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JOHN STURGES ON FILM-MAKING Parts 1 & 2
"I passionately hate the idea of 'being with it'; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time."
- Orson Welles
"When making a movie, one of the most useful and illuminating things you can do is come up with a word or two that captures or articulates the central theme or dramatic issue of the story. Francis Ford Coppola once said: "Every time I make a film, I always want to be very clear about what the theme is, the core, in one word. In The Godfather, it was succession. In The Conversation, it was privacy. In Apocalypse, it was morality. The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.
"I remember in The Conversation, they brought all these coats to me, and said: Do you want him to look like a detective, Humphrey Bogart? Do you want him to look like a blah blah blah. I didn’t know, and said the theme is ‘privacy’ and chose the plastic coat you could see through. So knowing the theme helps you make a decision when you’re not sure which way to go."
-- Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola
"For every actor who arrives at work with demands and pronouncements and riders to contracts, there are three or four who are eager to listen, who are insecure about their contributions, and who are waiting to listen to you and work with you.
"Every director has his way. I seek out partnerships with the people I work with. I don’t show up and say that I’ve figured out everything and you stand over there and you light it this way and you make a noise like this when he says that. I don’t think that works—certainly not for me. I also don’t show up and ask everyone to tell me what they think should be done. I don’t pick brains and get everyone’s idea. Instead, I become partners with the actors and the crew and start rehearsing, playing around, getting scenes on their feet, and that’s when people begin to feel comfortable, playful, strong, creative. Surprising things will show up, be shared, be discarded.
"If you make an actor feel comfortable; if you reassert over and over that he is needed and admired; if you solicit his input whenever you need it, sincerely, you will get the best work at that time from that actor.
"There is no one way. I am always surprised myself. I think I know what a film is about and how it’s going to be made and how it’s going to be received, and when it’s up and growing and moving, it becomes something else. I am still the one who pulls it all together; I’m still the one who mixes the wonderful ingredients. However, it’s not just my film.
"I think of it as directions to a party, a wedding, a celebration. All of us are en route to this celebration, and each of us carries the unique gift that we’ve picked out for the celebration we think is going to occur at a particular time, at a particular location. Everyone has his or her taste, so I don’t know what’s been picked out by whom, how it’s wrapped, what it means. What I have done is I’ve provided the directions to this party; I’ve crafted an easy-to-read, interactive map, and I’m with all the other revelers, on the way to the celebration."