What Can These Akira Kurosawa Quotes Teach Us About Filmmaking?

Akira Kurosawa(Answer: Everything!) Akira Kurosawa is in a league of his own. To master filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Oliver Stone, he was the teacher, and often shared his knowledge with those who asked. Flavorwire has published a few pieces of said knowledge in the form of Kurosawa's greatest filmmaking quotes -- ones that beautifully answer questions about the craft, advise us on storytelling, and remind us why we fell in love with cinema in the first place.

One of our other personal favorites is Steven Speilberg, check out his quotes here.

Thanks to Flavorwire for sharing these quotes.

If you want to be a great director, be a great screenwriter

Kurosawa was the one that said a great director can take a great script and make a masterpiece, but a great director can't take a bad script and make anything good. He believed that the story is everything -- without a good story, you can't possibly have a good film, no matter how many beautifully shot images or powerhouse performances you have. So, he advises directors to become proficient in screenwriting -- not just proficient, but masters -- and explains how to learn the craft:

In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things. You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.

Don't take life lying down

Many filmmakers and storytellers say, "Write what you know," which is an oft misunderstood piece of advice. It doesn't mean that if you're a 37-year-old vending machine repairman from Indianapolis, that you should only tell stories about being a 37-year-old vending machine repairman from Indianapolis. For example, Ingmar Bergman didn't make movies about being a Swedish son to a minister, but about death, God, and loneliness, because those were things he knew -- those were things that affected him and that he wondered about and wrestled with throughout his life. Kurosawa suggests being an active participant in your own life by taking note of your experiences, analyzing them, and then using them to tell your stories:

I‘ve forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new -- For this reason -- I have always kept a notebook handy when I read a book. I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script, these are what I read -- So what I want to say is, don’t read books while lying down in bed.

The great appeal of film is its relatability

KurosawaThe next time you watch a movie that you really didn't like, ask yourself, "Did I relate to any of the characters?" The answer will probably be "no". Why? That's an area of study that has existed for ages -- examining why human beings tell stories. What purpose do they serve other than mere entertainment (if it were just entertainment, we wouldn't be going to theaters to watch movies, but tents to watch lions jump through fiery hoops). The best explanation I've heard is that our impulse to put stories together through informational patterns exists because we desire to relate ourselves to each other and the rest of the world.

Filmmaking is just visual storytelling, and Akira Kurosawa was a master storyteller. In so many words, he advises filmmakers to create films that are relatable, saying, "Human beings share the same common problems. A film can only be understood if it depicts these properly." One of his most endearing quotes in Flavorwire's post, which is more personal than anything, teaches us a great lesson about how to approach creating characters. He says, "I like unformed characters. This may be because, no matter how old I get, I am still unformed myself." It's a great, solid truth about humanity.

Be sure to check out the rest of Akira Kurosawa's quotes on Flavorwire.

Which quotes stuck out to you the most? Do you know any other Kurosawa quotes that you can share? Let us know in the comments below.

Link: 25 Incredible Akira Kurosawa Quotes -- Flavorwire

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I had Donald Ritchie's book years ago before AK died. It is very scholarly and required reading for AK fans,
"Not that he himself wanted to be remembered. Rather, he wanted his work to be remembered. He once wrote: “Take ‘myself,’ subtract ‘movies,’ and the result is ‘zero.’” It was as though he thought he did not exist except through his movies. When I was writing my book about him, he sometimes complained that there was nothing to write about if I persisted in asking him about himself. He became interested in my project only when he learned it was to be called The Films of Akira Kurosawa."

March 23, 2014 at 6:49PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Denys Finney

I'm hardly going to argue with Akira Kurosawa, but I do think it would be possible is some cases for a director to take a bad script and perhaps give it a more interesting visual dimension not present in the script.

March 24, 2014 at 2:07AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


As a bad piece of music will sound a bit better played by a better performer/instrument/soundsystem.

March 24, 2014 at 2:31AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I guess that's what he means by being a great screenwriter, you might be able to make a bad story "look" good, but you'll have to "re-write" it to make it great!

March 27, 2014 at 4:07PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM



March 24, 2014 at 7:06AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Kurawsowa remade the Magnificent Seven in Japanese to great success, I think that is a fine example.

March 25, 2014 at 3:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


No he didn't. The Magnificent Seven (1960), John Surges, was remade in the U.S. after Kurosawa's (1954) seminal Japanese film, Seven Samurai.

March 25, 2014 at 10:27AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


It's great experience to me as a cameraman.

April 6, 2014 at 2:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Kurosawa's one of those incredible directors where there's his level of mastery and then there's the rest of us.

June 4, 2014 at 6:14AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Kurosawa is my absolute favorite, but I'd add Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, and Kubrick to that level.

June 4, 2014 at 10:12AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Harry Pray IV

Oh, absolutely. You know, it's funny. I don't actually like most of Kubrick's films but that doesn't stop me from admiring them at the same time. That guy was an absolute genius and I mean that in the literal sense of the word.

June 4, 2014 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


But what happens when you don’t write well? Can you still direct?

June 4, 2014 at 1:48PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I think yes. But then you have to find a very good scriptwriter to whom you can share ideas comfortably and able to write a great script for you.

June 9, 2017 at 8:04AM