Oscar-Nominated Filmmakers Say Don’t Do THIS

Steven Yeun

Photo by Greg Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

The 2021 Oscars are almost here! One of the best things about Oscar season is that we’re treated to Oscar nominee interviews with all the best actors, writers, directors and other film industry professionals.

Watching or reading these interviews is a great way to find inspiration and advice for your own filmmaking project. It’s such a treat to learn from the best. Even if the nominee’s movie is very different from yours, you’ll find that many of these pieces of advice are universal.

Here are some takeaways from various Oscar (and other award show) nominee interviews:

Less Can Be More with Dialogue

“I don’t mind saying a lot of dialogue. I love to say a lot of dialogue. But there’s also something beautiful about the space between words and the space between moments. And that’s what was really fun about playing Jacob, just really deeply connecting to the internal dialogue of his reality. He’s a first-generation immigrant, so the language is a barrier for him. He’s also coming from a collectivist existence, from a Korean background, and that type of mentality is different than the way we live here…and that was the fun in playing that — it’s a glance, a look, the shoulders, the breathing, the way you sit.” – Steven Yeun (Best Actor nominee, Minari) via The Hollywood Reporter

Stop Listening to Everyone’s Opinions

“There are three or four really good friends who I love and respect, and I’m going to show them the movie and really hope they like it. If they don’t, I try and change it. But honestly, you know if it’s good. You know if you did something interesting. You know if it was a valuable experience. It’s not about what other people say.” – Ben Affleck (The Way Back) via The Hollywood Reporter

“What I’ve been trying to do this year is really detach myself from it and just say I made the thing that I wanted to make and was lucky enough to do that. It was close to the thing as I’d hoped it would be. Some people won’t like it, or some people will disagree with parts of it, but that’s okay. If you don’t want people to have a reaction at all, you make a different kind of film. I wanted to make a film that meant something to me and meant something to other people.” – Emerald Fennell (Best Director nominee, Promising Young Woman) via IndieWire

Be Open to Last-Minute Changes

“You have to quickly adjust something for Fran [Frances McDormand, the star of Nomadland] to do, so that scene could be made into the film. A lot of times a very personal story [would come up at] the last minute, where they [decided] they wanted to share or not. Those were really the heart and soul of the film. I was very lucky to have them.” – Chloe Zhao (Best Director nominee, Nomadland) via The Hollywood Reporter

Sometimes You Have to Cut Your Favorite Things

“The hardest part was not being precious about your own writing. You know the expression killing your babies? A lot of things that I loved most about the play didn’t make it into the film. As great as [a specific moment] is in the play, it just didn’t serve the story. I don’t regret cutting it, but it was very painful to let that go.” – Kemp Powers (Best Screenplay nominee, One Night in Miami via The Wrap

Be Specific – and Let Go of Your “Agenda”

“…if things become general, people are not interested. But when things become very, very specific, and in this case, very Danish, and very, very us, then people become curious. Then it’s brought to life. I think there’s two things that are super important in what we do. One thing is that it becomes very specific and real. And another thing is that we forget about ourselves, and that we don’t have agendas. We don’t have things we want to tell. We turn the eye that way, away from us, and explore. Then people become interested.” – Thomas Vinterberg (Best Director Nominee, Another Round) via Interview Magazine

Lessons and Tips