4 Lessons Sam Mendes Can Teach You About Being a Director
Having only 7 credits to his name, director Sam Mendes isn't the most prolific filmmaker out there, but his insight on the craft is integral for young directors to learn.
In this BAFTA Guru interview, Mendes touches on several key things he's learned throughout his career, including collaborating with DPs, growing as an artist, and how to develop your sense of rhythm and timing. Not only that, but he lists the films that most influenced him as a director. Check out the video below.
You and your DP must be hand-in-glove
It's always nice (and also a far-fetched fantasy) when you and every member of your crew see eye to eye, but Mendes says that the most important collaborative on-set relationship you'll have as a director is your DP. This is why you need to be sure that the two of you are on the same page and have the same vision for the project. (By the way, his doesn't mean that you always have to insist your vision upon your DP -- collaborating means being open to their artistic vision, too.)
Trust your early collaborators
Okay, Mendes isn't trying to say that your first crew was/is/always will be your best crew. He's saying that crew members and collaborators are kind of like love relationships: if they're good for you, you've got to hang on to them. (If you can!)
Rhythm and timing
Much of the magic of a film comes from the rhythm and timing of -- pretty much everything: the shots, the delivery of lines, the movement of the camera. But how in the hell do you develop a sense for these things if you don't have them already? After all, world-renowned director Chantal Akerman said her sense of rhythm and timing came from her intuition. Mendes says that he learned a lot from watching Monty Python -- extending that a bit -- great comedic films.
Always try to stretch yourself
If there's one thing director Sam Mendes doesn't like to do it's repeat himself. From the dark comedy of American Beauty to the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, there really isn't a genre Mendes doesn't want to touch. He's stated that he doesn't ever want to do the same movie twice (aside from Spectre and Skyfall, which he argues is just one 5-hour long movie), because taking on different genres is a great way to challenge yourself as a filmmaker.
And now, if you're curious about which films influenced Mendes' career, here's the list:
- Paris, Texas
- Citizen Kane
- The Godfather
- Peter Sellers (Monty Python)
- The Hustler
- 400 Blows
- La Dolce Vita
- Chaplin films (Modern Times, City Lights)
- Buster Keaton films (try watching The General and Sherlock Jr.)