Filmmaking Quotes from the Masters of Cinema

Looking for the greatest filmmaking quotes? After a month of reading through countless interviews, articles and books, and watching hundreds of videos, we have pulled together what we consider to be the most definitive collection of quotes available on the filmmaking process.

Whether you’re a photographer looking to add some cinematic flair to your photos, someone who’s planning on making their first short film, or an experienced filmmaker looking for inspiration from the best in the business, then this is the article for you.

From tips on finding your story to working with actors to editing your movie, you are sure to find plenty of helpful filmmaking advice in these words of wisdom from the greatest film directors.

Well, to me, the great teachers are the great directors. If you’re willing to watch and really study, you can find out so much. And so my masters are everyone’s masters, the great directors, from Ozu to Welles to Truffaut to Coppola to Ang Lee, from Steven Soderbergh to David Fincher; these are the people who even now are teaching me.

Sam Mendes

This filmmaking quotes collection was compiled for you to dip into whenever you need some inspiration. You don’t have to read the article from start to finish. Feel free to jump ahead to whichever section is of interest to you by using the quick links below.

So without ado, here’s our list of the greatest filmmaking quotes. Don’t forget to bookmark the page, and share it with others!

Filmmaking Quotes
The Filmmaker
The Script
Directing
Working with Actors
Editing
Sound and Music

Author note: These are notes and quotes on the filmmaking process that I have accumulated over fifteen years. Recently I added a few more to the list and thought it would make a great article. Is the article too long? Maybe. However, if it can help at least one person out there, then all the effort would have been worth it. Finally, good luck on your film journey. I look forward to seeing your film. All the best, David


The Best Filmmaking Quotes

I make pictures to tell a story, to tell lies, and to amuse.

Federico Fellini

No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.

Ingmar Bergman

I want my audience to be constantly captivated, bewitched, so that it leaves the theatre dazed, stunned to be back on the pavement.

Francois Truffaut

Filmmaking a chance to live many lifetimes.

Robert Altman

Filmmaking for me is always aiming for the imaginary movie and never achieving it.

Peter Jackson

A movie is really provocation. It’s not a message, it’s not a statement.

Ang Lee

For me, the great joy is to watch an audience watching what I’ve made. To hear not a peep from the audience at the right moment, and then to hear the laughs and the cheers.

Michael Bay

I just love photographing things and putting them together to tell a story.

Christopher Nolan

I don’t dream at night, I dream at day, I dream all day; I’m dreaming for a living.

Steven Spielberg

My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.

Robert Bresson

I’m drawn to filmmaking that can transport me. Film can immerse you, put you there.

Kathryn Bigelow

When I’m making a film, I’m the audience.

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorcese Filmmaking Quotes
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro on the set of Taxi Driver, 1976 © Columbia

The Power of Cinema

Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.

Jean-Luc Godard

The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences. Now, through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time.

Steven Spielberg

There is something that might be called cinematic beauty. It can only be expressed in a film, and it must be present in a film for that film to be a moving work. When it is very well expressed, one experiences a particularly deep emotion while watching that film. I believe it is this quality that draws people to come and see a film, and that it is the hope of attaining this quality that inspires the filmmaker to make his film in the first place. In other words, I believe that the essence of the cinema lies in cinematic beauty.

Akira Kurosawa

Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something as in a dream.

Federico Fellini

The cinema is really built for the big screen and big sound, so that a person can go into another world and have an experience.

David Lynch

Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.

Roman Polanski

I’ve always believed that true cinema is cinema of the imagination.

Sergio Leone

What Makes a Good Movie

As a filmmaker, I believe in trying to make movies that invite the audience to be part of the film; in other words, there are some films where I’m just a spectator and am simply observing from the front seat. What I try to do is draw the audience into the film and have them participate in what’s happening on-screen.

Peter Jackson

A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.

Orson Welles

You have to design your film just as Shakepeare did his plays – for an audience.

Alfred Hitchcock

A good movie is three good scenes and no bad scenes.

Howard Hawks

I believe what Walt Disney said “For every laugh there should be a tear.” I love movies that make me cry, because they’re tapping into a real emotion in me, and I always think afterwards “How did they do that?”

John Lasseter

A movie is a little like a question, and when you make it, that’s when you get the answer.

