Judd Apatow is one of our best creators. He's left an indelible mark on comedy and revamped the R-rated broad comedy feature. So what advice does he have for us?
Judd Apatow has been a force in comedy for years. He cut his teeth in the 90s doing standup, then transitioned into a successful TV career. Despite early cancellations of great shows like Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, he kept writing. The 40-Year-Old Virgin became his breakout hit and he has been supporting comedic actors, interesting voices, and building out his comedic world one film, documentary, and TV show at a time.
Today we're going to go over 10 Judd Apatow quotes and look at how they can inspire us and our own filmmaking ventures.
So let's get started!
Top Ten Judd Apatow quotes to make you a better filmmaker
Apatow is now one of the most successful writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood. It's hard to imagine there was a time when he struggled. But before he was famous, Apatow was just a guy trying to make people laugh. And that attitude and perseverance are why he's making the big bucks and making art today.
1. “I think that everything I tend to do roots for the underdog.”
In screenwriting, you want to create a character that's interesting and who you root for against all odds. Apatow has become the master of writing underdogs. Whether you're rooting for a middle-aged man to lose his virginity or just hoping Amy Schumer gets her man in Trainwreck, Apatow crafts stories in a way that makes them accessible to average Joes. Also, with his success, it's admirable to watch Apatow try to work across mediums, including going back into stand-up. That hunger and fearless experimentation is admirable.
2. “I always see other people as predecessors and admire them.”
The film and television industry is constantly changing. You have peers and predecessors, and just because your tastes or the times don't align, doesn't mean there aren't valuable lessons to learn. Seek out different folks for their points of view. It can only make your writing better and inform all the work you do.
3. "I still feel like a nerd."
Nerd hasn't been a dirty word in a long time. But I want to focus on the idea that Apatow not only embraces the nerdy part of his life and fandom but also nerds out on learning more about comedy and its origins. His documentary on Gary Shandling explores the life of a man who constantly wanted to learn about himself and others. Apatow's quest for a similar understanding keeps his creations feeling fresh and interesting. And when he tackles those projects to write and produce it keeps him relevant too.
4. "Don't be a jerk. Try to love everyone. Give more than you take. And do it despite the fact that you only really like about 7 out of 500 people."
If I could communicate one thing to anyone trying to work in this business, it would be this quote. You don't have to like everyone. You can hate lots of people, but keep it to yourself. No one wants to hire or be around a jerk.
5. "In the writing, I'm just trying to go deeper, emotionally, and learn more about myself and reveal more and find a way to connect with people in new ways."
What's the next level in your writing? There are so many stories and screenplays floating around in Hollywood that your work needs to stand out. The way that happens is having characters that connect and feel real. Don't be afraid to tell emotional and identifiable stories that leave a part of your soul on the page.
6. "Well, every movie is an experiment. And the only way you can grow at what you’re doing is to take chances. You can’t try to stick with what worked last time."
Failure will happen. Even the best creators have misses. But it's what happens after you fail that defines you. So write on, shoot as much as you can, and don't be afraid to take the leap and land on your face. You have to learn lessons from the past, but that doesn't always mean things will work a second time. You have to be open to pivoting and trying something new.
7. "I am always driven by the terror of humiliation."
What drives you to write and direct? Apatow knows his internal engine, and it's reflected in the characters he tends to gravitate toward. So much of creating art is about finding yourself and your voice. So what drives you?
8. "The moment you think of a joke is the best moment."
Writing is hard. It can make you so frustrated. Maybe you're lost in an edit bay. Or directing on set and about to not make your day. I try to go back to this quote and see the joy in the work. We're lucky we get paid to make things up. and if we're working on our passion project we're lucky that film and tv are mediums that exist for us to express ourselves. The moment you have a great idea, the moment that idea turns into something, is so special. It's lightning. So let that thought electrify you through a hard time. Let it guide the way forward.
9. "I think a lot of Hollywood is in retreat right now trying to figure out how to make money and make the safest bets."
the nature of the business now is to bet on tentpoles and intellectual property and let the rest sort itself out. That can be a harrowing predicament for people trying to break in. So what makes you stand out? What makes your script or movie so good that people can't ignore you? Let the industry's fear be the reason you're brave.
10. "If the movie's not communicating, it's not working."
By now we've all heard the Roger Ebert quote, "Cinema is an empathy machine." So what's your movie or TV show communicating to the audience? What part of themselves can be seen in the art? So much of filmmaking is getting people to buy into the message you want to push forward. That's easier said than done. You have to decide on your messaging and make sure each scene clearly communicates that thesis.
What's next? Read some inspirational Spielberg quotes!
We all know that creating stories can be a slog. Whether you're trying to write a feature or trying to write a pilot, or directing both, we all come across peaks and valleys in our careers. One person whose words I keep going back to is Steven Spielberg. If you read No Film School a lot or know me outside of the digital world, you'll know I am a massive Spielberg fan.
Sure, he made the movies of my childhood and helped define feelings like hope, love, and excitement for me as my brain developed over the years, but it's not just about all that. I swear.
Spielberg's movies, even some of the lesser ones, always take big swings. It's not that he thinks he'll never fail, it's that he's not afraid to fall.
So click the link and get reading!