Free-ads - Forum News and columns Features & Interviews Film links Calendar dates for festivals Contact details Statistical Info Funding Info
site web
About Netribution Contact Netribution Search Netribution


interviews / reviews / how to / short shout / carnal cinema / film theory / whining & dining

netribution > features > carnal cinema >

by dr andrew cousins

"How to make Cool Movies" with Quentin Terrentino

Quentin Terrentino has only ever made three films. However those films are considered to be three of the best movies produced in the last ten years and almost certainly further back then that. His directorial debut came with ‘Reservoir Deathpact’ – a gritty tale of a bank heist that spirals out of control. It’s a taut piece of filmmaking and it made his reputation. ‘Pulp Confusion’ followed three years later. It’s a complex series of interwoven tales and makes striking use of non-linear structure. His third film, ‘Jackie Black’ is based on some book or other.

He is notoriously reticent about sharing his film making secrets but recently he has agreed to give a series of lectures at the UCLA film school. I attended one of those sessions and what follows is an exclusive transcript of that lecture.

The Basics

"Okay. First principles. When I’m first thinking about a movie, I need a subject. Now the question I always ask myself when I first think of a subject is "Is it cool?"

I can see you all looking at me, saying to yourself, "Quentin’s lost it. This guy’s a freakin’ nutjob" Let me explain a bit further. Let’s try to part ‘John Carpenter’s Fog’ a little. Lets take a scenario. A bank robbery. Not that cool so far, right? But wait! One of them is an undercover cop. Suddenly it’s cool. Right?

Scenario two. A guy tries to have his wife murdered. Not that cool. But it turns out that she has also been trying to kill him all along too. She succeeds. She’s also a big fan of Stevie Wonder and plays his records incessantly. Now we’ve got not only a cool storyline but we’ve already found a cool soundtrack to go with it. Now we’re cooking with microwaves. Now we’re pumpin’.


Now we come to my all time favourite part about making a movie – the research. If you’re somebody like George Lucas you will at this point hit the library and start reading lots of books. Now that’s okay if you want a glorified fairytale and a billion dollars off the back of toy sales. But we want to make a cool movie right? Don’t answer back. I hate audience participation. It makes me feel like David freakin’ Copperfield or something.

So to research our movie what do we do? What is the best way to learn about what makes a movie cool? We look at other movies. Yes it’s that simple. So I go down to the video store and I rent a whole load of movies. Preferably Japanese ones or obscure American movies that not many people will have seen before. As I watch them I note down all the cool parts on the back of those postcard-sized index cards. Anything I like, I make a note. Soon I have a stack of cards with lots of cool scenes on them. Now I take them and I lay them out on the floor and start to assemble my film. Car chase? Why not open with one and then finish off with one of the drivers getting shot. We can borrow that really cool camera move from that kung-fu movie where the camera flies through the windscreen and smashes it. Then maybe a shoot out in an alley. Just like in that seventies French gangster flick. See how easy this is?


Now that we’ve got a storyline and structure we need to get down to writing the script. To do this it’s vitally important to fly to Amsterdam immediately. That’s because the Earth’s magnetic field is aligned in such a way that Amsterdam lies along a nexus point of two opposing lines of energy. This is extremely conducive to the creative process. Plus they sell good coffee there. Really good coffee. It will also come in handy for something else later on. I’ll come back to that though.

So we have our structure. Now we need dialogue. People will tell you that writing dialogue is difficult. That is bullshit. That is a mountain of bullshit. Dialogue is the easiest thing in the world to write. I’ll prove it. Two guys are having an argument…


You shot my wife?


Yeah, I shot your wife.


You shot my wife?


I shot your wife.


You shot my wife?


I shot your wife.


You shot my wife?


Yeah, I shot your wife.


You shot my wife?


I shot your wife.


I cannot believe you shot my wife.


I shot your wife.

GUY 1 shoots GUY 2

We learned in that scene that the second guy shot the first guy’s wife. We also learned about the use of repetition. People shy away from repetition. Don’t. It’s a very powerful tool. I should know. I stole it from David Mamet.

Another thing that people shy away from is profanity. Swearing is a natural part of life. It’s also cool. In fact the script for my next movie, ‘Swearin’ ‘n the Hood’ consists entirely of bad language.

Now our script isn’t going to really kick in until we add our secret ingredient – pop culture references. For these the more obscure they are the better. Talking about how early Silver Surfer comic books were much better then the new ones is good. But a whole scene devoted to the reasons why Batman and Robin are clearly shown to be lovers in issue 218 of The Amazing Batman is better.

