Budding Filmmakers: Let David O. Russell Inspire You

Budding Filmmakers: Let David O. Russell Inspire You

When David O. Russell–the former caterer and bartender and present-day directorial genius–talks, we listen.




And take notes.  With his last three films–The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle–garnering 25 Oscar nominations total, is it any wonder?  Add to that his charm and unique brand of humility (read: honesty) and you’ve got yourself a guru.

There’s this interview David O. Russell did for Collider during this last award season that we’ve had bookmarked in our browser for ages.  We bookmarked the piece not because we haven’t read it, but because it’s just too good and too honest to be forgotten.  The man is an inspiration and a human being.  He’s a brilliant director who’s thrilled to be allowed to make films, a constant contender during awards season who’s just happy to be invited back to the big kids table at Oscar.  He reveals all manner of personal truth in the interview.  The truth about how (and how long before) he came into his own as a filmmaker.  The truth about his filmic hiccups.  The truth about why and when and what he creates.  The truth about Gus Van Sant’s big balls.  The truth about I Heart Huckabees and Nailed.  We highly suggest you read the whole thing, especially if you’re struggling to break into the industry and in need of some virtual camaraderie, but in case you need your whistle wet further, here are 5 of our favorite David O. Russell details:




On getting a late start:  I’m a late bloomer. There’s always hope. Never give up. And walk slowly and drink lots of water. That’s what Ken Kesey said, when I asked him for advice, as a writer. He said, “Walk slowly and drink lots of water,” meaning it ain’t a sprint. If you want a sprint, go into another business.”


On making bad art:  You learn by trying and failing. It’s just a lot of hard work and mistakes. So, I tried to make short films…I had many jobs. I worked as a bartender and a house painter. I just had lots of jobs, and my parents felt that my entire college education had been wasted. I made short films that were bad, but there was a place called Sundance that you could try to take them.




On encouraging the new recruits: I waited on Martin Scorsese at the premiere at the Museum of Modern Art for Goodfellas, and I waited at the premiere of The Color of Money. I said to him, “I really want to do what you’re doing,” and he said, “I’ll have a vodka.” Mike Nichols would come over to Jacqueline Onassis’ house, ‘cause he was friends with her. He said to me, “I used to do what you’re doing,” and I said, “I wanna do what you’re doing.” So, he said, “Good luck.” That’s what I would say to anybody.


On his DIY film school: I learned how to make films by memorizing sections of films.  I memorized a 20-minute sequence that I thought was spell-binding from Chinatown. 


Christian Bale;Amy Adams


On audience wants: People who go to the movies want a full experience. If you’re not gonna give it to them with special effects or bombs, you’ve gotta give it to them with human opera.


Friends.  These favorites are just from the first 5 minutes of reading, there’s so much gold here.

Read it.  Bookmark it.  Come back to it.

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