Ten Filmmaking Tips from Wes Anderson

Credit: Searchlight Pictures
Wes Anderson wants you to stay true to yourself. 

There are few things more transportive in Hollywood than sitting in a theater and watching a Wes Anderson movie. His visuals and worlds take you to another place. It's always a reality you've never seen before and totally immersive. Anderson is one of the most inventive and interesting writers and directors, and there are lots to learn from his tendencies as a filmmaker. 

Today, we're going to boil it down to 10 lessons and talk about how you can become a better filmmaker by learning from Anderson and applying the overall lessons to your own career. 

Check out this video from Outstanding Screenplays and let's talk after the jump. 

10 Filmmaking Tips from Wes Anderson 

1. Stay true to yourself and true to ideas that fit best for your story, even if some people will say you are repeating yourself. You can never satisfy everybody.

I've said it here before, but this bears repeating: the only way you get hired is by showing the world the unique thing you have to say.

What's special about you and your take on life? What sets your voice apart in this world? Follow your inspirations.

2. If you wrote a feature screenplay and can’t find funding, make a proof of concept short film from your best scene that highlights what a longer film could look like. 

There are lots of mixed reviews on proof of concept shorts, but I think if you have a unique style or idea for the tone of the movie, it might be a great way to go. Not only can you show people your talent, but you can emphasize what makes you special. 

3. If your first public screening goes terribly wrong, look for just one positive review, pin that review on the wall and say to yourself, “This is my audience!” Then continue making films.

Man, I feel like this is one of the best things he's ever said.

It can be so hard to find your audience and the people who want to encourage your work. Take the positive reviews and cherish them. Try to learn and cater to the people who share your enthusiasm for storytelling. 

4. You must be prepared that the audience will reject your film completely. But one failure shouldn’t end your career. Learn from mistakes and focus 100% on the next project.

Creating means making mistakes. You will not make perfect things—you're going to have to figure out a way to build a career.

That means taking the mistakes and correcting them from film to film. It means being okay growing into the role and then with the role. 

5. To write a good script, you need a lot of good ideas. To hold interest for two hours there needs to be a lot of information and a lot of feeling and observations. It’s not just about the plot.

We're all about learning how to write a screenplay here. Plot is fine, but you really want to tap into the emotions of the audience. You're the maestro playing them and dialing in scenes to make them think and feel a certain way. 

6. Some filmmakers need that personal connection to the story to truly unite a cohesive vision. If you’re one of those, you have no choice but to write your own films.

I think you can find a personal connection in assignments as well, but I think everyone should always be writing spec scripts. Writing your own stories forces you to flex your muscles and deal with conjuring beats out of thin air. They can sharpen your storytelling skills and be kind of a therapy. 

7. In the creation of animation films, the script gets revised together with storyboards so you have more time to solve your script problems, merge scenes, and rewrite and re-storyboard.

This is a great insight into how animated films are made. I find the longer you have to work through the story, the better it can get. You want to be egoless when it comes to notes. Get as many opinions as possible, sift through the good and bad, and try to enhance from there. 

8. Write what you know. Whether it’s a literal retelling, or wrapped within a childhood fantasy, or your story, your truth should always be in your writing and filmmaking.

I mentioned therapy earlier, but I think we can really sort out a lot of our issues by putting them onto the page and examining them through the eyes of a character. We can work through drama, comedy, relationships, and anything we want. Plus, we can have our way with endings and outcomes.

Just make it your obsession to find the truth in those situations.  

9. Stay true to your style and the characters you understand the best. Even if people say your characters are “weirdos,” if they are based on real people, the audience will connect with them.

Know your characters like the back of your hand. You need to believe these peoples' actions but also we need to feel like they are real and have details about them that make them feel tangible and relatable. No matter what, make them interesting so people care about watching. 

10. Think of a friend who could be a model for your main character, then think of an actor who would be best to play him, then finally add the setting, architecture, and history to the story. The Grand Budapest Hotel was created in that order.

I love this personal insight into The Grand Budapest Hotel and Anderson's brain. Writing with an actor in mind is really smart, because when you take meetings, people are going to ask who you saw in the role. Also, when you make offers to actors, you can tell them they were in your mind while writing it. And flattery works well.

See the actor and the roles clearly. Have that cast in mind. And write it into existence.      

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1 Comment

I like this approach, especially the idea that it takes a lot of good ideas to write a good script. There has to be a lot of information, a lot of feelings and observations to hold the interest for two hours. It's not just about the plot. How is that not obvious?

December 13, 2021 at 11:49PM

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Henry Mosley
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