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One of the most bizarre reactions to my films occurred on When You’re Strange. Before editing started, I spent weeks looking at all the footage from The Doors archive. Interspersed with hours of concert …
June 5, 2024
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Anything Can Happen

Enough about nutjobs. My only point is that they are out there, and it is absolutely certain you will encounter them. I don’t think I remember them teaching that in film school. But, most …
April 17, 2024
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Cut the Cord

Filmmaking is like being in a mosh pit. Sometimes, the intimate contact with all the heaving, sweating bodies can be exhilarating. Sometimes, it just hurts and stinks. What happens when all of your careful …
April 10, 2024
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I’ve mentioned Willingness and how crucial it is to making a Film. But what about Unwillingness? What makes someone Unwilling? I still don’t know exactly, but I’ve felt it, and I’ve got the scars …
April 2, 2024
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Fellini was asked once if he ever used improvisation with actors. He replied, “Yes, if it is something that helps the actor or the scene, then of course I will use it. The only …
March 19, 2024
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Life on Set

I’ve heard many people say the reason they want to be a director is so they “can tell people what to do.” Certainly valid. Though sometimes it’s useful to bear in mind that many …
March 12, 2024
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Twenty-Five Days

Twenty-five days. That’s how long I was on the set directing Delirious. Out of six years, twenty-five days. I’ve often wondered what my job was all the other days—the days before and all the …
March 7, 2024
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“I’m Ready to Try Again If You Are”

Some of the best acting I've ever seen has been in an acting class. No directors, no writers, just two actors bringing in a scene. They've worked on it for a week or so …
March 5, 2024
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A Director on Acting

I think all directors should try acting. At a friend's suggestion, I took an acting class right after I got out of NYU Grad Film School. My first scene partner was Chris Noth. We …
February 27, 2024
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The Punk Aesthetic on Filmmaking

I moved to NYC in 1976 just as the Punk scene was erupting. It was the first cultural movement I experienced firsthand, and it completely turned me on. Although the initial blast was music, …
February 22, 2024
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Empathy for Jim Morrison

I went into When You’re Strange with a few naïve and stupid prejudices; for example, I liked The Doors’ music, but Morrison being so excessive kind of bugged me. I thought, “Did he really …
January 29, 2024
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BBC Podcast on Dreams in Film

A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak with Ellen E Jones, who has a cool podcast on Film on BBC Radio 4. We talked about Dreams in Film, particularly the use of …
January 27, 2024
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My Down in Shadowland Playlist on Spotify

I love putting music and film together. There is a moment when you first try a piece of music with a film sequence where something miraculous happens. There is an unexpected fusion between the …
January 19, 2024
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“No Such Luck” Now on Spotify

I wrote and performed "No Such Luck" when I couldn't get the rights to another piece of music I really wanted. It was a challenge composing something of this length. But it was also …
January 17, 2024
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A Sense of Anonymity Exists on Trains

Down in Shadowland is the most personal film I’ve made. Everything in it; every shot, every cut, every dissolve, every sequence, every piece of music is there because it was something I wanted to …
January 9, 2024
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The Paparazzi

What makes someone a Star? Just like everyone else who goes to the movies, I feel that some people have a certain magic that makes them supremely interesting to watch. But, what is it …
January 3, 2024
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Moonlight in Venice

Box of Moonlight premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1996. As I headed to the theatre, all I could think about was how, just two months earlier, the head of another festival …
December 20, 2023
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Turturro Swims

In Box of Moonlight, the script called for Al (John Turturro) to jump into a pool of water and swim leisurely while acting in several scenes. John had never learned to swim and confessed …
December 19, 2023
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More Thoughts on Film and Dreams

I used to be convinced that if someone appeared in my dreams, it was a real visitation; that it actually was the life energy or spirit of that person somehow inviting themselves into my …
December 8, 2023
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When You’re Strange at Sundance with Sting

On my last night at Sundance with When You're Strange, I introduced the film by stating, "There are no actors, no doubles, no recreations in this film. Every frame is Jim Morrison and The …
December 7, 2023
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Letting Actors Improvise

I love letting actors improvise a scene. Sometimes that spontaneous flash of imagination brings you something infinitely more alive and effective than anything you could have written. Buscemi is one of those rare actors …
November 29, 2023
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Fame has become an intensely complex phenomenon, and I wanted to explore it with Delirious. What is it? Why do we crave it so much? And how do we survive in a world where …
November 23, 2023
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Film Is the Language of Dream

Film is the language of Dream. Every single night in our dreams, we all compose a film entirely by ourselves. We write it, direct it, edit it, light it, shoot it, and even act …
November 22, 2023
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Red Shirt

I found this shirt in my closet yesterday. It’s one of the shirts Brad Pitt wore in Johnny Suede. Costume Designer Jessica Haston worked very closely with me to find the look for Johnny. …
November 8, 2023
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Best Restraint from Homicide Award

I’ve received a few awards for my films, but this one for Double Whammy holds a special place in my heart. The plaque reads, “Best Restraint from Homicide before, during, and after the making …
November 2, 2023
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The Camera Teacher

I was asked recently about a camera teacher I had at NYU Film School. The teacher had shot several award-winning features, but his classes were two grueling hours of resentment and self-promotion. He withheld …
October 30, 2023
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How I Got Into Cinematography

I got into cinematography completely by accident. One day at NYU, a professor set up a film exercise. He assigned Jim (Jarmusch) to write a five-minute film, me to shoot it, and someone else …
October 20, 2023
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Dave Chappelle in The Real Blonde

The Real Blonde is the only film I’ve made for a studio. The budget was higher, and so was the pressure to cast Stars in every role. The battle to cast Catherine Keener in …
October 17, 2023
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The Kid

I first met Sam Rockwell in 1990 when he came in to audition for Johnny Suede. The part ultimately went to another unknown and rising talent, Brad Pitt, but Sam made such an impression …
October 12, 2023
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Working with Stars

I don’t have any qualms about working with stars. There are many who are very gifted and brilliant performers who don’t bring the whole movie star baggage with them. This was our starting point …
September 27, 2023
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Just People Like You and Me

There is a crucial scene in Delirious where Les Galantine (Steve Buscemi) comes face to face with a real celebrity. As a paparazzi, Les’ mantra about the celebrities he hounded had always been, “They’re …
September 21, 2023
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Peter Dinklage

When I was writing Living in Oblivion, the first and second acts came easily. But I struggled hard with the third. One day, I was expressing my frustration to my wife, Jane Gil. She …
September 14, 2023
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Nick Sings

One night in 1990, around midnight, my phone rang. When I answered it, a strange voice said, “Is Tom there.” I said, “Yeah, it’s me.” He said, “Hey, it’s Nick Cave.” That woke me …
August 22, 2023
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Casting Johnny Suede

I met over 200 actors to play the part of Johnny Suede. For some reason, most of the guys who auditioned thought Johnny was The Fonz from Happy Days and even brought in his …
August 15, 2023
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My Favorite Shirt

Sometimes you know an actor is the only one for a role, and at the same time, you know you’re both in for a wild ride. Michael Pitt embodied all the elements that were …
August 8, 2023


Independent Filmmaker & Musician