Enigmatic Filmmaking Tips from Director Marc Forster

Marc ForsterIf there's one thing director Marc Forster doesn't do it's repeat himself. His filmography is rich and diverse, including Monster's Ball, The Kite Runnerand most recently World War ZHe shared a handful of rather cryptic filmmaking tips with MovieMaker Magazine, which aim to challenge your artistic mind and directorial sensibilities -- things that he no doubt found significant while directing Oscar-worthy performances.

It's important to learn the technical and practical side of directing for sure, but there is a visceral component that must be explored as well. The advice Forster shares with MovieMaker is complex and at times seems intangible, requiring us to look a little bit deeper into his words -- which is essentially his call to action for filmmakers, to look a little bit deeper. Very clever, Forster.

Look for what isn't visible

We deal with a visual medium. Obviously there are other incredibly important components, but film has an intrinsic visual and kinetic nature, unlike literature, music, and plastic arts. We want to see movement, so we put it up on the screen.

However, maybe think about what you're putting up on the screen and ask yourself, "Could someone experience this shot, scene, dialog in the same way if I simply wrote it or read it aloud?" If they could, I'd say that the essence of cinema isn't being harnessed, and therefore, you, the filmmaker, may need to look a little deeper. Forster says:

Moviemaking is about the discovery within the written word, that which cannot be found when spoken. The main focus should always be to keep looking for what is not visible, to keep striving for the image beyond the words.

Be open to receive

The lens is the eye and filmmaking is seeing. A good director knows how to see, perceive, discern, empathize, and connect. It's an emotional medium, and some people are simply more perceptive and discerning than others, but that doesn't mean you can't do things to bolster your skills. A lot of times, as Forster explains, that means receiving rather than giving -- receiving input, receiving a look, receiving the sensation of the wind on the back of your neck without immediately giving a response or thought or opinion.

Look into your actor’s eyes and see if they remind you of things you have forgotten. Listen to everyone and at the same time, no one -- they might know something you don’t. Be open to receive while still letting your vision guide you, not your ego.

Energy over originality

We all want to be original, because we have a basic need for individuality -- that's why we have egos and invented the word "I". (Ayn Rand anyone?) As filmmakers, making a film that is considered original is as good as, or better than winning a prestigious award, so some of us spend so much time trying to be different and forget to just be ourselves -- to find our own vision.

So, if you're feeling like your films are just knock-offs of other movies, don't despair. Art, including filmmaking, isn't necessarily about originality, it's about energy -- the power to evoke emotion. How many of your favorite films are truly original? A couple maybe? How many of them are powerful, authentic, and truthful? Most if not all of them.

Marc Forster bts

Always try to remember that storytelling is the most ancient form of communication. Each story had been told; there are no original stories. What there is, and what will always remain, is the energy created in the process of storytelling. The more authentic and truthful that process is, the more inspired others become.

For the rest of Marc Forster's filmmaking tips, check out his "golden rules" on MovieMaker.

What do you think of Marc Forster's advice? Is there anything that stuck out to you specifically?

Link: Wisdom Wednesday: Marc Forster’s Seven Golden Rules of Moviemaking -- MovieMaker Magazine

You Might Also Like

Your Comment


Damn good read!

September 21, 2013 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Ejaz Mehedi

I like this! Nice post.

September 21, 2013 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


September 22, 2013 at 12:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I don't think I'll be taking any tips from the man who made Quantum Of Solace, thank you very much.

September 22, 2013 at 3:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Fresno Bob

LOL. I was thinking 'is that the same Marc Forster' but, you know, I think we're so quick to (and gleefully happy to) discredit other filmmakers any way we can because of one or two failures. And I'm not saying you in particular. I see it a lot on here.

But the fact is this dude is doing it. Studios are handing him hundreds of millions of dollars to execute his vision for their films. So he must have something going on. I may not have liked everything he's ever made, but I'm definitely going to read what he has to say.

September 22, 2013 at 8:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Dave Mueller

QOS was an imcprhensible mess. Partly script, partly his shooting (and editing) style.

The man lost the confidence of everyone around him on World War Z and was practically replaced.
His career was saved by the BO performance of that film.

So, I repeat, I won't be listening to anything he has to say.

September 22, 2013 at 12:03PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Fresno Bob

As if the failings of these movies where all his fault. Do you believe the director has the last word ?

September 23, 2013 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Well, in the case of Quantum of Solace at least, it only seems fair to point out that the film was only given an (extremely short) 18-month production window by Sony, after Casino Royale's release; was rushed through development so the studio could have something to shoot during the WGA strike (Paul Haggis has said before that he completed his draft just two hours before the strike officially began); and Forster was not allowed to employ any screenwriters during the shoot, so it ended up that he and Craig were basically rewriting half the movie themselves, on-set (and Craig has generously pointed out in interviews that he is not a writer). So, you know, there's all that. Quite simply, in my view it seemed like a film that was fated to turn out poorly.

As far as World War Z... well, I don't know what the heck was up with that. I do know that the entertainment press does love a good behind-the-scenes disaster story, though, so I tend to take everything with a grain of salt.

Either way, I am very content to now go back to watching my copy of Finding Neverland—a truly lovely film in every way possible, in my humble opinion.

September 23, 2013 at 12:47PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


The advice he is giving, weather you like his films or not, is good advice... If I was given advice from someone who made feature films that got played all around the world, I would take it... The reason being, they have done a whole lot more than I have, which means I can take a lot away from their experiences (good or bad).

You're really missing out if you can't take away something from people who have made good and bad films - You would be surprised what you can learn from being open minded, I've learnt some very important things from first time Production Assistants and AC's, who have less than 1% of the professional experience of Marc Forster.

September 25, 2013 at 3:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '-1'.

That was directed @Fresno Bob

September 25, 2013 at 3:36PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Whether or not you critically liked Quantum Of Solace (and I personally cannot stand the film), it was a huge box office success. At the time it was the highest grossing Bond movie of all time. What so many filmmakers forget is that if you want to make movies you have to get people to invest in you and therefore you have to prove that you can make them a return on their money. The film industry is a business like any other so if you want the chance to make more films and hopefully the chance to make great films, you also need to make at least some movies that make money. However, some directors, once they are in that enviable position, just stay there making popcorn movies and forget about making the films they want to make. Let's hope Forster doesn't make that mistake now he's made 2 huge box office hits.

September 27, 2013 at 5:37AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


agree! but I'm ok in listening to the guy that also made "Finding Neverland" and "Stranger than Fiction". :)

September 23, 2013 at 4:48AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

guto novo

exactly- Finding Neverland is great!

September 23, 2013 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


World War Z had its issues, but one particular moment stands out in my mind: Brad Pitt's character has just gotten zombie ick on his face for the first time. He rushes to the edge of the roof, leans over and starts counting. When I realized he was waiting to see if he was going to turn, and that he intended to let himself fall if he did, it gave me a very visceral shiver and tugged on my heartstrings in a very specific, intense way. My soul gasped. THAT is the sort of thing I look for in a film, and this article gave me a little bit of insight about how to create moments like that. I want to make people's soul gasp, and I'm'a gonna cherry pick every bit of good advice I can find to get there.

July 11, 2015 at 3:32PM

L.Rowan McKnight
Film student