After screening his film “The Card Counter” at this year’s Zurich Film Festival, director Paul Schrader spoke to the significance of festivals for both his career and the industry as a whole.

“My career is sort of festival-driven,” said Schrader at the Variety Lounge at Zurich Film Festival, presented by Power Chord Films. “For me, it’s the way to set the table. There are so many films that are now being produced and coming out. It’s really a blur for audiences and even for critics. The festival has become the gatekeeper. And that’s all it takes for people to start to notice you, and once they notice you, then you obviously got to cut the mustard. You have to have a film that makes you worthy of being noticed.”

“The Card Counter” premiered on Sept. 10, after production was delayed back in March and the film was picked up by Focus Features mid-July. Its world premiere was at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on Sept. 2.

Schrader discussed the audience he had in mind when creating the film, which centers around poker.

“You try to do something that will be of interest. It’s kind of trying to take the curiosity of the viewer,” Schrader explained. “You know, do I really want to see a film about a poker player? And then all of a sudden you are involved in another dimension and you just have to assume that if it interests you, it will interest other people.”

When asked about his inspiration for the film, Schrader recalled some of his favorite card movies that had come out in previous years.

“The way Oscar is dressed is McQueen in ‘The Cincinnati Kid,'” said Schrader. “And that was the most obvious gambling reference because usually I thought about gambling films in terms of what not to do. And then there are some great ones. I think the best film about gambling is ‘California Split.’ Those are the movies I want to fake doing, and you’re so addicted to genre that you’re going to get fooled by my fake because you can’t help it, because it’s in your movie-watching DNA.”