'Who'd play me on screen? It would be a great challenge for George Clooney'
What got you started?
I went to college in a time before VCR.
Film societies showed flicks every night of the week.
You could have triple-bills of Frank Capra, Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa, all in one evening.
Because I was so shy and maladroit, I spent much of my time there, lapping it up.
But I didn't understand what it meant to be a director until I actually directed.
What was your big breakthrough?
Finally going to flick school.
I'd failed at so many other endeavours.
When I saw that my work as a student was getting such a warm response, I realised I was on to something.
Your flicks often have uncomfortable themes.
Have you always been drawn to these?
Gee, I don't know.
Certainly, as a child, I never watched anything disturbing; my family wouldn't let me go and see anything more severe than The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Is critical appreciation important?
It's always preferable for people to like your movie.
I'm indebted to those critics who have supported my work – but these days, I don't know how much power they have.
Even if you get the best reviews, certain flicks just have a limited audience.
By the same token, you can get terrible reviews and still be successful.
Who would play you in the flick of your life?
It would be a great challenge for George Clooney.
Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?
I'm unaware of any sacrifice.
I like doing what I do.
When you say the word "sacrifice", it just sounds like I've put someone dear to me on a stake.
What advice would you give a young film-maker?
If it's something you have passion for and you have tenacity, you don't have to worry.
You will succeed in creating something of value.
Which artists do you most admire?
Anyone who can survive, particularly those who don't get much encouragement or financial success, but keep working.
That fills me with awe.
I have such a weak character: if people had told me they didn't think my work was good, I don't think I'd have pursued it.
What's your greatest ambition?
With each movie, just to survive the process.
I always feel it's a success if I don't feel embarrassed by it.
In shortBorn: Newark, New Jersey, 1959.
Career: Films include Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Palindromes, Life During Wartime and Dark Horse, which is out on Friday.
He takes part in a Q&A session at the Curzon Soho, London W1, on Friday.
Low point: "Oh, let's not dwell on those.
Too many to choose from."
High point: "Being able to make flicks that I would have wanted to see, had I not been a film-maker had I not been a film-maker."
Todd SolondzLaura Barnettguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
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