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10 Filmmaking Tips from 'Legends of the Fall' Producer and Director Ed Zwick

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire June 16, 2014 at 4:29PM

Attention, first-time filmmakers. Read these essential tips from Ed Zwick.
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"Cut Bank"
"Cut Bank"

Though he has directed countless television shows, including "It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia," "Fargo," "Mad Men" and "The Good Wife," Matt Shakman only recently directed his first feature film, "Cut Bank," which is screening this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Before he started filming the noir thriller, which stars Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton and John Malkovich, he consulted his mentor, veteran writer-director-producer Ed Zwick ("Legends of the Fall," "Blood Diamond"), who had given Shakman his first shot at TV directing (on his show "Once & Again") and helped him produce "Cut Bank."

"He was essentially my film school—and you can’t ask for a better mentor...He’s a genius and I found his words of wisdom incredibly helpful," Shakman told Indiewire.

Below are Zwick's 10 Essential Filmmaking Tips

1. Remember to Breathe.

You’ve worked for two years to get to this moment, and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get to do it again. You might as well enjoy it.

2. The Camera is a Buddha.

It sees the world as it is. It doesn’t photograph your expectations or your fantasies. Try to see as the camera sees.

3. No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy.

Over-prepare and then be ready to throw it all away when the actor feels his character wouldn’t do it that way.

4. A Good Idea Can Come From Anywhere.

You might as well listen to what others have to say because you’re going to get the credit (and the blame). The Key Grip has made six times as many movies as you have.

5. No Movie Can Be Funny Enough.

Laughter makes the audience feel they’re in good hands. And it deepens the impact of the serious stuff. 

READ MORE: 13 Great Tips for First-Time Directors from LAFF

6. On Every Production...

The director loses faith in the movie, the actors lose faith in the director, and the crew hates the actors. Somehow it all works out.

7. An Audience's Attention Span is Even Shorter Than Yours.

Fill every moment. Be generous. Be extravagant. Give them all sorts of gifts: jokes, moments, secrets, truths. Stick to the story and try not to shoot the parts you’re going to cut.

8. The Actors Move the Camera, The Camera Doesn't Move the Actors. 

Unless you have a style, don’t pretend you do.

9. Make Your Movie For One Person At a Time.

Imagine your fourth grade teacher sitting alone in the dark.

10. Where There Is No Solution There Is No Problem.

As Hannibal said while crossing the Alps, "We will find our way, or we will make one."

You can’t say it better than that.

This article is related to: Festivals, Filmmaker Toolkit: Production, Edward Zwick, Edward Zwick, Ed Zwick, Edward Zwick, LAFF 2014, LAFF, Cut Bank, Cut Bank, Matt Shakman






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