Things I’ve Learned: Atom Egoyan

This Wisdom Wednesday, director Atom Egoyan tells us his golden rules for happiness, both in the realm of moviemaking and life in general.

The Egypt-born, Canada-bred Egoyan has written, directed, produced and edited more than 25 films and television shows. His credits include Next of Kin, Family Viewing, Speaking Parts, Calendar, Exotica, Felicia’s Journey, and Ararat. He was nominated for two Oscars in 1997, for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, for The Sweet Hereafter. His latest, Devil’s Knot, about the West Memphis Three, stars Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, and opens Friday, May 9.
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1. Never waste your time comparing yourself to anyone else. There are hundreds of other people who will provide this service free of charge.

2. Don’t get depressed about not being where you want to be. This nagging feeling of anxiety is actually called ambition. Ambition is your friend.

3. Nothing will ever turn out the way you want it to. It may be better. It may be worse. It will never be exactly what you imagined.

4. You do not have an actor until they are physically in front of your camera, speaking the dialogue you have written. Until this moment, their attachment to your project is illusory.

5. The greatest satisfaction is growing with a team of people you trust. Your DP, production designer, costume designer, editor, composer and other key crew are like flesh and blood.

6. Assuming Rule #5, it is imperative to remember that it’s the actor who is expected to create something truly magical on the set. Under enormous pressure, they are required to completely transform themselves. Protect their unique artistry.

7. Everyone has an agenda.

8. Carefully harness these disparate and often conflicting agendas with your own ambition. This is a lot harder than it sounds.

9. Film directing is a strange and neurotically-inspired vocation. It sometimes involves coaxing and/or  manipulating people to do things they wouldn’t consider doing otherwise.

10. Choose people to work with who understand and deeply respect the perversity of Rule #9. MM

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Devil’s Knot opens in theaters and on VOD Friday, May 9, 2014, courtesy of RLJ/Image Entertainment.

Don’t forget to visit us next week for more movie knowledge! Previous Wisdom Wednesdays have shared the expertise of Thelma SchoonmakerCrispin GloverAlexander PaynePaul W.S. AndersonMcG, Ethan HawkeGavin HoodJohn SaylesMike NewellBarry SonnenfeldWilliam FrakerRobert RodriguezJoe EszterhasSeth MacFarlaneMarc Forster,  Billy Bob ThorntonErrol MorrisBrian De PalmaJulie TaymorKevin SmithChris WeitzDanny BoyleSteve BuscemiJim JarmuschZack Snyder, Gus Van SantNeil JordanJohn WatersEli RothNeal McDonoughRandall Emmett and Wim Wenders.

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