Learn How to Become the "Total Filmmaker" from Nic Cage and John Carpenter

Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter on becoming the total filmmaker
'Dream Scenario'Credit: FilmNation
Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter are some of cinema's most eccentric characters, which is why their presence still dominates to this day. 

There is unexplained magic in movies. We have all felt it when we watched a specific film that sparked our interest to make them. Whether it was a line, an image, a sound design choice, or a camera direction that stunned us, there is an undeniable power behind an artist’s ability to bring their ideas to life for others to experience. 

Masters of cinema are masters for a good reason. They push the wheel of what is possible forward, showing others that limitations in filmmaking do not exist. We are constantly learning from those who are not afraid to try something new and either succeed or fail. They are pioneers that inspire us to be better at our craft. 

But that magic behind movies and masters of cinema can’t be explained or fully understood. In a rare conversation captured by Document Journal, Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter break down what makes the magic possible in filmmaking. According to Cage, what makes that magic work is being a Total Filmmaker. 

What’s a Total Filmmaker, and how do you become one? Let’s break it down.

Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter on becoming the total filmmaker
John Carpenter BTS on 'They Live'Credit: Universal Pictures

How to Be the "Total Filmmaker"

Most people find their specific talent in the industry and stick to it. But others find that they can flourish in other positions such as directing, composing, acting, cinematography, screenwriting, and so on. How you discover that you can flourish in those different positions is a bit of a “mystery” for everyone, including seasoned filmmakers and actors. 

“I think there is an element of mystery to it, even for those of us who act,” says Cage. “But the other stuff, the stuff that informs all the outward design, that’s the mystery. It’s almost like we don’t want to talk about it because there’s a little element of magic to that.”

A Total Filmmaker is someone who can manipulate that magic and turn it into something harmonious as it perfectly showcases the filmmaker’s vision. Cage recalls talking with Jerry Lewis, who was his neighbor at one time, that a Total Filmmaker is someone who writes their own music, acts, and directs. 

Jokingly, Cage teased Carpenter that he was almost a Total Filmmaker if he just starred in a film. 

Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter on becoming the total filmmaker
'Mandy'Credit: RLJE Films

The horror master, who retired from directing in 2010, has been busy composing music. The pioneering electronic composer released his debut studio album, Lost Themes, with the acclaimed indie label Scared Bones. More recently, Carpenter worked with Daniel Davies and his son, Cody Carpenter, on the score for Stephen King’s Firestarter and David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends. 

Carpenter has never acted in any films, but he might have a bit of the magic that is needed to be an actor. 

Carpenter recalled a story of a Burt Reynolds party he attended, and they had a game of charades going. Carpenter teamed up with Anthony Perkins, a pairing that the horror master called “perfect” since they ended up beating everybody.

“Because we had the same brain. I could come up with one gesture, and he had what it was,” Carpenter told Cage about the experience. 

“Well, you know what that means, then, John?” Cage said. “That means that you’re also an actor.” 

While Carpenter laughed off Cage’s statement as a kind joke, Cage explained his response, saying, “To communicate through a gesture and get it… Let’s say you have a child, and you want to know if they can act—give them a toy phone, and see what they sound like when they’re pretending they’re on the phone with somebody.” 

Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter on becoming the total filmmaker
'Big Trouble in Little China'Credit: 20th Century Fox

Acting, directing, and any position in film and TV is about believing in the vision or your imagination. Being a creative person is about trying to bring something that is in your head into reality. Having a solid career in the industry can come from trying different things and never stopping even when “no” is the common response. 

There is an air of mystery to the creative mind because we don’t even recognize when we have the skills to do something great. Always have faith in yourself and your abilities to create greatness. Don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face. Each mistake or failure is a learning lesson that will show you the path to something beyond greatness. 

What do you think it means to be a Total Filmmaker? Let us know in the comments below!       

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