10 Filmmaking Lessons From Paul Thomas Anderson

It probably says something about Paul Thomas Anderson that the first film clip he selected to screen at an event titled “On Cinema” was pulled from a television show. The sold-out chat, part of the New York Film Festival (and of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s ongoing “Directors Dialogue” series) was an amiable and enjoyable hybrid of master class, Inherent Vice promotion, and self-professed “nerd talk”; over the course of the 90-minute conversation with the Film Society’s Kent Jones, Anderson showed clips from not only movies that inspired him, but television and music videos as well. In doing so, he imparted some of his filmmaking philosophy, which we’ve helpfully compiled here for your easy digestion.

Still image from "Police Squad!"

1. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

That aforementioned first clip was from Police Squad!, the legendary, short-lived spoof 1982 television show from Airplane! creators David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (and the basis for their later Naked Gun films). Anderson’s memory of watching it as an impressionable kid was part of the process of making Inherent Vice, he explained: “When I was starting the new movie, amidst all the nerves and confusion about what you’re doing, it’s just like breathing — remembering, what am I doing, why am I here in the first place? Getting back to those original joys of viewing, they’re good to get back to… It was just a good energizing pill for me, and weird things come from all places that help you.”