These Frank Capra quotes will inspire you to make your best films.
One of my favorite filmmakers of all time was Frank Capra. This year I finally sat down and read his autobiography The name above the title, and was really blown away by the way he talked about Hollywood, its process, and his advice to aspiring filmmakers.
If you don’t know, Capra is the man behind films like that It happened one night, it’s a wonderful life, and Mr. Smith is going to Washington. His list of pure classics is priceless. He was also brave enough to pause his career and move on to World War II to aid the United States in the war effort.
Capra is the kid of immigrants and a guy who pulled himself up on boot straps and made a career out of nowhere when Hollywood was just starting out. He has helped shape the industry today and is someone whose advice still sounds as true today as it did then.
Let’s see what he had to say.
8 great filmmaker quotes from Frank Capra
1. “I made mistakes in the theater. I thought it was drama when actors cry. But drama is when the audience cries. “
One of the most important lessons from Capra has to do with audience appreciation. It’s not enough to have a sad story on screen, you have to know how to manipulate those emotions so that they are reflected in the audience.
Film is an empathy machine, so create characters who can transfer that empathy to the audience. Just like Capra did with the emotions inside It is a wonderful life. The whole movie isn’t sad, but it worries viewers when it gets sad.
2. “A hunch is creativity that tries to tell you something.”
If you have a story burning inside you that needs to be told, don’t let anyone derail you. Your creative muscle likes to be flexed. And it knows which way to bend.
When someone presses a note or a feeling, listen. But if your stomach is pushing back, follow this premonition.
Capra was a young director when he worked with Columbia Pictures. They were broke as a studio and he struggled to find his voice there but when he followed his gut instinct and did It happened one night, he told a story he knew would connect. This film made so much money that it lifted Columbia out of poverty and began his career.
3. “Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream, it takes over as the number one hormone; it rules the enzymes; directs the pineal gland; plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to film is more film. “
Once you get started in this business you will be amazed. There are ups and downs, but the high you get when you see your work on the big screen is like no other.
And Capra would know. HHe worked tirelessly and became one of America’s most influential directors in the 1930s, with three wins Academy Awards to the Best director from six nominations, along with three other Oscar wins from nine nominations in other categories. No wonder he couldn’t stop!
4th “Film is one of three universal languages, the other two: math and music.”
Film is a global experience, and Hollywood is increasingly looking for stories that travel. Capra knew that naturally.
As a first generation American, he knew that the moving image had the power to communicate to people who may not even speak the language language. Keep this in mind when you work on your next time. What can the pictures say that the word cannot?
5. “My advice to young filmmakers is: don’t follow trends, start them! “
So much time is spent thinking about what’s “hot” or “busy” right now and not enough time working on ideas that we believe are the best iterations of ourselves. Don’t find out where you think Hollywood is, be a part of where Hollywood is going by doing your best work.
When Capra came back from WWII, he did It is a wonderful life, and it didn’t do well at the box office, but now it’s a movie known by every generation.
6. “Screenwriting is the hardest part of the whole racquet … the least understood and least paid attention to.”
Putting a great idea on paper is tedious and tedious. We have a free screenwriting book that can help, but it still takes a lot of hard work.
Capra agonized over his stories and his characters. When he wrote Mr. Smith is going to Washington, we were on the brink of war. Everyone was so upset and disaffected with the government. Capra wanted to make a film about idealism and how a person can make a difference. But it took time and effort to convince others to participate. His passion brought Jimmy Stewart on board, and the rest is history.
7. “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And cardinal sin is stupidity.”
One of the things I think we keep saying is, “Never be boring.” You have around two hours to captivate people and take them on an emotional and exciting journey. Capra’s most controversial film, Meet John Doe, was about a guy floating around America.
While that sounds boring, Capra made sure to make every interaction he had fun, interesting, sad, and beautiful. This semi-autobiographical work stands out as a forgotten Capra jewel and also influenced many later filmmakers.
8th. “In our film profession, there might be Gable’s looks, Tracy’s art, Marlene’s legs, or Liz’s purple eyes, but they mean nothing without that peppy thing called courage.”
It takes sheer courage and determination to make it in Hollywood. People of good looks and nepotism may have a head start, but the people who last a lifetime are usually the ones who are willing to work hard and who are brave enough to keep trying and failing until they get it right do.
Capra traveled to the top of Hollywood and became one of its most effective writers. As he says in his book, he was just a stupid kid brave enough to bet on himself. I hope we can all channel that courage and see our wildest dreams come true on the largest possible screen.
You enjoyed learning Capra. Now, immerse yourself in all of the terms and terminology that film theory has to offer. Become a scholar or just impress your friends!