Alexander Payne Reveals 5 Things He Wishes He Knew Before Becoming a Filmmaker.
Since his debut film, “Citizen Ruth,” Alexander Payne has directed nine films – omitting his latest, “Downsizing” – and won an Academy Award for adapting Jim Thompson’s novel into “The Descendants.” In a recent interview with The New York Times, the director revealed five things he wishes he had known before he started making films.
- Timing Is Everything
Alexander Payne suggests that if you’re considering a career in directing, you better get in the game early. The director revealed that he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker when he was seven years old and saw Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in a theater. “If I had just gotten to film school ten years later, I might have been able to make movies,” Payne told The New York Times. “But I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was seven.”
- Writing the Script Is an Important Step
When it comes to filmmaking, there are many ways to get your story on screen. Some directors stick with a traditional screenplay; others use a treatment or an outline. For “Citizen Ruth,” Alexander Payne used the script he had written more than twenty years earlier. “I don’t want to give myself too much credit, but the script was really good,” he said. “It wasn’t completely autobiographical, and I had no idea how close it was in terms of tone and voice.”
- Don’t Let Finances Affect Filming
“I remember seeing a film by a Canadian filmmaker in the early 2000s,” Alexander Payne said. “The producer came up to me afterward and said, ‘The reason this movie cost 30 percent less than your first film is that I didn’t give it to you.’ Well, I thought, you know what? He’s probably right. It was like $25 million instead of $40 million.”
- Resist the Urge to Reconsider
“I’ve seen so many films that I should have made,” the director said. “I have a lot of regrets, beginning with ‘Citizen Ruth.’ I went to Sundance and watched a bunch of films that I considered to be better than ‘Citizen Ruth,’ and the quality of the films was very low to my expectations. It was a school where you learn that you make your best films if they are out of your comfort zone.”
- Listen and Respect Everyone on Set
“Payne said, ‘Be kind to your people because the [casting] process is so emotionally charged that people can just go off the deep end,” Payne said. “And sometimes there is no good way to navigate that. This year I went through 37 auditions for a movie I was working on, and I never want to hear about that again.”