Terry Gilliam’s 10 Lessons For Directors Today

Posted by December 19, 2011 Comment

Terry Gilliam has plenty of opinions about the work of big-name, known and working directors, and they tend to turn up online fairly regularly. I’ve always liked his Spielberg vs. Kubrick piece, for example – I’ll embed it at the bottom of the post.

But he also has opinions about just the work, the process, in itself. There’s a lot of this in the Faber and Faber book, Gilliam on Gilliam, but for a quicker read, he’s also related ten succinct lessons to Filmmaker Magazine.

Here are the ten lesson titles, and a few excerpts along the way.

1. Growing Up Is For Losers

If you can maintain the kind of imagination you all had when you were babies, you would all be wonderful filmmakers.

2. Film School is For Fools

Watch movies, get a camera, make a movie. And if you do it enough times, eventually you start learning how films are made.

3. Auterism Is Out. Fil-Teurism Is In

I know what I’m trying to make but I have a lot of people who are around me who are my friends and don’t take orders and don’t listen to me, but who have individual ideas. And when they come up with a good idea, if it’s one that fits what I’m trying to do, I use it.

4. Put Your Ideas In A Drawer. Take Them Out As Needed

I do have a drawer in my desk with all the ideas that I have and that I scribbled out…

5. All You’ve Really Got In Life Is Story

You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. And you’ve got to be willing to take the consequences of whatever it is. If you succeed, fantastic. If you fail, you might have to get a proper job.

6. Command The Audience With Your Lens

When I’m looking through the camera, when we’re setting up a scene, I don’t feel like I’m in the scene. And the wide angle lens, because we see so much, it seems to wrap around me a little bit. I also like the fact that with long lenses, the director controls the audience much more because you show the audience only exactly what you want.

7. Nothing Can Defeat A Director Who Is One With His Actors

I think the key is to make sure that the cast, especially if they’re big Hollywood superstars, likes the movie.

8. Surround Yourself With Improvisers

It can become mechanical when you’re shooting because you’re just trying to do exactly what you were thinking about for the last year. And what’s wonderful is when the actors come in and they do something that’s completely surprising, and suddenly every day becomes fresh.

9. Directing Is Not For The Faint-Of-Heart. Or The Sane

Film can often be incredibly disappointing…

10. Be An Enlightened Despot

I expect the actors to really be totally committed to the film and to their character and forget about who they are. Get rid of your vanity. Just be whatever the character demands.

Bonus lesson: And Whatever You Do, Don’t Ever Work With The Weinsteins

I suppose it would have been nice to have made more films in the 71 years that I’ve been hanging around this place. And if I have a regret, there’s only one really, and that was working with the Weinsteins.

Here endeth the lessons. For more, Gilliam’s commentary tracks are always a good listen, he continually gives good interview, and Gilliam on Gilliam, as I said, is full of gems.

Here’s that Spielberg vs. Kubrick video I promised.

(Last Updated December 19, 2011 3:12 pm )