Instead of one moviemaker serving up a single course of wisdom, this Wednesday we have five experts coming together to prepare a lavish banquet of knowledge, served up by Kevin Smith, Jim Jarmusch, Anthony Minghella, John Sayles, James Mangold and Robert Duvall. Together, they cover essentials of screenwriting all the way to exhibition and promotion. Think of it like wisdom tapas, and feel free to share!
1) Kevin Smith:
“If you want to be a screenwriter, either you can write or you can write. It has nothing to do with what you can be taught in film school. They can teach you about margins, like where to write EXTERIOR. They can perhaps teach you the three-act structure, but even that is negligible. Plenty of films don’t adhere to it. Either you can impart a thought to an actor or you can’t. Or you can guide a performance or you can’t. Either you’re good with a person and can maintain a conversation and recruit them into seeing the script through your eyes or you can’t. And that’s not something they teach in film school.”
2) Jim Jarmusch:
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels you imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographers, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. in any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”
3) Anthony Minghella:
“I suppose that what I’ve done, which I think is the cleverest thing I’ve ever done, is to surround myself with an incredible crew who’ve stayed with me, who’ve grown with me and who are prepared to put up with me. They know what my priorities are; they know that I would never surrender the moment with an actor for the sake of the efficiency of the shot; they are patient with me and with the cast. It has to be that way because in the end – and this is the truth of moviemaking as far as I’m concerned – no effect, no gesture of camera, no lighting characteristic, no design or costume flourish has any weight in comparison to a moment of performance. If you can get the truth of a moment from an actor, with a video camera, with them standing against the wall, that’s worth more than any dollar that you can spend on anything else.”
4) John Sayles:
“I like editing more than anything else. By that point, you know you have the money to make the movie and you don’t have to worry about the weather or the time. I can put in as much overtime as I want. I can wake up at three in the morning and run to the garage and cut a little bit of the movie because I can’t sleep and no one is going to charge overtime to the movie.”
5) James Mangold:
“My struggle is to do the best work that I can in a hostile and difficult world. When you’re on the outside of Hollywood it sometimes seems like you can just meet the right people, if you can just make the right connections, then you’ll make it. That isn’t true. I learned early that talking to every “name” you can is pointless. All that got me noticed – at all – is the work. If I were teaching, I’d tell students there is no fucking point on wasting their energies like that. Do they have an amazing script? Do they have a script that stops people dead in their tracks because of its originality and uniqueness? The dark side is that it’s hard to make something really cool. But generally speaking, the better work stands out.”
6) Robert Duvall:
“Some people are so used to structured scripts. I often think it should be played a little looser. You see people who are always looking to pile wood on the fire. They want to get ’emotional.’ You just gotta be in the moment for it to work. You look inside yourself, but you look outside yourself, too. You look around at different people. You incorporate things that you respond to emotionally. If it strikes an emotional chord in me, then I can make it work for me, in an innate way. You pick things up. You remember things. Even when you’re right there shooting, sometimes, you’ll remember things from way back that help fuel you.” MM
Don’t forget to visit us next week for more movie knowledge! Previous Wisdom Wednesdays have shared the expertise of Ethan Hawke, Gavin Hood, John Sayles, Mike Newell, Barry Sonnenfeld, William Fraker, Robert Rodriguez, Joe Eszterhas, Seth MacFarlane, Marc Forster, Billy Bob Thornton, Errol Morris, Brian De Palma, Julie Taymor, Kevin Smith, Chris Weitz, Danny Boyle, Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch, Zack Snyder, Gus Van Sant, Neil Jordan, John Waters, Eli Roth, Neal McDonough, Randall Emmett and Wim Wenders.
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