Things I’ve Learned: Neil Jordan’s 12 Golden Rules of Moviemaking

In the last few years, Neil Jordan, whose career spans three decades, has written and directed episodes of HBO’s The Borgias, his self-described current day job, as well as the Irish film Ondine. He will step into the world of the undead for the third time, following High Spirits (1988) and Interview with the Vampire (1994), with Byzantium.

This third vampire film, adding to Jordan’s immortal collection, stars Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a fanged mother and daughter duo. Jordan himself admits that the lady vampires of Byzantium are female counterparts to Interview’s deadly twosome, Louis and Lestat, played nearly 20 years ago by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. He also credits Interview’s author, Anne Rice, with beginning the vampire mania that has given life to the Twilight Series, True Blood, his newest film and countless other bloody, death defying titles. Byzantium comes out of the dark this Friday, June 28.

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1. Films used to be about sex, violence and cigarette smoking. Smoking is no longer permissible and sex is barely permissible, so you’d better get good at violence.

2. The word “fuck” in an actor’s mouth is hardly worth the effort. You’ll be asked to cut it or be given the wrong rating. If you win the fight and manage to keep it, you’ll have to overdub it for the television versions with “freak,” “frig,” etc. Try getting an actor to say “motherfrigger.”

3. Prepare everything and you’ll be amazed at how much of it ends up on the screen. Write it, draw it, note it, talk it out. Then keep shooting until you make sure you get it—even down to the weather and the available light.

4. You’ll be held responsible for everything that ends up in the finished film. So if people tell you it doesn’t matter, don’t believe them.

5. There is no longer any difference between the independents and the studios. That was eliminated sometime in the 1980s. Most independent movies now are put through the same grindhouse as the studio projects.

6. To entertain an audience is never a crime.

7. To challenge an audience is never a crime.

8. To bore an audience is a crime punishable by extremely low figures in the top two boxes.

9. Work with good actors and make sure you like them. If they are good, their instincts about the script you’ve written are often better than yours.

10. Remember what a good time you’re having. Making a film is the greatest antidote to boredom yet invented.

11. Always tell the truth on the set.

12. Never tell the truth on a junket.

Neil Jordan made his debut as a writer-director with 1982’s Angel, for which he was given The London Evening Standard’s Most Promising Newcomer Award. Several films quickly followed from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s including The Company of Wolves, Mona Lisa and The Miracle. In 1992, Jordan’s legendary gender-bender tale, The Crying Game, won the Irish auteur his first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director). Jordan further cemented his reputation as a true cinematic visionary with Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, The End of the Affair, Breakfast on Pluto, and, more recently, The Brave One.

Don’t forget to visit us next week for more movie knowledge! Previous Wisdom Wednesdays have shared the expertise of Danny Boyle, Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch, Zack Snyder and Gus Van Sant.

To learn more about Neil Jordan go here. For more information on Byzantium check out their Facebook page. To subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine click here.

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