“Rather than tell a superficial story, I wanted to go deeper, to show the hidden undercurrents, the ever-changing uncertainties of life. So instead of constantly pushing dramatic action to the fore, I left empty spaces, so viewers could have a pleasant aftertaste to savor.”
December 12, 1903 – December 12, 1963
When I hear the term “independent filmmaker,” I immediately think of John Cassavetes. He was the most independent of them all. For me, he was and still is a guide and teacher. Without his support and advice, I don’t know what would have become of me as a filmmaker. The question, ‘What is an independent filmmaker?’ has nothing to do with being inside or outside of the industry or whether you live in New York or Los Angeles. It’s about determination and strength, having the passion to say something that’s so strong that no one or nothing can stop you. Whenever I meet a young director who is looking for guidance and advice, I tell him or her to look to the example of John Cassavetes, a source of the greatest strength. John made it possible for me to think that you could actually make a movie—which is crazy, because it’s an enormous endeavor, and you only realize how enormous when you’re doing it. But by then it’s too late.
Nothing could have stopped Cassavetes except God, and He eventually did. John died much too soon, but his films and his example are still very much alive. He once said, “You can’t be afraid of anyone or anything if you want to make a movie.” It’s that simple. You have to be as tough as he was. He was a force of nature. — Martin Scorsese
“The camera I was using in the beginning, a rudimentary affair in which the film would tear or would often refuse to move, produced an unexpected effect one day when I was photographing very prosaically the Place de l’Opera. It took a minute to release the film and get the camera going again. During this minute the people, buses vehicles had of course moved. Projecting the film, having joined the break, I suddenly saw a Madeleine-Bastille omnibus change into a hearse and men into women. The trick of substitution, called the trick of stop-action was discovered…”
In 1930, Charlie Chaplin and Sergei Eisenstein got together to “play” tennis, literally. Eisenstein spent considerable time with Charlie Chaplin, who recommended that Eisenstein meet with a sympathetic benefactor in the person of American socialist author Upton Sinclair, who would later arrange for Eisenstein to go to Mexico.
December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976
“I think that certain people overestimate the power of a director. A film is the result of teamwork. But the director has certain powers. Permit me to tell you a story. When Fury was finished, the producer asked me into his office after a private viewing of the film. He accused me of changing the screenplay. I asked him how I could have done that since I didn’t speak a word of English. He demanded a copy of the screenplay, and after reading it he exclaimed, ‘Hell, you’re right. But it seems different on the screen!’ And perhaps it was different—for him!”
Here’s masterclass in lighting from Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler, who won the Academy Award for his cinematography on Dances With Wolves
Rare color photo of Orson Welles during the production of the famous opening long take from Touch of Evil, one of the greatest long takes in cinematic history.
“As time has gone by, though, Touch of Evil has acquired a large cult following, and it now regularly appears on lists of the best films of the century. What is not generally known is that the film never accurately reflected Welles’s intentions for it. In July 1957, the studio took over the editing of the film and prevented him from participating in its completion. In an odd turn of events, however, a 58-page memo that Welles wrote in 1957 was recently rediscovered, and a small team on which I was film editor and sound mixer has used that remarkable document to bring Touch of Evil as close as possible to Welles’s original concept.” —Walter Murch, 1998