Screenwriting Advice from Akira Kurosawa

by Naomi Beaty - updated on November 15, 2022

Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa is one of the most influential and celebrated directors in all of cinematic history, directing 30 films in a career spanning 57 years.

Kurosawa worked on numerous films as an assistant director and scriptwriter before making his debut as a director and, by all accounts, was passionately involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process.

The acclaimed director emphasized the screenplay as the vital foundation of any successful film. He expressed time and again that although a mediocre director can sometimes make a passable film out of a good script, even an excellent director can never make a good film out of a bad script.

Read More: The 20 Best Directors of All Time!

In this short but powerful video, Kurosawa offers his advice to aspiring filmmakers. Some of our favorite takeaways include:

Writing teaches you about filmmaking.

“But if you genuinely want to make films, then write screenplays. All you need to write a script is paper and pencil. It’s only through writing scripts that you learn specifics about the structure of film and what cinema is.”

Likewise, Kurosawa's knowledge of each aspect of filmmaking informed the others. He both directed and edited most of his films, which is rare. See how thinking like an editor can benefit your screenwriting: Why Screenwriters Should Think Like Film Editors.

Patiently commit to the writing, even when it's hard.

“I think young people today don’t know the trick of it. They start and want to get to the end right away. When you go mountain climbing, the first thing you’re told is not to look at the peak but to keep your eyes on the ground as you climb. You just keep climbing patiently one step at a time. If you keep looking at the top, you’ll get frustrated. I think writing is similar.”

“You need to get used to the task of writing. You must make an effort to learn to regard it not as something painful but as routine. But most people tend to give up halfway. I tell my AD’s that if they give up once, then that’ll be it, because that becomes habit, and they’ll give up as soon as it gets hard. I tell them to write all the way to the end no matter what, until they get to some sort of end.”

You've heard it a million times: a writer writes. Don't give up, even when it seems difficult. And if you need a few more words of motivating wisdom, check out 15 Ways To Stop Writer's Block.

Remember to refill the well.

“Unless you have a rich reserve within, you can’t create anything. That’s why I often say that creating comes from memory. Memory is the source for your creation. You can’t create something out of nothing. Whether it’s from reading or from your own real-life experience, you can’t create unless you have something inside yourself.”

Not only is it necessary to take in raw material that can be spun into stories, but it's just as important to connect with that original spark that inspired you to tell stories to begin with.

Here's the video, so you can experience Kurosawa's inspirational advice for yourself:

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