Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Articles - Screenwriting

Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley in Paul McGuigan’s Lucky Number Slevin (2006). Photo: The Weinstein Company

You learn as you go. Each experience comes with a whole array of knowledge. But writing is my passion.

The script is the sales tool. That’s what you use to say, “This is what the movie is going to look like.”

One day, when there’s real interactivity, it will be just like life, with stories generating themselves. People will be getting online, and some guy will decide to shoot some other guy. Suddenly, a thriller exists.

Good violence should come out of nowhere. It’s when the guy walks down the street and a piano falls on him. When Roman Polanski cuts Jack Nicholson’s nose in Chinatown—that’s as good as violence gets. Nowadays in cinema, you watch two guys fight for 30 minutes. Who cares?

I don’t think people are ever one thing. I think that they’re a composite of many different things. There’s a Kurt Vonnegut book called Mother Night that I love, with a fictitious character named Howard Campbell, Jr. The character in that novel was an American who was living in Europe. He was a playwright who became a radio personality. He would write propaganda for the Germans. But in the propaganda, he was actually delivering coded messages to the Allies. In the end, he becomes very integral to ending the war. But at the end of the war, he’s a war criminal. The underlying theme of that book is that oftentimes, we may be one thing while pretending to be another. But in the end, we will be remembered for what we pretended to be. It’s the opposite idea of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, where someone asks, “I hope that you haven’t been pretending to be bad this whole time. I want you to turn out to be good all along.” Which is the opposite idea, and it turns out to be true.

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