Cinema Station

Sidney Lumet – Filmmaking Notes | June 21, 2011

Sidney Lumet – Filmmaking notes


I wrote about Sidney Lumet right after reading the notice of his passing. In that article I spoke about his book MAKING MOVIES that I found so useful and instructive. I recommend it to anyone who has more than a casual interest in films.  What I’d like to do here is list some of the more salient points that I have extracted from the book. Here they are.


– Any movie is by definition an artificial creation.


-Making a movie is about telling a story. The first question is: What is this story about? The second is: Now that I know the story, how shall I tell it?


– Making a movie is like creating a mosaic. Each set up is a tile. You color it, shape it, polish it as best you can. You’ll do six or seven hundred of these, maybe a thousand. Then you literally paste them together and hope it’s what you set out to do. But if you expect the final mosaic to look like anything, you better know what you’re going for as you work on each tile.


– The nature of movie making is repetition.


– Movies are never shot in sequence.


– Actors are a major part of any movie.


– The most important element of any actor’s performance is confidence.


– In any movie one of the principal stars is the camera.


– Nothing helps the actor more than the clothes he/she wears.


– The most fundamental photographic choice most directors have to make is what lens to use for a particular shot and why.


In other notes he says that:

– All good work comes from passion.


– Creative work is very hard and some sort of self deception is necessary in order to begin.


– One needs to remember that no scene is ever an entity unto itself. It is always being placed in relation to what comes before and what comes after.


– One of the most important moments in any movie is the ending.


– Movies are the only art form that uses people to record something that is literally larger than life.

–  All good work is self revelation.


On music in film he says:

– I always ask, what function should the score serve?


-How can it contribute to the basic question “What is the picture about?”




And finally he says that:


The director’s job is to care and be responsible for every frame of every movie that he/she makes.


– I want the score to say something that nothing else in the picture is saying.


Lumet wasn’t just a craftsman he was also a visionary and thinker. He is gone but fortunately we have this book he authored (along with the films that he made) as a legacy to his excellence as an artist. And as a text we can visit and revisit from time to time in order to understand and appreciate this graceful and sublime art we call the movies.

– GE.


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