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4. Watch movies. Read movies.
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While you are having that Real Life, you have to become aware of the lexicon and history of film. That also means films made prior to 1970! Maybe you know Hitchcock and Welles, but you should know the difference between Hawks and Ford and Capra and Sturges and Wilder and Lubitch and Vidor and Keaton as well. Most of these films are there at your corner videostore (in the area that's not called "Current Releases" or "Hong Kong Action"). Here's my personal list of must-see (pre-1970) films as a starting point:

Jim's personal pre-1970 must-see film list:

Sunset Blvd. + Double Indemnity + The Apartment (Wilder)
8 1/2 + La Dolce Vita (Fellini)
Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal & Persona (Bergman)
Bringing Up Baby + The Big Sleep (Hawks)
The Lady Eve + The Miracle of Morgan Creek & Sullivan's Travels (Sturges)
Meet John Doe + Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Capra)
A Touch of Evil + Citizen Kane (Welles)
Day for Night + Four Hundred Blows (Truffaut)
Rear Window + Vertigo (Hitchcock)
The Searchers + The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford)
Plus...
Rashomon, Breathless, Beauty & the Beast (Cocteau, not Disney), The Third Man, Dr. Strangelove, The Red Shoes, Wuthering Heights, The Sweet Smell of Success

Silent Films (from the time when film truly was a universal language):

The Big Parade + The Crowd (Vidor)
The Gold Rush + Modern Times (Chaplin)
Napoleon (Gance)
Sherlock Jr. (Keaton)
Metropolis (Lang)
The Flesh + The Devil
Wings


Watch your favorite films more than once-- watch them with the sound off so you can better understand what was done with the camera; shot selection, editing, camera movements, art direction, costumes, focus, dissolves etc. etc. etc.

Close your eyes and LISTEN to the films; hear the dialog pacing, the background sounds, what the music does, when it starts, builds, fades, how it's mixed, the sound effects, and especially what all of this makes you feel. Films are COMPLICATED-- there's a lot to learn.

Assuming you want to WRITE movies, too, you're going to have to read screenplays. Read every one you can, even from movies you don't like. You can get the suppliers of scripts from the back of some of film magazines (try "Premiere", "Movieline" and "Film Comment"). And, I would personally limit myself to reading only one or two of those "how to write a screenplay" books -- you'll pick up format and style from reading the real thing, unless you are a complete dolt, in which case you won't make it anyway (see Numbers 1 and 2 above!). And one more thing... those "how to" books are generally bad for your writing because they teach you silly rules that you tend to cling to, because they're the first thing you learn.

Read the next one!

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