Writing For Film – Filmmakers Quoted

Flavorwire published 20 quotes from filmmakers on writing. So you don’t have to flick through all 20, I put the best ones on a single page for you. (I even added one for free.)

Stupid auteur theory
(Billy Wilder)

“What does the director shoot—the telephone book? Writers became much more important when sound came in, but they’ve had to put up a valiant fight to get the credit they deserve.”


The best plot is no apparent plot
(Stanley Kubrick)

“I like a slow start, the start that gets under the audiences skin and involves them so that they can appreciate grace notes and soft tones and don’t have to be pounded over the head with plot points and suspense hooks.”

Always use acting adjectives
(Quentin Tarantino)

“You shouldn’t try to predestine where you’re gonna go and what you’re gonna see. You can hit the nail on the head, but you want the kind of freedom that allows for something you hadn’t even imagined to happen. I’m very much a man of the moment. I can think about an idea for a year, two years, even four years all right, but what ever is going on with me the moment I write is gonna work its way into the piece.”

Trading scraps of paper
(Wes Anderson)

“We do a lot of talking about what we’re going to write for a long time before we ever start to write. And when we do start writing, it’s a lot of trading scraps of paper back and forth for a long time. That sort of grows into something.”

Get ideas for 70 scenes
(David Lynch)

“If you want to make a feature film, you get ideas for 70 scenes. Put them on 3-by–5 cards. As soon as you have 70, you have a feature film.”

Things I hear the characters say
(Jim Jarmusch)

“A lot of times when I’m writing I’m just sort of writing down things I hear the characters say, and I really don’t believe it came from me.”


Writing is just a tool
(Sofia Coppola)

“I find that [writing and directing] are both part of the same process for me, because the writing is just a tool to getting to the final story. But writing is so hard for me—it’s the most challenging part [of the writing process]—so when you finish it and print it out, that’s the most gratifying.”

Have no limits.
(Pedro Almodovar)

“A film has thousands of shots. You have to ask for a lamp or you won’t get one, you have to ask for a color or you won’t get it … everything has to be very organized at the time of shooting. But in writing and conceiving the film, my way of being sincere and honest is to have no limits. To let things happen almost from the most irrational point of view.”

You can be a terrible writer
(David Cronenberg)

“It’s a very pared down, simple form, really, the screenplay. The only thing that goes directly on the screen is the dialogue and the narrative structure. You can be a terrible writer, but if you write good dialogue and have a good sense of narrative structure, you can be a good screenwriter and still be functionally illiterate, which a lot of good screenwriters in my experience are. Very different.”

I prefer collaboration
(Jane Campion)

“I prefer collaboration because it’s not so neurotic-making. You can check things through and laugh. The other person can help you feel better when things go badly.”

Rewriting is for pussies
(P T Anderson)

“The passages you have to labor over are invariably worse than the ones that seem to write themselves. This notion that writing happens in the rewriting is something that I’ve never agreed with. I’ve always hated rewriting. Rewriting is for pussies! Send it out, zits and all, is my feeling.”

I just do it.
(Nora Ephron)

“When I work with my sister Delia, we outline everything we’re doing. Completely. The outlines are endless, at least fifty pages long. But when I write by myself, I almost never have an outline; I just do it. I know the structure. I know the beginning, the middle, the end.”

Everything becomes fodder.
(Lena Dunham)

“To my own detriment, everything that happens to me becomes fodder. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a bit happier if I were more in the moment, and less trying to translate the moment into a piece of writing or a piece of film. I have never known another way to express myself, whether it was writing weird confessional poetry in fourth grade or my first play, which was closely based on what I thought the relationship between my mom and her two sisters was.”


Script, script, script
(Alfred Hitchcock)

“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.”

I write essays
(Jean-Luc Godard)

“I write essays in the form of novels, or novels in the form of essays. I’m still as much of a critic as I ever was during the time of ‘Cahiers du Cinema.’ The only difference is that instead of writing criticism, I now film it.”

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