Loads of Filmmaking Advice from Poetic Director Wim Wenders

Wim WendersOne of the first films I ever saw in college that truly blew me away was Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire.  The aesthetic, the contrasting B&W to color, everything about this film solidified to a very young, very trepidatious me the path on which I had already embarked upon. This German-born director opened up a world of poetic and lyrical filmmaking, and shared 50 "Golden Rules" with MovieMaker Magazine that are almost as beautifully and enigmatically communicated as his films. Continue on to read a selection.

The "Business"

I think that sometimes independent filmmakers get a little disheartened when they're reminded that making films is in fact a business. The process of getting something up on a screen somewhere depends mostly on money -- bankability and profits. An artist doesn't want to hear all that!

Would we like to make money? Yes, but oftentimes that means sacrificing some of your vision to get it. Wim Wenders says, "The more money you have the more you can do with it, sure. But the less you can say with it."

You have a choice of being “in the business” or of making movies. If you’d rather do business, don’t hesitate. You’ll get richer, but you won’t have as much fun!

Knowledge vs. Instinct

The more you know about moviemaking, the tougher it gets to leave that knowledge behind. As soon as you do things “because you know how to do them,” you’re fucked.

I can only speculate as to what Wenders means when he says this, but to me, it means that there's preciousness and value in your instincts. The tools we pick up through experience definitely serve us on-set -- I think that goes without saying -- but leaning on what we know too heavily will stagger us as artists. It's okay to branch out and try something new -- you'll never find new territories of creativity unless you're willing to stray from the path you've beaten.

A few tricks of the trade

Wenders shares a bunch of little tricks that will make your life easier when it comes time to shoot. Here are a few:

  • Rain only shows on the screen when you backlight it.
  • Before you say “cut,” wait five more seconds.
  • Fewer words are always better!
  • Let other people cut your trailer!
  • A “beautiful image” can very well be the worst thing that can happen to a scene.

It's important to say that at the end of his list, Wenders echos other filmmakers' sentiment that there are no rules when it comes to filmmaking. Everyone's journey is different, so if what you're doing is working for you, then keep it up! Be sure to check out the full list of Wenders' advice in MovieMaker's article.

If you have time this weekend, definitely watch one (or a handful) of Wim Wenders' films. Wings of Desire is excellent, but Paris, Texas and his 3D documentary Pina are incredible as well.

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNuQVS7q7-A

What do you think of Wenders' advice? Which one of his films is your favorite?

Link: Wim Wenders’ 50 (that’s right, 50) Golden Rules of Moviemaking -- MoveMaker Magazine

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Your Comment


When first discovering Wender's work, I was completely blown over by Kings of The Road.

Absolutely incredible - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q17Ig6vdiv0

November 9, 2013 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM



November 10, 2013 at 9:42AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Oh, one of my favorites moviemakers. I remember the first time I saw "Faraway, so close" and loved it. Then I found out (there was no internet at time) that the movie was a sequel and I started to hunt down a copy of "Wings of Desire". Took me some time, and worth it. Very inspired movie.

November 9, 2013 at 3:52PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Rodrigo Molinsky

Knowledge vs instinct is very very useful...I always felt like it would be better not to know the rules....I knew the rules and I'm glad to discard them and not rely on them...I get bored when I see every movie with same rules

November 9, 2013 at 4:33PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

thadon calico

His 'Notebooks on Cities and Clothes', a documentary about Yohji Yamamoto, is interesting, mixing Hi-8 and 16mm, and making the 3D video of Pina not such a surprise as it would seem if all you knew was 'Wings of Desire.' Always helps if you can get Robbie Mueller to help out for a bit of shooting, too.

November 9, 2013 at 4:50PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Lightning over water doc about Nick Ray, The State of Things and The American Friend with Dennis Hopper, three seminal films.

November 10, 2013 at 12:02AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


thank you :)

November 10, 2013 at 5:37AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Wim Wenders is one of the finest independent film makers still living today. His films are inspirational. He's definitely one of my hero! Another such independent film maker is Peter Greenaway … marvelous visions and subjects! I had the honor to work with him on 8 1/2 Women … I wonder what he's doing these days?

November 12, 2013 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM