Jena Malone and Ryan Gosling
Jena Malone and Ryan Gosling star in The United States of Leland

Always have an answer.

When you’re doing something for the first time, go in with a real concrete plan and take the time before you jump in there and start filming to map out what it is you want to do and why. So that whenever anyone asks you—whether it’s an actor or a producer or a cameraman—‘why are we putting the camera here’ or something else, you always have an answer.

Learn the benefit of having a plan.

People tend to be eager and rush into production thinking “We’ll just figure it out later,” and that’s a real danger.

Go in with your plan, but be open to the surprises

When something isn’t going the way you planned it, you can look into other approaches and listen to the people who are working with you.

Listen to the actor when he says this line sounds hollow.

Listen to your editor when he says this scene isn’t working, or asks whether you even need the scene at all.

Don’t be so stubborn with the idea that you’ve got it so mapped out that you’re intractable or completely unwilling to change.