Jeff Skilling
Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling outside Enron Headquarters, from Alex Gibney’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Photo: Wyatt McSpadden

1. Always embrace the contradictions.

2. In the beginning, be open to anything.

3. At the end, be a slave to the story.

4. If someone tells you that there is no archive, assume they are lying or uniformed.

5. Find the best editor and cinematographer you can and trust them totally.

6. Don’t be afraid to shoot things yourself or to argue with the editor. (See #1)

7. Whenever you argue with the editor, be sure to buy the first two rounds of margaritas.

8. Always pick your own music and never be afraid of clearances.

9. Study the doctrine of fair use; use a conservative lawyer who is a first amendment absolutist.

10. In fiction or nonfiction: Casting is everything.

11. When the structure seems impossible to discern, enjoy the struggle and believe in your ability to find the story.

12. If there are no laughs in the film—no matter how dark the topic—you haven’t been true to life.

13. Follow the money; follow the characters.

14. Structure is everything; structure means nothing without powerful stories. (See #1)

15. Listen to Marcel Ophuls: Always have a point of view but always show how hard it is to reach that point of view.

16. Listen to Bernard Shaw: A conflict between a right and a wrong is melodrama; a conflict between two rights is drama.

17. Be afraid of your audience and unafraid of your critics.

18. Remember that film is a visual medium; remember that sound is just as important as the image. (see #1)

19. If shooting a documentary, never say “cut.”

20. If shooting a fiction film, never say “cut.”