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Wim Wenders’ 50 Rules of Filmmaking

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Wim Wenders at a screening of Pina, at 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

Wim Wenders at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo by Sam Javanrouh (Creative Commons license).

There’s always a wonderfully gentle, human core at the heart of Wim Wenders’ films.  Even when I don’t like one of his films, it’s indelibly his, a very personal statement from a filmmaker with a lot of integrity.  Wenders is an artist worth learning from.  So when I saw MovieMaker Magazine had his top 50 rules of filmmaking, I rushed over.  It’s a wonderful mix of the conceptual and the practical, and much of it is centered around understanding yourself and the people you’re working with.  My favorites:

1. You have a choice of being “in the business” or of making movies. If you’d rather do business, don’t hesitate. You’ll get richer, but you won’t have as much fun!

2. & 3. If you have nothing to say, don’t feel obliged to pretend you do. If you do have something to say, you’d better stick to it. (But then don’t give too many interviews.)

4. Respect your actors. Their job is 10 times more dangerous than yours.

6. Your continuity girl is always right about screen directions, jumping the axis and that sort of stuff. Don’t fight her. Bring her flowers.

9. If you want to shoot day for night, make sure the sun is shining.

11. Rain only shows on the screen when you backlight it.

12. Don’t shoot a western if you hate horses. (But it’s okay to not be fond of cows.)

16. Final cut is overrated. Only fools keep insisting on always having the final word. The wise swallow their pride in order to get to the best possible cut.

21. If you love soccer, don’t shoot your film during the World Championship. (Same goes for baseball and the World Series, etc.)

22. Don’t quote other movies unless you have to. (But why would you have to?)

31. The more you know about moviemaking, the tougher it gets to leave that knowledge behind. As soon as you do things “because you know how to do them,” you’re fucked.

33. A “beautiful image” can very well be the worst thing that can happen to a scene.

34. If you have one actor who gets better with every take, and another who loses it after a while, make sure they can meet in the middle. Or consider recasting. (And you know whose close-ups you have to shoot first!)

43. If your dolly grip is grumpy or your electricians hate the shot it will all show on the film.

45. & 46. Some actors actually improve their dialogue in ADR.  Some actors should never be forced to loop a single line. (Even Orson Welles wasn’t good at that.)

MovieMaker has the full list of all 50.


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