Filmmaking Tips From Director Steven Soderbergh

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By: Joe Marine, Via NoFilmSchool.com

You may have heard his name before, and you may even have seen some of his films, but Academy Awarding winning director Steven Soderbergh is the real deal, and an auteur in his own way. He’s one of the few directors working at the highest level who also shoots and edits his own films, and he’s a huge supporter of RED, having shot every single film on their cameras since his Che double-feature. He said that he’s going to retire from filmmaking in the very near future, so before he does, click through for six tips from the workaholic director, and an audio interview that contains some candid thoughts about the current film industry.

Thanks to Landon Palmer from Film School Rejects for putting these together:

1. Avoid Getting Branded
2. Get Out of the Way of Actors
3. Exhaust Your Interests and Move On
4. Don’t Fake It
5. Don’t Give a Fuck What Critics Think
6. Characters Don’t Have to Be Sympathetic, But They Do Have to Be Interesting

One of the great things about being a filmmaker is being able to explore the lives of other people or look at a subject you might know nothing about, and that’s why number 3 is a great one for people just starting out:

In an interview last year with Film Comment, Soderbergh stated the following about what draws him to such a variety of projects: “Filmmaking is the best way in the world to learn about something. When I come out the other side after making a film about a particular subject, I have exhausted my interest in it. After Contagion, I’m still going to be washing my hands, but I don’t ever—I’m not going to pick up another book or article about Che as long as I live.”

Soderbergh is a versatile filmmaker specifically because he sees the filmmaking process as a path to discovery. This is probably why Soderbergh doesn’t have a clear thematic thread connecting his films: while the director certainly imbues his work with a perspective, he sees filmmaking as a learning process rather than a given outcome. Thus, Soderbergh’s films are free from “statements.” Even his portrayal of a figure as politically divisive as Che Guevara is more ambivalent than didactic. Still, this statement doesn’t explain how he ended up making three Ocean’s films.

My favorite of these, though, and something I have tried in some ways to explore in my own work, is number 6. While good vs. evil stories are effective (and usually all around us), life itself is far more ambiguous, and people are more complicated than the way they might appear on the outside. In the interview below, Steven attempts to explain how he can make films with unsympathetic characters:

David Poland of DP/30 had a fantastic interview with Soderbergh a while back, but he preferred not appearing in front of the camera, so it’s just an audio interview. He goes in detail about his career and about the way the way the Hollywood machine fits in with how he likes to tell his own specific stories. If you’ve got the time, it is worth sitting down and listening to his opinion on the world of filmmaking and his own processes:

I happen to be a fan of Soderbergh, and while some may dislike many of the choices he makes (especially since he’s doing so much on the films he makes), I think one has to admire the courage that he has to not just concentrate on what works for him, but to constantly go outside the box and explore new ways of working.

Head on over to Film School Rejects to read the rest of the post and the explanations for the other tips.

What are some of your favorite Soderbergh films? If you listen to the audio interview, what do you think about his opinions on the industry and what it takes to make a film that is more risky?

 

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