Archive for the ‘Filmmaking Quote of the Day’ Category

The following comments are from five time Oscar-nominated writer/director Sidney Lumet (The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon, Prince of the City,  12 Angry Men, Network):

“When I first meet with the screenwriter, I never tell him anything, even if I feel there’s a lot to be done. Instead I ask him the same question I’ve asked myself: What is the story about? What did you see? What was your intention? Ideally, if we do this well, what do you hope the audience will feel, think, sense? In what mood do you want them to leave the theater? 

“We are two different people trying to combine our talents, so it’s critical that we agree on the intention of the screenplay. Under the best circumstances, what will emerge is a third intention, which neither of us saw at the beginning….[Arthur Miller] said that he loved seeing what his work evoked in others. The result could contain revelations, feelings, and ideas that he never knew existed when he wrote the play. It’s what we all hope for.

“…Of course, the original intent is present. But all of the individual contributions from all the different departments add up to a total far greater than their individual parts. Moviemaking works very much like an orchestra: the addition of various harmonies can change, enlarge, and clarify the nature of the theme.”
Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)
Making Movies 
Pages 29-30, 46

Related post:
Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)
Sidney Lumet on Theme
Arthur Miller on Writing
Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

Scott W. Smith

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“I don’t think there’s any artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.”
5-time Oscar winner Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather)
Academy of Achievement Q&A

Below is a partial list of Francis Ford Coppola related posts I’ve written over the year. I’m going to designate Coppola the Godfather of this blog.  If you’ve never read the post Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl in Ohio check it out. You’ll see Coppola way back in c. 1979 was way ahead of the curve in seeing a digital revolution.

Related posts:
Heart of Coppola
“Who said art has to cost money?”—Coppola
“Take a risk”—Coppola
Coppola, Castro & Capitalism
Coppola & Roger Corman
Coppola, Criticism & the Internet
The Francis For Coppola Way (Tip #29)
Writing ‘The Godfather’ (Part 1)—A five part series

P.S. I’ve always admired Coppola because he’s a swing-for-the-fence kind of guy. Never afraid to risk failing. This blog has had successes (the Emmy in ’08 and most recently hitting a million total views) but it’s also hit failure (Kickstarter in ’11, and most recently Patreon)—but you learn you either pack up shop or suck it up and forge on. In my case I’m pushing to get the book version of this blog done by the end of the year. If you have any connections to Mr. Coppola I’d love to have him write the introduction the the book, so if you have any magic powers to pull that off I can be contacted at info@scottwsmith.com.

Failure related posts:
Tennessee Williams on ‘Apparent Failure’
Facing the Possibility of Failure (Filmmaker Edward Burns)
Failure is an Option
Susannah Grant on Failure
Aaron Sorkin on Failure
Spectacular Failures
J.K. Rowling on the Benefits of Failure

Scott W. Smith


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“If you listen to the way people tell stories, you hear that they tell them cinematically. They jump from one thing to the next, and the story is moved along by the juxtapositon of images—which is to say, by the cut.

“People say, ‘I’m standing on the corner. It’s a foggy day. A bunch of people are running around crazy. Might have been the full moon. All of a sudden, a car comes up and the guy next to me says…’

“If you think about it, that’s a shot list: (1) a guy standing on the corner; (2) shot of fog; (3) a full moon shining above; (4) a man, says, ‘I think people get wacky this time of year’; (5) a car approaching.

This is good filmmaking, to juxtapose images. Now you’re following the story. What, you wonder, is going to happen next?”
Writer/Director David Mamet
On Film Directing, page 3

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“I often say to people: ‘You absolutely can make movies. The idea of having a career in the movie business is a very, very different thing.’ That’s just dollar and cents. A garage band can release their music for free on the web make their money by gigging live. You can’t do that as a moviemaker. People have to pay for the movie, not to see you talk about it. There’s a pretty big generation of people who are just so used to getting things for free. It’s really hard to make money back on a movie now…Moviemaking has gotten a lot more democratic. If you’re just starting with a credit card and a bunch of friends, you can make a movie. You don’t have to buy film stock and develop it anymore. But getting it distributed is really tough, and one of the reasons it’s tough is because everybody else can make a movie.”
Two-time Oscar-nominated writer/director John Sayles (Lone Star, Passion Fish)
Indiewire interview with Eric Kohn

Related posts:
Thinking in Pictures (John Sayles)
Screenwriting Quote #60 (John Sayles)
The ‘Piranha’ Highway
Writing for Low Budget Films

Scott W. Smith

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“I think I’ve developed a special talent for getting access to people. My wife is a family therapist, and she has said that when you first meet a subject, if your gaze is an empathetic one, you’re all set. And that process of empathy should continue all the way through the therapy. That’s precisely the basis for my own way of working with subjects.”
Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens, Salesman)
Interview with Rachel Horovitz

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“I see only one requirement you have to have to be a director, or any kind of artist: rhythm. Rhythm, for me, is everything. Without rhythm, there’s no music. Without rhythm, there’s no cinema. Without rhythm, there’s no architecture. The cosmos is a system of rhythms that come in many ways: Images. Sounds. Colors. Vibrations… . And if you don’t get that, if you don’t have that, it’s impossible to do something that vibrates. You can have the craft, the knowledge, the information, the tools, even the ideas—but if you don’t have rhythm, you are fu##ed.”
Oscar-winning Birdman producer/director/writer Alejandro González Iñárritu
Esquire, January 2015

Related post: The Rhythm of Writing

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“Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated  writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood)
2013 Filmmaker Magazine article by Allan Tong

Some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood hit the theaters. It’s a different kind of coming of age story than Boyhood that I wrote about yesterday. Singleton was fresh out of USC film school when at the age of 23 he directed his first featured from his screenplay and received two Oscar-nominations.

P.S. Singleton’s quote is reminiscent of the Edwards Burns quote, “Don’t try and compete with Hollywood.”

Related posts:
25 Links Related to Blacks and Filmmaking
The First Black Feature Filmmaker

Scott W. Smith


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