Francis Ford Coppola

Everything’s always about page-turning, right? What’s next? So, if you create questions for audiences, then they’ll want to know the answer. Or they begin to formulate possible outcomes. That’s the game we play when we’re hearing a story unfold. That’s part of what sucks us into a movie.

Ron Howard

A good opening and a good ending make for a good film provide they come close together.

Federico Fellini

I like happy endings in movies. I think life has a happy ending. When it’s all said and done, it’s all something worthwhile, and I want my movies to reflect that. There are enough things to be sad about. When you pop in a movie, let the message be one that’s one of hope.

Jon Favreau

Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.

Samuel Goldwyn

You know when Hollywood does a great big blockbuster that really wraps you up in a world, and lets you believe in extraordinary things that move you in some way, in an almost operatic sensibility? That to me is the most fun I have at the movies.

Christopher Nolan

I’d rather entertain and hope that people learn, than teach and hope that people are entertained.

Walt Disney

Pictures that will live on for years, like ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and ‘Gone With the Wind,’ had great historical events in the background.

William Wyler

To make great movies, there is an element of risk. You have to say, “Well, I am going to make this film, and it is not really a sure thing.”

Francis Ford Coppola

If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a pretty clear idea of what was going on.

Alfred Hitchcock

Commercial Success

The public has an appetite for anything about imagination – anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible.

Steven Spielberg

I don’t try to guess what a million people will like. It’s hard enough to know what I like.

John Huston

If there’s something that can be formulated, regulated, give you security, then nobody would lose money. Every movie would be successful. And that’s certainly not the case.

Ang Lee

If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office.

George Lucas

The theatrical marketplace is a challenge. What do you have to do to get someone to purchase a movie ticket to your movie? You have to do something that they’ve never seen before; you’ve got to enthrall them in a new way.

Richard Linklater

I don’t believe that the public knows what it wants; this is the conclusion that I have drawn from my career.

Charlie Chaplin

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney Movies
Walt Disney examines storyboards for Pinocchio, 1939 © Disney


The Filmmaker

There is only one way of looking at this trade: The filmmaker is responsible for everything. To rephrase that thought: Everything is your fault, and only rarely will you be praised for anything. But face it, if something goes wrong with your work, you the filmmaker (director), who fought for total control, as we all do, should not have allowed it to happen. If you’re going to work in films then you must straight off accept total responsibility. That’s why you need to know something about all aspects of the process.

Elia Kazan

The thing is, as a film director, you’re essentially alone: You have to tell a story primarily through pictures, and only you know the film you see in your head.

Mike Nichols

To be a filmmaker, you have to lead. You have to be psychotic in your desire to do something. People always like the easy route. You have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different.

Danny Boyle

Everything a director does must help the story and the performances. Otherwise, it is useless.

William Wyler

Good directing is good writing and good casting.

Robert Zemeckis

A director makes 100 decisions an hour. Students ask me how you know how to make the right decision, and I say to them, “If you don’t know how to make the right decision, you’re not a director.”

George Lucas

The director’s task is to recreate life, its movement, its contradictions, its dynamic and conflicts. It is his duty to reveal every iota of the truth he has seen, even if not everyone finds that truth acceptable.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Film is a dramatised reality and it is the director’s job to make it appear real… an audience should not be conscious of technique.

David Lean

Each picture has some sort of rhythm which only the director can give it. He has to be like the captain of a ship.

Fritz Lang

Unless you know every aspect and phase of the film-production process, you can’t be a movie director. A movie director is like a front-line commanding officer. He needs a thorough knowledge of every branch of the service, and if he doesn’t command each division, he cannot command the whole.

Akira Kurosawa

There is a great skill in blending together good performances and a good story. Enormous finesse. But there’s no mystery to it from a technical point of view. Millions of people have gone to the movies all their lives could direct circles around me. They get everything going beautifully ; their photography is great and their movies are beautiful. But where they fall short, like many TV commercial directors who make movies, is that they don’t have a dramatic sense or a sense of comedy. That’s why Bunuel’s films can look terrible and still be masterpieces, because overwhelmingly what’s important is content. Every piece of junk that comes out looks good. Because a director can just go out and hire a first-rate cameraman and a first-rate editor, and they all know what to do.

Woody Allen
Woody Allen Filmmaking Quotes
Woody Allen filming Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008) © MGM Pictures

Making your First Film

When you’re doing films, just with friends, with no money, on a shoestring. You have to be able to do all the job… And it’s a wonderful way to learn everything.

