Things I’ve Learned: Mike Leigh

Wickedly observant, consummately English, a cinematic storyteller par excellence: Mike Leigh is the award-winning writer-director behind Naked (1993), Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999),Vera Drake (2004), Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), and dozens other beautifully crafted films.

His latest, Mr. Turner, starring longtime collaborator Timothy Spall as master painter J. M. W. Turner, opens in theaters December 19, 2014. The seven-time Academy Award nominee, known for his uniquely immersive, improvisatory methods, offers these characteristically to-the-point rules for better filmmaking.

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1. Never compromise.

2. Only ever accept final cut.

3. Only sign when it’s guaranteed that nobody will interfere at any stage.

4. Rule #3 includes casting. The moment someone insists on a “name”, walk away from the project.

5. Only cast actors you really want.

6. The same applies to the crew.

7. Always have a producer you like and trust.

8. Never make creative decisions prematurely, or for the wrong reasons.

9. Love everybody, and be nice.

10. Don’t cut corners.

11. Keep your sense of humor.

12. Know when to shut up and listen. MM

Photograph by Simon Mein, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

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