Akira Kurosawa Gives Three Advice to Aspiring Filmmakers (Part 1)
In the last few days I watched the excellent Oscar nominated Documentary Cutie and the Boxer directed by Zachary Heinzerling, and the also excellent masterclass with Breaking Bad Show Runner Vince Gilligan curated by Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker. What Heinzerling and Gilligan have in common is that they both quoted Japanese Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa as one of the key influence on how they handled their creative project.
Inspired by these two men, I decided to try my luck and check if Kurosawa had any interviews online. And to my surprise, I discovered that My Life In Cinema, a 2h conversation with Kurosawa in 1993, when the master was 83, is available thanks to Camera Obscura, with English subtitles. You can watch it fully below!
I was planning on doing an article with everything Kurosawa shared in this interview, but then I hit the point where Kurosawa gives his three best advice to aspiring filmmakers, and decided to isolate those three precious elements in one article. I will thus share the rest of the interview in Wednesday’s article. (and it’s all worth it!)
Something you will notice, if you’ve read William Nicholshon’s tips on Being a Screenwriter, is that two key advice recoup between the two men, although 20 years separate them. So I guess some advice are worth being heard many times.
Here are Kurosawa three best advice, and tune in on Wednesday for Part 2:
1 – START WITH A PENCIL AND A PAPER
“The thing I stress the most to the aspiring directors who often come knocking at my door is this: “It cost a great deal of money to make a film these days, and it’s hard to become a director. You must learn and experience various things to become a director, and it’s not so easily accomplished. But if you genuinely want to make films, then write screenplays.
All you need to write a script is paper and pencil. It’s only through writing scripts that you learn specifics about the structure of film and what cinema is.” That’s what I tell them, but they still won’t write.They find writing too hard. And it is. Writing scripts is a hard job.”
2 – NEVER GIVE UP, FINISH YOUR STORY NO MATTER WHAT
“The tedious task of writing has to become second nature to you. If you sit down and write quietly the whole day you’ll have written at least two or three pages, even if it’s a struggle. And if you keep at it, you’ll eventually have a couple of hundred pages. I think young people today don’t know the trick of it. They start and want to get to the end right away.
When you go mountain climbing, the first thing you’re told is not to look at the peak but to keep your eyes on the ground as you climb. You just climb patiently one step at a time. If you keep looking at the top, you’ll get frustrated. I think writing is similar. You need to get used to the task of writing. You must make an effort to learn to regard it not as something painful but as routine. But most people tend to give up halfway.
I tell my ADs that if they give up once, then that’ll be it, because that becomes a habit, and they’ll give up as soon as it gets hard. I tell them to write all the way to the end no matter what, until they get to some sort of end. I say, “Don’t ever quit, even if it gets hard midway.” But when the going gets tough, they just give up.”
3 – READ A LOT AND LIVE AN INTERESTING LIFE
“It’s important that [young people] at least do a certain amount of reading. Unless you have a rich reserve within, you can’t create anything. That’s why I often say that creating comes from memory. Memory is the source for your creation. You can’t create something out of nothing.
Whether it’s from reading or from your own real-life experience, you can’t create unless you have something inside yourself. In that sense, it’s important to always read a variety of things. Current novels are fine, but I think people should read the classics too.
So, if a film school was set up it would be important to stress reading.”
If you are looking for more advice from filmmakers, check:
- Andrei Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Filmmakers
- 5 Tips From Mark Duplass to Find Your Voice and Kickstart Your Filmmaker’s Career
- 50 Advice From Wim Wenders to Aspiring Filmmakers