, I also happened to be reading a wonderful book on philosophy. For some reason, my mind kept going back to Aristotle and his book, which was originally titled Poetica. To me, story is a vital necessity of life and the most important part of any film, novel or campfire. In Poetica, Aristotle analyzes tragedy, comedy, plot and character. It was the first book to explain how to tell a story. When I also found out that the word literally meant, “making,” in ancient Greek I knew that nothing else would be as perfect.
You’re a recent Brooklyn convert. What makes Brooklyn so much better than your former city of Los Angeles?
I will always have a soft spot for Los Angeles. However, it felt like a very isolated place. We are in our home, our car, our office, and then our car and back home again. It seems that most people exist traveling from bubble to bubble without much contact with the outside world. It is different in cities where public transportation is not so frowned upon. I always walk everywhere in Brooklyn and there’s beauty around every corner. I find myself surrounded by many different types of people and there seems to be a greater sense of connection. I think there’s a great energy here. To be fair though, I have not been in New York long and we are still in the honeymoon phase.
Who are your personal storytelling heroes?
I have been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell lately and his writings on the subject of story and myth are unparalleled. Most people today think that mythology is an unnecessary subject forced upon us by college professors when, in fact, it “lines the walls of our interior systems of belief.” There really is a lot that we can learn from it. Contemporary masters of storytelling and cinema, such as George Lucas and Pixar, also openly recognize both Campbell and Aristotle as huge influencers of their work. Methods of storytelling can absolutely deviate and should be pushed and tested beyond that which we already know, however I believe that it helps to know it’s basic principles in order to successfully break them.