Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Filmmaking Advice from Samuel Fuller, Born on this Day in 1912


Samuel Fuller (1912-1997) was an American iconoclast in best tradition. He started working in newspaper offices at age 12, later becoming a hustling crime reporter, where he got a lot of material for later scripts. He eventually became a novelist and a Hollywood screenwriter. When America entered WWII he enlisted and saw some of the toughest fighting in the European theater. He was present at the liberation of a concentration camp and filmed it. Years later, these experiences formed the basis of one of his greatest films, the anti-war war movie THE BIG RED ONE (1980). By the end of the war he had acquired a Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart.

After the war he began directing films from his own scripts. His films are special. They have a reporter's eye for the telling detail, a novelist's feel for character and a soldier's appreciation of the value of life and death. Some of Fuller's best films include THE STEEL HELMET (1951), PARK ROW (1952) a period film about the newspaper business in turn-of-the-century New York, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953), referred to extensively in the first clip below, in which a small-time pickpocket unknowingly becomes involved in a matter with international implications, FORTY GUNS (1957) a psychological western that helped to change the visual vocabulary of action movies, SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963) and THE NAKED KISS (1964), inexpensive films that defied censorship and packed a mighty wallop of social relevance, the aforementioned THE BIG RED ONE (1980) and 1982's nearly indescribably WHITE DOG.

Advice from someone who lived as deeply, and made films as good, as Samuel Fuller carries a lot of weight. Keep it in mind.

Here's a sample:
"So for the benefit of all the young (people) who want to make a picture: always be in a position to control what you want. Because you never get another chance. You cannot alibi. You can't say later, when the picture's out, "oh, I wanted to do this. I wanted to do that." Do what you have to do when you do it. And if it stinks you take the blame. If it's successful and they like it, and especially if it makes money, you take all the praise. With drinks of course. You should always have somebody give you a drink, which I don't have here. That's a hint. All these wonderful people around here (motions to documentary crew) and nobody has a drink!"
"I write with the camera! Once I'm on the set I use the camera as a typewriter. I use the camera and, whether it's graceful or poetic or fast, it has to have the tempo of music."
"Whether it's a drive or a hobby or fun, you still hit hard on one word, which only the camera can really do, and that's EMOTION."



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