The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, Fight Club, Se7en.
The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver.
The above list of great films came from two very talented and well-respected directors of our time: David Fincher and Martin Scorsese. Now, here’s a chance to learn from these amazing filmmakers.
1. Call your own shots (Fincher)
“There’s nothing worse than hearing somebody say, ‘Oh, you made that movie? I thought that movie sucked,’ and you have to agree with them,” Fincher said on why he’s so hands-on in making decisions. “You are going to have to take all of the responsibility, because basically when it gets right down to it, you are going to get all of the blame, so you might as well have made all of the decisions that led to people either liking it or disliking it.”
2. Never Stop Looking For Inspiration (Scorsese)
“Sometimes when you’re heavy into the shooting or editing of a picture, you get to the point where you don’t know if you could ever do it again. Then suddenly you get excited by seeing somebody else’s work.”
3. Check for different perspectives (Fincher)
Fincher looks at the set up of each scene with each eye individually – the left, for composition and the right for focus and technical specs. Why? The left eye is connected to the creative side of the brain and the right is connected to the mathematical side.
4. Watch These 85 Movies (and Then Watch More) (Scorsese)
When Fast Company interviewed Scorsese after Hugo‘s 11 Oscar nominations, they got more than they bargained for. The director referenced 85 different movies during their conversation, pulling out specific lessons and influences from all. A lot of criticism was lobbed toward the list because of what it doesn’t include, but this is the stuff that simply popped off the top of his head. Is there any doubt that these 85 flicks are a good starting point or that there are 850 more worthy of learning from?
5. Take it one day at a time (Fincher)
At the beginning of the filmmaking process, your project looks like a heck of a giant to tackle. In the middle it’s hard to step back and imagine what the finished product will look like. “How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time. How do you shoot a 150-day movie? You shoot it one day at a time,” said Fincher. This advice is applicable across the board in nearly all art forms. Break your projects down into smaller tasks and don’t let the gravity of any situation overwhelm you.
6. Don’t be afraid of hands-on research (Scrosese)
Get in the taxi with Robert De Niro driving. Take a ride-along on an ambulance. Have the experiences that will help make your story sing.