Spielberg, Fincher, Nolan & Other Top Directors On The Best Filmmaking Advice They Got!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on October 13, 2015

Sam Mendes was called to guest edit the Empire magazine's November issue and he went out and conducted interviews with some of the leading filmmakers of our times. While the issue will be out later next month, the magazine has put up excerpts and it is mouth-watering.

The directors interviewed include Coppola, Spielberg, Fincher, Ang Lee, Nolan, Edgar Wright, Soderbergh & Joss Whedon amongst others. That's a virtual who's who of top Hollywood filmmakers, leave or take a few. The questions are quite interesting & quirky and we are damn excited about this edition. You can read the excerpts here on their site.

Here's what they had to say when asked about the best advice they've ever received. Personally i like what Joe Wright had to say.

Coppola: My dad told me, “Your movie’s never as good as the dailies and never as bad as the rough cut.”

Joe Wright: “Take whatever experience you can doing whatever you can so that when the big opportunity presents itself to you you’re as prepared as you can be.” Sidney Lumet said that but not to me, I read it in his book. Directors don’t often get to talk to other directors.

Lee: I dare not say in public.

Nolan: “Open the kimono” — Soderbergh telling me not 
to hide my process from the studio.

Soderbergh: “Write everything down.”

Clooney: “Only shoot what you’ll need.”

Whedon: James Cameron told me, “You can hire the 50 best people in the business, people you love and trust and respect. You all look at the monitor — you’re gonna be the only one who sees what’s wrong.”

Marshall: It was actually the opposite of what a director once said to me. He said, “Remember, everyone is here to serve you.” And as he walked away, I thought to myself, “It’s exactly the opposite: ‘I’m here to serve everyone.’”

Cuarón: I’ve been blessed with a lot of advice from other directors. Among the many: “Manage your energy”; “Story, actors, location”; “Fail on your own terms”; “One for me and one for myself”; “Don’t eat the red ones.”

Bier: The best advice I ever got was a result of the worst advice I ever got. When I was at film school, one of my teachers suggested it was a good idea for us directors to integrate ourselves into the crew by, say, rolling up the cables and moving lights etc. So I did – and was finally, and politely, asked by my crew to “do what you do best, and we’ll do the same”. Which was pretty embarrassing. And pretty good advice.

Greengrass: Before I made my first film, having previously worked only in documentaries, I went to see Roger Michell, an old university friend, and by then a hugely experienced and brilliant theatre and film director. He gave me a wonderful piece of advice. He said, “Never touch an actor.” By which he meant — don’t guide an actor. Don’t corral an actor. Don’t decide in advance where they should go. On the contrary, always listen to them. Always let them lead you. Always try to clarify their instincts. Because your actors will always be your best guide to the truth.

Michell: “If you think you might need a close-up... You need a close-up.”

Edgar Wright: John Sayles has this great quote: “Never do more than two takes of someone getting out of a car.” But the most inspiring one I received personally was from the aforementioned (name drop) Steven Spielberg, who I emailed with on the last week of shooting The World’s End, and he replied with this sentence: “Good luck on your last week. Finish strong.” I went in the next day with a spring in my 
step after that.

Payne: “Always speak to the actors singly and in a whisper.”

Fincher: Scorsese once told me, “The things you do poorly are as much a part of your style as the things you do well...” Which was totally true, and oddly reassuring.


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