Christopher Nolan

If you wait until the right time to have a child you’ll die childless, and I think film making is very much the same thing. You just have to take the plunge and just start shooting something even if it’s bad.

James Cameron

The best education in film is to make one. I would advise any neophyte director to try to make a film by himself. A three-minute short will teach him a lot. I know that all the things I did at the beginning were, in microcosm, the things I’m doing now as a director and producer. The point to stress is that anyone seriously interested in making a film should find as much money as he can as quickly as he can and go out and do it. And this is no longer as difficult as it once was.

Stanley Kubrick

It’s the same thing of how you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. (laughs) Also, I’d say get a hold of a video camera and just shoot as much as you can, of anything. If you have a script, get a couple actors together and shoot two pages from the script, then edit the footage on a really basic video editing program. It takes as long to develop a prose style on film as it does a prose style in writing, so it’s crucial to practice whenever and however you can.

John McTiernan

For anyone who wants to direct but hasn’t made a first movie yet, there is no decision to make. Whatever the movie, whatever the auspices, whatever the problems, if there’s a chance to direct, takeit! Period. Exclamation point! The first movie is its own justification, because it’s the first movie.

Sidney Lumet

There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.

James Cameron

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

Walt Disney

Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.

James Cameron

Finding your Style

I always tell young film-makers, ‘Find the song that only you can sing.’ It doesn’t just come to you. It’s trial and error and disappointment before you find, slowly but surely, the confidence to express your film-making identity.

Paul Greengrass

Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable to others.

Orson Welles

Everybody has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is.

George Lucas

I don’t make films for other people; I make films for me.

Ridley Scott

Don’t look at all at what other people are doing. Think of what you’re doing as completely fresh because if you imitate you’re dead.

Robert Rodriguez

My advice to young film-makers is this: don’t follow trends, start them!

Frank Capra

Taking Risks

I have this theory that your first film is always your best film in some way. I always try to get back to that moment when you’re not relying on things you’ve done before.

Danny Boyle

If we didn’t want to upset anyone, we would make films about sewing, but even that could be dangerous. But I think finally, in a film, it is how the balance is and the feelings are. But I think there has to be those contrasts and strong things within a film for the total experience.

David Lynch

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.

Orson Welles

People say I am stuck in childhood, but it’s not that. I remember seeing a Matisse retrospective, and you could see he started out one way, and then he tried something different, and then he seemed to spend his whole life trying to get back to the first thing.

Tim Burton

If you’re going to be an R already, you may as well be ‘The Hangover,’ and you may as well be as shocking as possible, because that’s what delivers the most return.

Jon Favreau

What the studios want now is “risk-free” films but with any sort of art you have to take risks. Not taking risks in art is like not having sex and then expecting there to be children.

Francis Ford Coppola

I began taking liberties a long time ago; now it is standard practice for most directors to ignore the rules.

Michelangelo Antonioni

I’ve always believed that if you want to really try and make a great film, not a good film, but a great film, you have to take a lot of risks.

Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan Quotes
Chris Nolan and his cinematographer set up a shot during production of Dunkirk (2017) © Warner Bros

The Script

To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.

Alfred Hitchcock

Well, there’s no question that a good script is an absolutely essential, maybe the essential thing for a movie.

Sydney Pollack

There’s nothing more important in making movies than the screenplay.

Richard Attenborough

A director shouldn’t get in the way of the movie, the story should.

Frank Darabont

Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.

George Cukor

You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.

Howard Hawks

Learning to make films is very easy. Learning what to make films about is very hard.

George Lucas

With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this.

Akira Kurosawa

It’s eighty percent script and twenty percent you get great actors. There’s nothing else to it.

William Wyler
William Wyler
William Wyler and his crew shooting Dead End (1937) © MGM Pictures

Writing the Screenplay

In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things. You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.

Akira Kurosawa

I don’t have to write it down after I’ve thought of it. My outline for a movie rarely takes up a single page. Usually I lose interest in the middle of writing the outline. I write, yo know, “Alvy meets Annie. Romantic scene. Flashback to when they met.” I’ll write like eight of those and by the time I get to the eight or ninth, I’ll have lost interest because I know the story so well I don’t really have do be doing this.

