But the first, Monster, is one of the best of 2003, and it netted Charlize Theron an Oscar for Best Actress. The second, Wonder Woman, is one of the biggest and most anticipated releases of this year. In her time between movies, she’s been an award-winning TV director, juggling serious drama (The Killing) and various types of comedy (Arrested Development, Entourage). She’s well-trained, diversely experienced, and can do anything tossed her way — or that she seeks out and rightfully earns.
Whether you’re interested in directing superhero movies or television or prestige indies, and no matter if you’re a man or a woman, Jenkins has some great advice for you. Below are six tips collected from interviews, Q&As, and social media for aspiring and established filmmakers alike.
1. Make a Film
A lot of directors’ filmmaking tips start off with the most obvious suggestion: just do it, make a movie. Jenkins might also give that advice more generally, but the below quote from panel called “In-D-TV: Storytelling Inside of the Box” at the 2011 Film Independent Filmmaking Forum (via Reuters) is specifically about getting into television.
During the same panel, she did address the downside of directing television compared to movies and stated it’s not for everyone, at least not for too long:
2. Humble Perseverance
Just making a film, or multiple films, won’t automatically grant you a career in television or anywhere, but if you have the goods and you really want to do this, just keep trying. Jenkins graciously Tweeted this to a follower last fall:
Humble perseverance and the ability to observe and grow, in pursuit of making what you love and believe in. Really. THAT is the secret. https://t.co/cnFwbZwK3d
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) 16 November 2016
3. It’s a Tough Job
Nobody should ever go into filmmaking because they think it’s an easy job. Fun, sure, but not easy. In an interview conducted by Joshua Horowitz for the 2006 book “The Mind of the Modern Moviemaker: Twenty Conversations with the New Generation of Filmmakers,” Jenkins offers the following advice to aspiring filmmakers:
From the same interview, stressing that money and success should not be why you’re in this business:
4. Your Bell is Universal
If you think that Wonder Woman isn’t for you because it’s about a superhero and you don’t care about superheroes or because the character is a female superhero and you’re not a female, then you’re dismissing what Jenkins believes strongly in regarding filmmaking, and storytelling in general: the best ones are for all of us. During a recent “Master Class” Q&A held at YouTube Space LA, she had this to say:
What has lasted since the beginning of time? Story. And the reason that story has lasted, I believe, is because all human beings are sharing a universal experience to a certain extent. We are all struggling for love, wondering what we would do if we could make the world a better place, wondering if we wouldn’t, wondering what we would do if we did something terrible…
The job of all of you as storytellers [is] to influence the world, because that’s what the world looks to us [for], no matter whether you’re doing a five-minute video or you’re doing a two-hour blockbuster. We can speak to the world about their experience by speaking about your own experience. It’s magical, it really is. It really doesn’t matter. Everything else doesn’t matter. That’s the thing I encourage the most is your bell is universal, to a lot of people, more than you will ever know.
Watch the video below and hear the full quote, along with her personal story of why Wonder Woman is important to her, in this video recorded from the audience:
5. Pop and Seriousness
In the above Q&A, Jenkins also talks about tone and how nobody can really know how to achieve the perfect tone. It’s just something you’re always studying and continually trying to get right. When it comes to making superhero movies, though, she recognizes that the proper tone can be summed up rather simply — not that it can be done easily but can at least be defined. From a recent DGA Quarterly article on Jenkins’ appreciation of 1978’s Superman:
It’s a very classical tone, one she admits doesn’t have to be sought for all superhero movies. She continues later in the article:
Here’s the important part of her discussion of tone in the YouTube Space LA Q&A:
6. Do Anything You Want, For a Reason
Like many filmmakers, Jenkins will tell you not to let anyone tell you what you can or can not do. And that’s another thing she discusses in the YouTube Space LA Q&A, specifically about filmmaking tools and how they’re all still on the table depending on what you’re going to use them for.
What We’ve Learned
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it because storytelling and cinema are important for human beings. If this is the career for you then make stuff, and keep making stuff until you break through. Don’t worry about what tools are trendy right now, don’t worry about not being like the majority of filmmakers out there (in style, technique, interests, gender, race, etc.), and don’t worry about not being an expert on tone. Just show us your story, whether it’s Your story or just the story You need to tell because if you’re good it’ll be the story that we need to see.
This article first appeared on Film School Rejects.