While David O. Russell and American Hustle were nominated for 10 Academy Awards, they came home empty-handed on Oscar night. Most of those involved with the film are no stranger to nominations, but it's the work involved that gets them even remotely near the statuettes in the first place. In this terrific behind the scenes video for American Hustle, learn how David O. Russell and the rest of the crew approached their work on the film, and what it takes to put together a movie of this caliber.

A lot of the more interesting stuff about technique comes around the 17 minute mark and later, but here are some of the biggest takeaways about David O. Russell and his style:

  • Looking to build characters and worlds
  • Knows the voices of the characters, and their mannerisms, so that any story idea is coming from a real place, since it's from the DNA of the character
  • Wants strong female characters
  • Lights for 360 degrees so that people can move in the environment, which keeps everybody on their toes
  • Never sits at the monitors and doesn't have a trailer, so there is no down time on set
  • There is a frenetic energy that comes from doing things this way that can push people to give their all
  • Doesn't care about breaking traditional notions of technique, things that are wrong by conventional methods, so you get a sense of invention on the spot
  • Doesn't want actors to be precious about their performances, because he can't be precious about the screenplay or the direction
  • He is there to be moved or tickled, so if he feels it, then the movie feels it

The last few I think are some of the most important. You just can't be too precious about anything when you're making a film. It has to be a collaboration with the actors. As David says, both you and the actors may have choices about how you see things, but there are plenty of times when one of those choices is completely wrong, so doing things multiple ways if possible can help get the best of both worlds.

In the end, you have to get a certain amount of coverage to actually complete the film. If you get scene one "perfect," but you had three other scenes to get to in the day and it's already been 12 hours, the whole process is going to end badly.

It's also important to be moved by whatever you're doing. If your movie doesn't affect you the way you want it to affect an audience, it likely won't.

What did you think of American Hustle? Having seen this BTS and the movie, what do you think about the process and how it contributed to the final product?