South African director, writer and producer Gavin Hood shares his 31 Golden Rules of MovieMaking – riding the comet trail that is his latest movie, the intergalactic adventure Ender’s Game, opening in theaters this Friday.

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Hood has illustrious independent roots: After acting in his own debut feature, 1999’s A Reasonable Man, he found mainstream success with his 2005 film TsotsiThe film, about a young street thug in Johannesburg who discovers a baby in the back seat of a car he’s stolen, won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

Since then, Hood has shot up industry ranks, helming two studio affairs (Rendition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon, and the unabashed blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine). And just when you thought he couldn’t go any bigger, he did – taking on Orson Scott Card’s 1985 sci-fi mega-classic novel, Ender’s Game (starring Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and more).  The novel’s dystopian future pits humans against an alien species, the Formics, with its titular young protagonist unwittingly chosen from birth to exact the Formic’s destruction. Mirroring Ender’s preternatural tactical ability in battle, here are Hood’s own insightful strategies  – to defeating the monstrous obstacles of moviemaking, that is.


1. Be wary of rules.

2. What happens in a story is less interesting than why it happens.

3. If you don’t have a clear point of view about a theme or idea you want to explore in a film, don’t make the film.

4. You’re never ready to shoot. You shoot when you’re ready enough.

5. You’re not as smart as you think you are. But neither is the executive who has final cut.

6. Research everything.

7. Draw storyboards.

8. Make mood boards.

9. Control your color palette.

10. Previsualize all action sequences.

11. Cast the best actors you can possibly find.

12. Love detail.

13. Films are made up of moments. Look for them.

14. Don’t say cut too soon. You’ll use that vulnerable/confused/pissed off reaction somewhere.

15. Set the tone for each scene with your own appropriate energy.

16. Don’t be cynical. Your moods affect everyone.


17. Be sincere. You can’t fake that.

18. Have a plan for your day before anyone else gets to set.

19. Remember, every take is a rehearsal.

20. When you think you have it, do one more. But only one more!

21. Respect your crew.

22. Give credit to the people who make you look good.

23. Take time to be alone. Even when you feel lonely.

24. Keep your fear away from the actors.

25. Be genuinely humble. And supremely confident.

26. Be kind.

27. Be decisive.

28. Say well done.

29. Say please.

30. Say thank you. And mean it. No-one makes a film on their own.

31. Making movies is hard. It’s exhausting. Suck it up. It’s the best job in the world.

Ender’s Game will be released Friday, November 1, 2013, courtesy of Summit Entertainment.

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