There are few brighter minds working than Robert Eggers. As a writer and director, he's always taking us into the past to confront hidden secrets and issues we have inside our relationships and heads.
His films are challenging, memorable, and leave an indelible mark on their viewers.
When I saw Eggers was giving an over hour-long lecture for BAFTA, I immediately sprang out of my chair, grabbed my goat, and settled back in to hear him drop some knowledge bombs.
Check out the video from BAFTA Guru here and let's talk lessons after the break.
5 Writing and Directing Tips from Robert Eggers
Eggers has always been open about his approach to filmmaking. He even did an AMA that was incredibly useful to our readers, so seeing him on video was even more of the same. Below are some of my favorite things he said across the hour-long conversation.
1. Be you, use your voice.
So much of our time trying to break in is spent thinking about what might be hot. Whether it's a genre, actor, or script, we often chase what's popular. For Eggers, he has always had a unique voice and a unique way of saying things.
It was not until he accepted that he was weird, and that his weirdness had value, that he was able to create films that felt necessary and true to his vision.
So, what can you bring to the table that no one else can?
What's your perspective and how can it make the world look different to other people?
You can be as weird as you want. You can even create mermaid genitals !
Robert Eggers on the set of 'The Witch'
2. Know who is directing...
I write every day. My screenplays usually turn out to be pretty sparse blueprints for movies and TV shows yet to be made. For me. my writing is a journey to bringing my imagination to the page.
I'm trying to communicate a world to agents, managers, lawyers, producers, actors...
and finally...a director.
So, I need my script to be accessible to those people.
For Eggers, he's his own director and he needs people that align with his vision. That means he can overwrite or be opaque, as long as he knows what he wants in his head.
Still, Eggers knows that comes with limitations.
Not everyone is going to want to do one of his films. They're probably not going to be appealing to a ton of actors who want to make choices other than the ones he put on the page.
Knowing the kind of director you want can help dictate the stuff you put on the page and the flow of your story.
3. Follow your dreams and nightmares.
I'm a Philly guy, so it's really hard not to shoutout Meek Mill here.
But what Eggers talked about in this piece that stirred me was the vivid dreams he had that have led to his features and short films. Those ideas and visuals became the excellent jumping-off points for his storytelling capabilities.
More importantly, he didn't ignore the ideas that came from strange sources.
Instead, he delved deeper into the subconscious and tried to figure out if there were full movies in those weird landscapes.
What happens when you go to bed?
What are random thoughts that run through your head while awake? Can any of them sprout your next feature?
Here are five tips Eggers gave just based on what led him to The Lighthouse .
4. Use images and atmosphere.
When selling a movie to studios and financiers, a script isn't always enough. Build the best possible lookbook and mood reel that conveys your story. Use images from the public domain and atmospheric music to build the mood and tone of a story.
Use this stuff not only to sell projects but to brainstorm your next projects.
Is there a song title that could be a logline?
A famous painting that should be a scene within the story?
Use anything and everything that might help a producer understand the vision they need to help you capture.
5. Finance using short films .
The last lessons seem to be the most important for our audience. That's Eggers' use of short films to catch the attention of representatives and producers. Eggers made proof of concept shorts for The Witch and made several stand-alone shorts just to learn the craft of filmmaking.
They were his tools for success because it allowed him to make mistakes on the job.
He was okay failing at the shorts because he knew they would lead to successes at the feature level.
What are you making this weekend?
Get out there and shoot something on your phone. Play with a lighting kit.
Cast bad actors.
Be okay with getting it wrong ...because that's training for getting it right.
What's next? Spend time with Paul Schrader !
Minutes into the beginning of his BAFTA Guru lecture, Paul Schrader espouses, "This is not an overview of screenwriting, this is my method." He goes on to say, "Even if what I'm saying doesn't work for 75% of you, it still has value, because it works for me."
Read to see what works for you...