Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker: Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam has spent the better part of four decades dazzling audiences with film after critically acclaimed film.

After the resounding success of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which Gilliam co-directed with fellow Python Terry Jones) in 1975, Gilliam’s reputation grew even stronger with films such as Brazil and The Fisher King, which collectively received seven Oscar nominations. The cult phenomenon Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reestablished Gilliam as one of cinema’s most unique voices in 1998. His latest project, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, features a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Heath Ledger in his final role.

1. Never work for money.

2. Take only the jobs you have control over.

3. Have something original to say.

4. Don’t think about a career.

5. Believe that each film is the only film you will ever get to make.

6. Start at the top.

7. (If you can’t do #6) Be patient.

8. Trust your instincts.

9. Be passionate.

10. Be stubborn.

11. Be thick-skinned, but listen to everybody.

12. Know how to do everyone’s job, but not as well as they can.

13. Cast carefully.

14. Be a good audience… the actors are exposing themselves more than you are.

15. Make sure the key actors are by your side and in the foxhole with you for the final battle with the suits.

16. Remember that studio executives’ opinions are based on the fear of losing their jobs.

17. Try to convince yourself the audience is not stupid.

18. Focus groups at research screenings are the exception to #17.

19. Don’t strive for the impossible; the improbable is sufficient.

20. Spot welding or plumbing are sensible alternatives to moviemaking.

21. Moviemaking is not a basic human right.

22. Assume nothing.

23. Be humble.

If these rules don’t work… sell out. You’ll probably end up being rich and famous. MM

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