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