The Masters

I would be derelict in my suggestion  you imitate masters of film and design without adding at least a partial list of people whose work I greatly respect. This list is by no means exhaustive, but if you really want to see how the experts do it, check out the work of these specialists.

Directors
Bryan Singer, David Fincher, Francis Ford Coppola, Francis Lawrence, George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, Guy Ritchie, J. J. Abrams, James Cameron, Joe Johnston, John Boorman, Len Wiseman, Martin Scorsese, Richard Donner, Richard Lester, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Steve Spielberg, Tony Scott, and Zack Snyder.

Production Designers
Allan Cameron, Arthur Max, Gavin Bocquet, James D. Bissell, Joseph Bennett, Martin Laing, Naomi Shohan, Owen Paterson, Patrizia von Brandenstein, Rick Carter, Rich Heinrichs, Robert Stromberg, Sarah Greenwood, and Steven Scott.

Art Directors
Andy Nicholson, Giles Masters, Grant Van Der Slagt, Hugh Bateup, James Foster, Jaromír Svarc, Keith P. Cunningham, Michelle McGahey, Niall Moroney, Patricio M. Farrell, Peter Francis, Simon Lamont, Stefan Dechant, Steve Arnold, Steve Saklad, Tony Reading, and Troy Sizemore.

Costume Designers
Carlo Poggioli, Deborah Lynn Scott, Gabriella Pescucci, Janty Yates, Jenny Beavan, John Mollo, Judianna Makovsky, Kim Barrett, Lindy Hemming, Mayes C. Rubeo, Michael Wilkinson, Milena Canonero, Sammy Sheldon, Trisha Biggar, and Wendy Patridge.

Set Decorators
Anna Pinnock, Brian Stewart, Cindy Carr, Crispian Sallis, Eli Griff, Hilton Rosemarin, John Blush, Katie Spencer, Kim Sinclair, Lisa Brennan, Marta McElroy, Richard Roberts, Simon Wakefield, Tim Ferrier, and Zsuzsu Mihalek.

An Apprentice to Many Masters

In the few years since I made my Civil War era film Shroud, I have continued to evolve into a newer, more experienced filmmaker. As with any career, your first effort is the most unlike you that you will ever make, if only because your own style must bleed through the barriers of time, money, lack, and your own bloom.

People who know me know I adapt with shocking speed, almost disorienting speed—sometimes I disorient myself, but I usually disorient others. I knew as a filmmaker I only needed one venture to calibrate the bulk of my style, with the remainder being polished in every movie hereafter. No filmmaker—no artist—ever stops learning, growing, changing, experimenting, tweaking, sculpting and learning.

In the intervening years I have worked with some very inventive filmmakers and some unremarkable beggars of story and style. It takes precious little time to meet and qualify the people who should be in the film industry and definitely those who should not, those who are genuinely striving to entertain and tell a story and those who are just earning a cheap check peddling their snake oil and ordure.

To any filmmaker who is beyond having to live check to check, my advice is simple: protect your brand—your brand being you. Pass on the trash. Trust me, there are actors, producers, directors, designers and others out there you do not wanted associated with your name. As for yourself, be absolutely sure you are not one of these people—another untrained dunce who devalues any project they touch.

If you are truly an innovator of story and style, you are going to aggravate, confuse, intimidate, astonish, stupefy and frighten 99% of the very people claiming they want something new and incandescent.

Don’t return their calls.

A man who has one-hundred wooden coins is not richer than a man who has a single gold one.

Be an apprentice to many masters.