It’s 12 Years a Slave week on! To celebrate both the release of one of 2013’s best films, and its upcoming appearance on the cover of our Fall issue, we’re doing a slightly different take on our usual wisdom.


MovieMaker took the chance to collect advice from the team behind 12 Years a Slave, straight from the red carpet of the film’s opening night screening at last week’s New Orleans Film Festival. We spoke to director Steve McQueen, actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Alfre Woodard, and star Chiwetel Ejiofor, as well as actor Rodrigo Santoro. Watch the clip below for full interviews about the making of the brutal, beautiful film–plus, we’ve picked out the best bon mots from each subject for your reading pleasure. (And no, Santoro isn’t in the film, but he was at the festival and had a message to pass on to prospective actors that might save them a lot of heartache!)


Lupita Nyong’o, actress (Patsey), on advice for actors: “Only compete with yourself.”

Alfre Woodard, actress (Mistress Shaw), on creating a major impact with a minor part: “No matter how long the camera’s on that person, you have to create a life so full that when they move past the camera you believe it’s a real person… So you approach it that way. You don’t think about screen time or lines.”

Rodrigo Santoro, actor, on advice for actors: “Make sure that you really want to pursue this before you go into it. The biggest trap nowadays is the glamorous side of this profession. Every profession needs hard work, but make sure you like the craft before you walk into it—for the sake of being fulfilled and happy afterwards, not mistaken by something else. That’s the advice that I heard when I was starting at 17, and it makes a lot of sense now.”


Steve McQueen, director, on advice for other filmmakers: “Don’t listen to anyone apart from yourself.”

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