The writer and director Daniel Goldhaber may have achieved breakout success with the 2018 horror thriller Cam, but he doesn't identify as a "horror filmmaker." In fact, he says, "I have always been fairly genre agnostic. I love genre movies. I love fun movies. I don't care necessarily what genre they’re in."
Five years after Cam, Goldhaber returns with his second feature effort, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, a movie that couldn't be more different from his debut. Based on Andreas Malm's nonfiction novel of the same name, the drama centers on a crew of environmental activists who assemble in the Texas desert to — as the title indicates — blow up a major oil pipeline. Whereas Cam was a horror film, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a heist thriller through and through.
For Goldhaber, the chance to adapt Malm's book into a politically-minded thriller about climate change was too alluring to pass up. (He wrote the script with Jordan Sjol, who also served as an executive producer, and Ariela Barer, who also stars in the film.) "I love heist movies... It's a movie with an ensemble cast and a heist structure, which gave me the chance to engage in parallel cutting, which I love, and nonlinear storytelling, which I also love."
"How to Blow Up a Pipeline brought all of these technical and formal things together in a genre package that was exciting, especially when combined with subject matter that I am, obviously, extremely passionate about," he adds.
Below, Goldhaber shares with A.frame five films that had the biggest influence on How to Blow Up a Pipeline and his love of genre filmmaking in general.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh | Written by: Ted Griffin
For me, whenever you're working within the genre space, you have to be thinking about Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh is all about staging, all about efficiency, and all about the ways that you're efficient in the film that also make you efficient in production. So, if you're working quickly like we were, you're automatically thinking about Soderbergh and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. That's just the nature of the beast, and How to Blow Up a Pipeline definitely has more Soderbergh in it. My next film will have more of Fassbinder's influence, hopefully.
Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel
Written and Directed by: Robert Bresson
A Man Escaped was the first film we thought about for How to Blow Up a Pipeline. The reason for that was, obviously, A Man Escaped as the title of a movie is kind of a spoiler. It tells you that the man escapes, and yet you spend the entire movie nervously wondering, 'Is he gonna escape?' It’s the same thing in How to Blow Up a Pipeline. We tell you they're going to blow up a pipeline, and then we want you to spend the next hour and 20 minutes asking, 'Are they going to do it?'
The first time I learned the value of that trick was actually in Double Indemnity, when Walter Neff walks into the building at the start of the film and he's been shot. You spend the rest of the movie knowing that he's going to be shot, and yet you spend the entire film hoping that he'll get away with his crimes. I really love that trick. When it comes to films that influenced How to Blow Up a Pipeline, the order of operations was really A Man Escaped, Ocean's Eleven, and Nocturama. Those were literally the first movies we talked about when we started thinking about making Pipeline. I highly recommend Nocturama to anyone who hasn't seen it, and its subject matter obviously links it to our film.
Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
How to Blow Up a Pipeline has a very conscious structural riff on Reservoir Dogs. That said, while the film was really important to me growing up and I still think there's some great stuff about it, it's also not really about anything. It doesn't really have much thematic bite. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, but we were very consciously saying, 'Let's look at this movie that was this huge stylistic breakout hit but has very little political value to it.' We saw taking the pop cultural object-ness of Reservoir Dogs and applying it to the subject matter of How to Blow Up a Pipeline as part of the actual subversive provocation of the film.
Written and Directed by: Michael Mann
Stylistically, Thief may seem a bit different from our film, but in terms of shot construction and the nature of coverage, they're actually quite similar. Especially in the way that the actual work process is covered. We looked to Thief for reference for scenes like our bomb-building montages. There are some probe lens shots in Pipeline that we basically took from Thief. We had some particular questions about process that we looked to Thief for as well.
But even more than that, the film's Tangerine Dream score was a big inspiration for us. As much as I try not to rely on temp music too much, we all were thinking about the Tangerine Dream score quite a bit throughout the making of Pipeline.
Directed by: Gillo Pontecorvo | Written by: Franco Solinas
I don't know if I can easily point to a 1:1 relationship between The Battle of Algiers and Pipeline, but I think, spiritually, it's a film that understands the political value of not only property destruction and sabotage, but also the value of showing it. Battle of Algiers is interesting because it's a movie that has been used by revolutionaries to inspire and by governments to suppress. The U.S. military used it as a training video to train soldiers about how guerrilla warfare is conducted in urban areas and how to anticipate what revolutionaries and guerrilla soldiers might do. I think that's very interesting, and we were looking at it to understand its legacy and the kind of film that we were making.