Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby (2006). Photo: IFC FILMS

Don’t worry if you don’t know what your story is about. I’m actually writing right now, and for me writing is just so intuitive I cause fights between me and my husband because I can’t really explain what I’m writing or what my process even is. I’m always bouncing ideas and characters and storylines off my husband and so he asks, “What do you think your movie is about?” and I’m like ‘I don’t know. That’s why I gave it to you to read. Tell me what is it about!’

If you’re telepathic, you may have a future in moviemaking. The thing that I learned about directing actors is that the quicker you learn to read minds, the better off you are. Actors are so different from each other it’s amazing, and you have to be able to direct each actor in the most specific way that they need to be directed and get each one of them to get it in the same take and that’s what I was really humbled by. It’s something that I need to keep practicing.

Make sure the movie you shoot is the best movie you can possibly make. It’s just so hard to get a movie sold. I don’t know if there’s a formula. A lot of people say, “Oh, well, you need a celebrity.” But Napoleon Dynamite didn’t have any celebrities—nor did Raising Victor Vargas or Maria Full of Grace. So it’s not really that formulaic.

Anybody can pick up a camera; you just have to make sure that the script you are shooting is really worth shooting.