Songs are good too. How about a scene where one character proves that ‘Hit me baby one more time’ is actually about domestic violence and how this poor woman is torn between the man she loves and the fact that he keeps beating her up? See how easy this is? ‘Lady in Red’ by Chris De Burgh is actually about a guy who becomes obsessed with this prostitute he keeps visiting. Easy, see?

Remember how I said that Amsterdam would come in handy later on? One good way of making your film and yourself look cool is to point out some of the weird shit that happens in other countries. Let’s look at this example…


Did you know that the public toilets in Amsterdam are just holes in the street?


Holes in the street?




People piss in the street?


I swear to God. They have these metal cages around them and you just piss in the street.


People actually do that?


They do. They actually stand there and they piss in the street.


Did you piss in the street?


I pissed in the street.


You actually pissed in the street?

So as you can see this now makes us look doubly cool. We’ve put in an obscure reference about a foreign country and it proves that we must have been there to know about it. See? Instant cool points in the bank.


This is make or break time. The wrong cast will spell doom. The right cast will make your film look cool. Which do we want? Right. We want cool. To achieve this we cast cool people. Again, not that difficult when you know how.

So who is cool? Well casting people from old Seventies cop shows is always cool. What’s the guy from Starsky and Hutch doing these days? Just make sure you get the one who can act. You know which one I mean. Casting the guy out of ‘Shaft’ is also a cool move. Not Samuel L Jackson you idiot - the original. Samuel L Jackson is only cool because I made him cool. What are the cast of Happy Days doing now? Cast some of them. Not Ron Howard. He’s not cool. He’s bald. How many cool bald guys are there? Apart from Samuel L Jackson. And John Wayne doesn’t count either.

In summary

So there you go. Four steps to a cool movie. Just don’t make it better then any of mine or I’ll break your legs. I know guys who’ll do that for me you know. I’m not president of the Bruce Lee Appreciation society for nothing, you know.

Okay, get out of here and get shooting!"

‘Swearin’ ‘n the Hood’ is due to start shooting early in the New Year.

recent carnality...

54 Robbie Wooliams - 'Singng Thru the Tears'

53 It's a Spielberg Kinda Christmas

52 Anthony Hopkirk - "I've had enough, I quit!"

51 George Mucus - May the courts be with you

50 Jayne Dyvine from BBC Films

49 Vinnie Savage

48 Willy Wonka aka Barrett Stevenson

47 September 11th: The Musical

46 "Film: Does it Influence Real-Life Behaviour?"

45 "How to Make Cool Movies" with Quentin Terrentino

44 SFX Gurus - Industrial Might & Tragic

43 Paul Verhervervint

42 The Equity Strike Explained

41 Robert Dooley Jr - Out on the Wiley, Windy Moors

40 James Macaroon - King of the World

39 Mike Fungus - Brit-film's digital jazzman

38 Sebastian Kilmer's World of Marketing

37 Joe Silverman's Olympic Swimming Pool

36 Britney Starr

35 Minister for Film - Oliver Nemisole

34 The Video Art of Francine Germaine Wilson

33 Screen Legend's Origin Shocks Hollywood

32 Christopher Tulkinghome - The East Anglia Film Commission

31 Sydney Banderfield - Stan's DoP

30 The National Student Film Festival

29 Jocasta Meridien - Thespian Angel

28 The Reverend Aloysius Tork: The Lord's Critic

27 Dr Andrew bullies Michael Bayne after the premiere of How America Won The War

26 Arturo Bannetti tells Dr Andrew about winning the Palme D'Or for his film, Mamma Mia

25 Doctor Andrew gives us the true Cannes competition line up

24 Brick McCracken - star of Termiliser and Total Recoil reads poetry to Dr Andrew

23 Dr Andrew gets the latest on the WGA strike from Layton Bridges. Sorry, that's Loy-ton Bridgeys

22 Dr Andrew transcirbes Simon Bates' lament for the love tryst between Barry Norman, Sky and the Beeb

21 At the 10th Anniversary of Film! Magazine, Editor Brent Morgan tells all to Dr Cousins

20 Dr Andrew 'swims in Lake You' with Julia Ribbings, recent Oscar winner for White Trash Lawyer

archive >>>

Copyright © Netribution Ltd 1999-2002
searchhomeabout usprivacy policy