Woody Allen

The best rule of screen and play writing was given to me by John Howard Lawson, a one time friend. Its simple: unity from climax. Everything should build to the climax. But all I know about script preparation urges me to make no rules, although there are some hints, tools of the trade, that have been useful for me. One of these is: Have your central character in every scene. This is a way of ensuring unity to the work and keeping the focus sharp. Another is: Look for the contradictions in every character, especially in your heroes and villains. No one should be what they first seem to be. Surprise the audience.

Elia Kazan

One of the cardinal sins for a scriptwriter, when he runs into some difficulty, is to say, “We can cover that by a line of dialogue.” Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.

Alfred Hitchcock

Screenwriting is not real writing. It’s not. You’re not writing a book. You’re writing the basics, the situation, where they are and what they’re doing should really say everything. And leave room for actors to do something… Good writing belongs in books. Screenwriting should be absolutely as economic as possible so that the filmmaking can take over.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Writing a screenplay, for me, is like juggling. It’s like, how many balls can you get in the air at once? All those ideas have to float out there to a certain point, and then they’ll crystallize into a pattern.

James Cameron
James Cameron Filmmaking Quotes
James Cameron discussing a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the set of Titanic (1997) © Paramount/20th Century Fox

Drama, Conflict and Plot

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

Alfred Hitchcock

I made some mistakes in drama. I thought the drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.

Frank Capra

There’s no story if there isn’t some conflict. The memorable things are usually not how pulled together everybody is. I think everybody feels lonely and trapped sometimes.

Wes Anderson

For me the best drama is one that deals with a man in danger.

Howard Hawks

Audiences are less intrigued, honestly, by battle. They’re more intrigued by human relations. If you’re making a film about the trappings of the period, and you’re forgetting that human relationships are the most engaging part of the storytelling process, then you’re in trouble.

Ridley Scott

Storytelling is about two things; it’s about character and plot.

George Lucas

Suspense

Every story needs an element of suspense – or it’s lousy.

Sydney Pollack

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

Alfred Hitchcock

There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” yet many pictures continually confuse the two.

Let us suppose there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and the all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised , but prior to this surprise, it had seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no consequence.

Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware that the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock, and there is a clock in the décor. The public can see that it is quarter to one. In these conditions the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There’s a bomb beneath you and it’s about to explode!”

In the first case we have given the audience fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of explosion. In the second, we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible, the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.

Alfred Hitchcock
alfred hitchcock filmmaker quotes
Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Leigh discussing the famous shower scene on the set of Psycho, 1960 © Paramount

Structure

A screenplays worth has to be measured less by its language than by its architecture and by how that dramatizes the theme. A screenplay, we directors soon enough learn, is not a piece of writing so much as it is a construction. We learn to feel for the skeleton under the skin of words.

Elia Kazan

A good structure for a screenplay is that of the symphony, with its three or four movements and differing tempos. Or one can use the Noh play with its three-part structure: jo (introduction), ha (de­struction) and kyu (haste). If you devote yourself fully to Noh and gain something good from this, it will emerge naturally in your films.

Akira Kurosawa

A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.

Jean-Luc Godard

A scene has to have a rhythm of its own, a structure of its own.

Michelangelo Antonioni

People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.

Steven Spielberg

Show. Not Tell.

I started to grasp that storytellers turn to evocative images for a reason – these things are evocative because they have layers that film-goers can pick up and interpret in their own own way. And that was something I very much needed to learn and get on board with.

Christopher Nolan

A film script is more architecture than literature. This will get my friends who are writers mad, but its the truth: The director tells the movie story more than the man who writes the dialogue. The director is the final author, which is the reason so many writers now want to become directors. Its all one piece. Many of the best films ever made can be seen without dialogue and be perfectly understood. The director tells the essential story with pictures.

Elia Kazan

My films are basically silent films. The dialogue just adds some weight.

Sergio Leone

I find dialogue a bore, for the most part. I think that if you look back on any film you’ve seen, you don’t remember lines of dialogue, you remember pictures.

David Lean

I write scripts to serve as skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images.

Ingmar Bergman

So I like to try to go back and develop pure visual storytelling. Because to me, it’s one of the most exciting aspects of making movies and almost a lost art at this point.

Brian De Palma

To me, a story can be both concrete and abstract, or a concrete story can hold abstractions. And abstractions are things that really can’t be said so well with words.

