What Can These Akira Kurosawa Quotes Teach Us About Filmmaking?
(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.
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
The 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.