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10 Lessons on Filmmaking from Director Alejandro Jodorowsky

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Alejandro Jodorowsky; photo by Adrian Araya

Photo by Adrian Araya, Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

The “Ten Lessons” interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky over at Filmmaker Magazine is thoughtful and altogether wonderful.  He takes a strong stance on the filmmaker as artist, as poet, but not an impractical one.  It’s perhaps a stronger stance than I take myself – filmmaking is an interdisciplinary art, and filmmakers, to my mind, have more roles than that of “artist” – but it’s refreshing to see someone who doesn’t approach film as a sort of artistic realpolitik, and it brings home what I’ve come to strongly suspect from seeing the approach of different directors, which is that filmmaking as a craft, and to an extent as an industry, is largely a reflection of the process and values you bring to it. Some of your choices may add to your challenges getting work done, but you do have a lot of choice about the nature of the business you’re in.

I’ve left a few extra quotes in this one to get a little deeper into his points, but, as always, the full discussion is over at Filmmaker Magazine, and goes quite a bit further into the role and nurturing of imagination, and the value of working with family and people you know, and, er… Marcel Marceau.

1. Filmmaking can be therapeutic.  Shooting a film should be like opening up the limits to your mind.

2. Filmmaking is a spiritual experience. We have limits. Our family, our society, our culture gives us limits. And then the spiritual work is to open up the limits more and more, to understand more and more, to feel more and more, to desire more and more, to do more and more… Nowadays cinema is an industry and one has to really wonder what is left for the director. The director is really the heart of filmmaking. He is the poet, the artist, creating his work.

3. Filmmaking is sacred, in fact.  It can be a mystical activity, a sacred activity… for me, sacred means to live “you” completely, to be what you are. If you are what you are, it’s sacred.

5. Be present, all the time.

6. Identify your skillset early on.

7. Stand up when you fall down. I learned how to fail. I say failure doesn’t exist; you need to change your way… if you fall and then you stand, it’s good. You learn.

8. Work with like-minded people.

9. It’s not about process. It’s about ideas.  An artist, a real artist, does not have a creative process… That’s science. I am not a scientist.

10. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine.  My writing routine is everyday I put a record on, the same one since 20 years. Then I burn a stick of incense, I put perfume here on the insides of my soles, I paint my left testicle red, and I write.

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