David Lynch

Film operates on a level much closer to music and to painting than to printed word, and, of course, movies present the opportunity to convey complex concepts and abstractions without the traditional reliance on words. I think that 2001, like music, succeeds in short-circuiting the rigid surface cultural blocks that shackle our consciousness to narrowly limited areas of experience and is able to cut directly through to areas of emotional comprehension. In two hours and twenty minutes of film there are only forty minutes of dialogue.

Stanley Kubrick
Behind the Scenes, 2001: Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick filming on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Directing

I have come to a certain belief, which is based on three powerful effective commandments. Thou shalt be entertaining at all times. Thou shalt obey thy artistic consciousness at all times. Thou shalt make each film as if it it thy last.

Ingmar Bergman

The film director knows that beneath the surface of his screenplay there is a subtext, an undercurrent of intentions and feelings and inner events, What appears to be happening on the surface, he soon learns, is rarely the true substance of the action. This subtext is one of the film director’s most valuable tools. It is what he directs. You rarely see a veteran director holding a script as he works – or even looking at it. Beginners, yes.

Elia Kazan

The directing of a picture involves coming out of your individual loneliness and taking a controlling part in putting together a small world. A picture is made. You put a frame around it and move on. And one day you die. That is all there is to it.

John Huston

What a director should be doing is making it appear as though there was no script.

John Hughes

I believe it is the pre-production planning that is the most important aspect of filmmaking. Based upon my own experience, I can tell you that my most successful films have been those that were made when I’ve been completely prepared going in.

Roger Corman

Anybody can direct a picture once they know the fundamentals. Directing is not a mystery, it’s not an art. The main thing about directing is: photograph the people’s eyes.

John Ford

Directing the Scene

I watched a couple of really bad directors work, and I saw how they completely botched it up and missed the visual opportunities of the scene when we had put things in front of them as opportunities. Set pieces, props and so on.

James Cameron

Time is gold in filmmaking. The ability to not walk away from a scene before its perfected.

Stanley Kubrick

Till now I have never shot a scene without taking account of what stands behind the actors because the relationship between people and their surroundings is of prime importance.

Michelangelo Antonioni
antonioni-the-passenger-bts
Michelangelo Antonioni and his camera operator line up a shot while filming The Passenger (1975) © MGM

Creating a Shot List

Now before shooting anything, you should really watch your movie in your head. Play it out in your head, watching it while imagining the actors and angles you’ve chosen. Picture the scene. See what cuts you’d make if you were editing it together. Would you stay on one actor the whole time, or would you cut mid-scene to something else? Watch the movie In your head; then when you think you’ve seen something interesting, get out a piece of paper and make your shot list. List each shot you need to make the scene work. Don’t overdo it, just follow your instincts. On a low-budget, shoot-from-the hip kind of movie your instincts are all you’ve got, so start learning to trust them.

After you’ve made your shot list, go through it. Read the shots you’ve written and watch them in your head, as if it’s a cut movie. Are you missing any shots? Watch it again. What shots do you see in the movie that you’re watching in your head which are not written down. Write those down. Now keep that shot list handy because now with your list you can concentrate on one shot at a time. All you have to do now is get each shot and cross it off the list. When your list is completely crossed off you’re done for the day. Congratulations.

Robert Rodriguez

Every scene has been done before. The idea is to photograph it better then what’s already there.

Stanley Kubrick

Shooting the Scene

If my movie has two stars in it, I always know it really has three. The third star is the camera.

Sidney Lumet

People say I pay too much attention to the look of a movie but for God’s sake, I’m not producing a Radio 4 Play for Today, I’m making a movie that people are going to look at.

Ridley Scott

I have no imagination at all. I see beauty in the world and frame it correctly.

Akira Kurosawa

When I am shooting a film I never think of how I want to shoot something; I simply shoot it. My technique, which differs from film to film, is wholly instinctive and never based on prior considerations.

Michelangelo Antonioni

Finding where to put the camera is probably the most important thing you have to learn when you’re a young director, and it’s something that’s a mixture of instinct and technique.

Paul Greengrass

Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.

Martin Scorsese

I don’t shoot movies quickly because I get a lot of coverage and a lot of angles, so we have all the pieces in the editing. I do a lot of takes, but it’s because I’m looking for something.

Nancy Meyers

I never think of the camera until the scene has been almost lit. I think the camera is the last thing. You see, to think of the camera first is like tailoring the suit and then looking for a person who will fit it. I’d rather get the person and then take the measurements and then make a suit for him.

