Kimberly Peirce dispenses the life lessons she’s picked up on her journey from her smash hit debut, Boys Don’t Cry, to this year’s remake of Stephen King’s classic, Carrie.
1. Hire the best actor. If that is also the biggest star, great. Stars rise. Stars fade. Someone who was hot when you were hiring may not be hot when you’re releasing. Good actors will inhabit the part; you can make stars of them.
2. Ideas come from all kinds of places—from anyone around you, anyone who’s paying attention, anyone who cares. Don’t have an ego around ideas. If someone’s idea is better than yours, accept it.
3. Don’t worry about schmoozing. Don’t worry about “calling cards.” Find a story and a character you love. Do everything to bring it to life. Learn how to tell your story so others fall in love with it too. That is how you’ll get the resources you need to tell your story.
4. Assume things will fuck up. Moviemaking is the process of solving an endless supply of problems. You have to lean into solving everything all the time. You have to always move the movie forward.
5. Create space and time for yourself to think and daydream.
6. Bad writing is not fixed in post.
7. Crews like leadership, organization and a productive day. Get to set early. You can never be too prepared starting your day.
8. No matter how prepared you are, you can never control where the bucket of blood is going to fall.
9. Be decisive, but not prematurely so. Commit when you’re ready. It’s better to acknowledge that you don’t yet have an answer than to commit to the wrong thing just to have an answer.
10. Character is action. Try not to say in dialogue what you can show through action. You can always add dialogue in ADR, but you can’t add action you didn’t shoot.
11. Don’t get lost in an action scene. Make sure you’re always getting the story beats that advance your character’s story.
12. If someone is right, hire them. If you look for someone better, you could lose them to someone else who sees how great they are.
13. Go for hard workers over big personalities.
14. Your job as a director doesn’t end after the answer print. Always make time to do interviews.
15. Make your days. Stay on budget. Make back your investors’ money.
16. Modify your approach to the actor. Some need direction, some do not; some should see dailies, some should never; some need to rehearse, others should not; some need your shoulder to cry on, some need you to be firm.
17. Protect your set as a place for the actors and crew to work. Only the people who are working should be on set.
18. Use the monitor to check frame. Watch the actor to know performance.
19. Listen to the audience, but read between the lines.
20. Eliminate redundancy. If it’s not needed in the movie, it’s bad for the movie. Movies are not indifferent to their pieces. Pieces are either adding to the film or subtracting from it.
21. Always work out important blocking and camera action with your main actors. Show the crew and then give your actors a break. Use second team to work out the details.
22. Don’t neglect sound. When the on-set sound mixer says your sound is compromised, give him or her another take.
23. Great talent can be found in local casting. Look deep.
24. If you can cut the pages down before you shoot it, do it. You’ll never have as much time as you want to shoot. You’ll save time, shoot it and edit it better.
25. A location move will cost more shooting time than you anticipate.
26. The second meal can lead to diminishing returns. The third meal is a right of passage.
27. A good dolly grip is worth his/her weight in gold.
28. Use the time well when production gets shut down.
29. If you shoot in the middle of the night, don’t assume the pigs will stay awake. Pigs sleep too.
30. A fellow director once told me before I went off to shoot “inch by motherfucking inch.” No words could be truer about moviemaking.
31. It’s a privilege to make a movie. We’re lucky to do what we do. MM