Things I’ve Learned As A Moviemaker: Catherine Hardwicke

Nothing matters but the characters and the acting.

As a production designer, I would put so much effort into making the set perfect and then I would watch some movies I had done and realize none of it mattered. There are a lot of films with great sets, but we don’t care to watch them if the story and the characters aren’t compelling.

Always concentrate on what you’re doing.

No matter what happens on the set—who’s having a bad day, whether two actors are fighting or the studio doesn’t want you to go into overtime—you can’t make any excuses. Every day there are going to be 500 problems that have to be solved but all that matters is what gets recorded. So I find I need to have 100 percent concentration when I’m shooting.

Have an open mind.

My first cut of Lords of Dogtown was two hours and 15 minutes and I thought everything on that screen was a jewel. My first response when anyone suggested cutting a scene was, ‘No way!’ But as you whittle away and find the movie, you need to have an open mind and ask, ‘What would happen if I did cut that scene out?’ You need to be bold and try it. Maybe it will work. Maybe it will make other things work.

The tighter your script is, the better.

My script for Thirteen was 95 pages. Dogtown was 106. Next time I hope I can get my script under 90 pages. I think if you can figure out ways to condense the script, there will be fewer gaps and holes later on when you have to cut the film down, because a film finds its own life and expands a little as you shoot it. MM

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