Roman Polanski

In the film business you’re taught all the things the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticized for having failed. In this case I had a cameraman who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed, and I didn’t know there were things you couldn’t do. So anything I could think up in my dreams, I attempted to photograph.

Orson Welles
Orson Welles
Orson Welles and his cinematographer, Gregg Toland filming Citizen Kane (1941)

The Film Crew

A poet needs a pen, a painter a brush, and a director an army.

Orson Welles

I don’t go on set with an army of people because the most expensive elements of a movie production are the plane tickets, the hotel rooms, food and gasoline. If you’re willing to discover new colleagues in the place that you are, you can save a ton of money.

Francis Ford Coppola

I think, at the end of the day, filmmaking is a team, but eventually there’s got to be a captain.

Ridley Scott

I like to work with the same people when I can, and you want to get people with the same interests that you have, and the same aesthetic.

Spike Lee

I mean, you have to be able – you have to have made the commitment within yourself to do whatever it takes to get the job done and to try to inspire other people to do it, because obviously the first rule is you can’t do it by yourself.

James Cameron

Collaboration

I always argued against the auteur theory; films are a collaborative art form. I’ve had some fantastically good people help me make the movies.

Alan Parker

So far as directing the actors and the crew is concerned, well, I direct just as little as possible and I get as much from others as I possibly can. Some of the best ideas I’ve ever had have come from other people.

John Huston

At some point during the filmmaking process, you lose objectivity, and you need the eyes of someone who understands the process and has been in the trenches.

Sydney Pollack

When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.

Steven Spielberg
Spielberg Filmmaking Quotes
Steven Spielberg and his crew braving the waters during the production of Jaws (1975) © Universal


Working with Actors

The talent of acting is one in which the actor’s thoughts and feelings are instantly communicated to the audience. In other words, the“instrument” that an actor is using is himself. It is his feelings, his physiognomy, his sexuality, his tears, his laughter, his anger, his romanticism, his tenderness, his viciousness, that are up there on the screen for all to see. That’s not easy. In fact, quite often it’s painful.

Sidney Lumet

In general, actors or actresses must have the art in the accumulation of their past. Their life’s experience is the director’s material. They can have all the training, all the techniques their teachers have taught them – private moments, improvisations, substitutions,associative memories, and so on – but if the precious material is not within them, the director cannot get it out. That is why it’s so important for the director to have an intimate acquaintance with the people he casts in his plays. If it’s “there,” he has a chance of putting it on the screen or on the stage. If not, not.

Elia Kazan

If there is something magic about the collaborations I have with actors it’s because I put the character first.

Quentin Tarantino

My approach with actors is to try and give them whatever it is they need from me. Direction to me is about listening and responding and realizing how much they need to know from me and how much they have figured out for themselves, really.

Christopher Nolan

I love to take actors to a place where they open a vein. That’s the job. The key is that I make it safe for them to open the vein.

Mike Nichols

Directing Actors

It took me a long time to realize that you have to have a bit of an interlanguage with actors. You have to give them something that they can act with.

James Cameron

The thing about Brando was that I’d make these directions, and he’d walk away. He’d heard enough… to get the machine going.

Elia Kazan

The directors job is to know what emotional statement he wants a character to convey in his scene or line, and to exercise taste and judgement in helping the actor give his best performance. By knowing the actors personality and gauging their strengths and weaknesses a director can help them to overcome specific problems and realize their potential. The director’s taste and imagination play a much more crucial role in the making of a film. Is it meaningful? Is it believable? Is it interesting? Those are the questions that have to be answered several hundred times a day.

Stanley Kubrick

Some actors like encouragement. Some actors prefer to have pressure. And sometimes, for some actors, its better to give your comment by silence, because they are so skillful, so gifted, that they understand without talking too much.

Wong Kar-wai

If you get an impulse in a scene, no matter how wrong it seems, follow the impulse. It might be something and if it ain’t – take two!

Jack Nicholson

One of the most important things in an acting scene, especially a short acting scene, is not to talk about the scene that precedes but to play out the scene that precedes. You play out where the actors have come from psychologically so their ride into a scene is a correct one…Once you’ve done that, you divide the scene – or I tend to – into sections, into movements. Stanislavsky called them “beats.” The point is that there are sections in life. Sometimes even a short scene has a three-act structure. You lay bare the actor, you make him understand and appreciate the structure beneath the lines. That’s what’s called the subtext, and dealing with the subtext is one of the critical elements in directing actors. In other words, not what is said, but what happens.

