March 14, 2014

25 Tips from Sam Mendes to Help You Become a Better Director

Sam Mendes, director of films like American Beauty and Skyfall, has made it a habit of working with some of the best people in the industry, and has turned out some truly memorable films. He has also heavily invested himself in theater, and continues working in that medium to this day. Mendes was honored at the spring gala for the Roundabout Theatre Company, and at the end of the ceremonies, gave some advice to current and aspiring directors.

Courtesy of Vanity Fair, here are a few interesting "rules" from the full 25:

1. Always choose good collaborators. It seems so obvious, but the best collaborators are the ones who disagree with you. It means they’re passionate, they have opinions, and they’ll only ever say yes if they mean it.

8. Confidence is essential, but ego is not.

13. There is no right and wrong, there is only interesting, and less interesting.

18. When you have a cast of 20, this means you have 20 other imaginations in the room with you. Use them.

22. Learn to accept the blame for everything. If the script was poor, you didn’t work hard enough with the writer. If the actors failed, you failed. If the sets, the lighting, the post, the costumes are wrong, you gave them the thumbs-up. So build up your shoulders, they need to be broad.

I am a big fan of the last one. If you're in charge of something, and that something fails, it's always your fault. At some point along the way choices you made (or didn't make) contributed to the failure of the project, and therefore it's your job to figure out how to do those things differently the next time. It's always easy to point fingers when something doesn't quite come out the way you wanted, but it doesn't really do any good.

To read the rest of his advice, head on over to the Vanity Fair post.

Link: Sam Mendes’s 25 Rules for Directors -- Vanity Fair

Your Comment

16 Comments

"If the script was poor, you didn’t work hard enough with the writer. " Good point. Skyfall is a poor film partly due to its lame script. How is it then?

March 14, 2014 at 6:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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toblerone

I disagree completely ..i think the box office takings disagree too

March 14, 2014 at 6:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sam

Box office takings do not reveal much about the quality of the film. Read the first user's review of the film on IMDB; I wouldn't be that harsh but it's an excellent summary.

March 14, 2014 at 7:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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toblerone

Box office never tells you about a movie's quality, but that should be known to everybody now. Btw, by this standard Fight Club must've been a lame movie.

March 14, 2014 at 7:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mariano

I think Skyfall was one of the best Bond films yet, and I've seen them all quite a few times.

March 14, 2014 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tiedtke

Saying it's the best Bond film is the same as saying it's the best two hour car commercial.

March 15, 2014 at 7:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Theo

Agreed. My favourite Bond film. Loved it.

March 16, 2014 at 4:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Will

The best thing about Skyfall is Roger Deakins. The misogyny in the film is absolutely horrendous, and I can't believe a director of Mendes' calibre chose to work with this kind of material.

http://reverttosaved.com/2012/11/17/skyfall-james-bonds-return-to-male-g...

March 17, 2014 at 9:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jonathan Flint

The script was lame. It was like a great idea executed really poorly. But what does it matter when people don't care, and the film makes a billion dollars.

March 14, 2014 at 8:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jesper

People are being very harsh to Skyfall, in my opinion. Considering how awfully some Bond movies came up, the last one was quite surprising. Yeah, I was like "oh, is he ok then?" in the beggining of the movie, for instance, but the movie was a solid action flick.

March 14, 2014 at 1:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rodrigo Molinsky

Script was REALLY lame. Also, Javier Bardem's over acting as a flamboyant gay villain didnt help the movie either. Sam Mendes really dropped the ball with that one but obviously the movie was a "success" because of the profits. James Bond movies have been going downhill since the riveting Casino Royale, a fluke as it seems.

March 14, 2014 at 8:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry

>flamboyant gay villain
>overacting

Oh gee, isn't it the Bond and cheesy villains? Nice try, b8.

March 14, 2014 at 3:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

Skyfall was also a resounding critical success. 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

March 16, 2014 at 5:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Will

Mendes needs to drop these franchise movies and go back to doing films like American Beauty

March 14, 2014 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tito

I have a lot of work most of my videos i think are great but some i don't like and i won't say its my fault exactly...I except blame if its my film, but for other projects like music videos and commercials,it can be the client's fault ....I shoot a lot of music videos and web commercials, and they sometimes don't want to spend what they should or fail to rent lights for me or just not do enough for THERE project that I'm directing ...If i i don't like the way it comes out but I'm okay with it...If its my film and my baby ill go the extra mile and get everything right, prep well, and hunt down every prop and gear i need, but won't do it for someone else's project..Im there to conduct the shoot that they hired me for and they should provide me with all I need...So i may have projects that i directed that i personally hate, i live with them :)

March 14, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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AlainCE

This was interesting. Thanks for posting.

March 15, 2014 at 11:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Lopez