Elia Kazan
Kazan, Brando
Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando on the set of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951 © 20th Century Fox


Film Editing Quotes

The notion of directing a film is the invention of critics – the whole eloquence of cinema is achieved in the editing room.

Orson Welles

The most enjoyable part of directing or filmmaking for me is editing. It is literally the language of filmmaking. It is right there, and you learn constantly how dumb you are and how much you have to learn everytime you take a picture into the cutting room.

William Freidkin

Editing is the only aspect of cinematic art that is unique. It shares no connection with any other art form: writing, acting, photography, things that are major aspects of the cinema, are still not unique to it, but editing is.

Stanley Kubrick

Editing feels almost like sculpting or a form of continuing the writing process.

Sydney Pollack

The essence of cinema is editing. It’s the combination of what can be extraordinary images of people during emotional moments, or images in a general sense, put together in a kind of alchemy.

Francis Ford Coppola

[on his background as an editor] It’s everything. I often wonder at directors who’ve never been editors. I just don’t understand how they go to work. I kind of piece it together as we’re making it. And editing is one of the, if not the, chief of the tools of my trade.

David Lean

Editing the Film

To me, there are two main elements to editing: juxtapositioning images and creating tempo. Sometimes an image is so meaningful or beautiful that it can capture or illuminate our original question: What is this movie about? In Murder on the Orient Express, the shot of the train leaving Istanbul had that quality. It had all the mystery, glamour, nostalgia, action I wanted the entire movie to have.

Sidney Lumet

Well, you always discover a lot in the editing room. Particularly the action, because you have to over-shoot a lot and shoot an enormous amount of material because many of the sequences have to be discovered in the editing and manipulation of it.

Christopher Nolan

When the great actor says the line, you can put scissors precisely at the point A and it’s wonderful. When the star says the line, you can hold for four frames longer because something else happens.

David Lean

I never discuss the plots of my films. I never release a synopsis before I begin shooting. How could I? Until the film is edited, I have no idea myself what it will be about. And perhaps not even then. Perhaps the film will only be a mood, or a statement about a style of life. Perhaps it has no plot at all. I depart from the script constantly. I may film scenes I had no intention of filming; things suggest themselves on location, and we improvise. I try not to think about it too much. Then, in the cutting room, I take the film and start to put it together and only then do I begin to get an idea of what it is about.

Michelangelo Antonioni

The most important requirement for editing is objectivity. No matter how much difficulty you had in obtaining a particular shot, the audience will never know. If it is not interesting, it simply isn’t interesting. You may have been full of enthusiasm during the filming of a particular shot, but if that enthusiasm doesn’t show on the screen, you must be objective enough to cut it.

Akira Kurosawa
Kurosawa Quotes
Akira Kurosawa gives Toshirô Mifune direction


Sound and Music Quotes

The sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie.

George Lucas

Almost every picture is improved by a good musical score. To start with, music is a quick way to reach people emotionally. Over the years, movie music has developed so many clichés of its own that the audience immediately absorbs the intention of the moment: the music tells them, sometimes even in advance. Generally, that would be the sign of a bad score, but even bad scores work.

Sidney Lumet

I always shoot my movies with score as certainly part of the dialogue. Music is dialogue. People don’t think about it that way, but music is actually dialogue. And sometimes music is the final, finished, additional dialogue. Music can be one of the final characters in the film.

Ridley Scott

When you manage to express something with a look and the music instead of saying it with words or having the character speak, I think it’s a more complete work.

Sergio Leone

I’ve always felt that music is more expressive than dialogue. I’ve always said that my best dialogue and screenwriter is Ennio Morricone. Because, many times, it is more important a note or an orchestration than a line said.

Sergio Leone

I’ve never used John Williams to tell people how to feel. I use John Williams to enhance my vision and my thoughts emotionally from scene to scene.

Steven Spielberg

Sometimes, scenes are great without any music at all.

Ridley Scott

The Exorcist is amazing because it recognizes that silences can be as powerful as sound effects.

Frank Darabont

Have a Favorite Filmmaking Quote?

If you’ve made it to the end of the article, then congratulations. We hope you picked up some valuable filmmaking lessons on the way.

Do you have any favorite filmmaking quotes from the list? Let us know in the comment section.

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David

Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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