07/20/2014 11:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Top 5 Insights for Directors from James DeMonaco, Writer/Director of The Purge: Anarchy

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Answer by James DeMonaco, Writer/Director, The Purge: Anarchy

Q: What are your top five recommendations for a director when approaching a new project?

1.Get healthy. You have to figure out a way that you can sleep. I don't sleep and I get sick on set, so you have to get into a good sleeping rhythm. If you go down hard, then you won't be a good director. You have to find a good sleep pattern.

2. Read the script every day and make sure that there isn't a piece of fat on the script. When you're working on a lower budget, you can't waste four hours on a scene that won't make it in the final cut.

3. Keep in mind that the audience is smarter than you think they are. You don't have to give all the exposition. I've learned that lesson myself, so now I try to cut out all the exposition. I think it's made a positive effect on my films. We spoon-feed too much. The audience is smart. They read a lot, are smarter and know how to fill in the gaps.

4.This is big. Make sure you have someone very close to you who will tell you no and that you're being an idiot. There's nothing worse then when directors don't have someone being honest with them. Get a confidante who will call you out and tell you that it's a bad idea.

5.Watch a lot of movies. The history of film is out there. And don't just watch films - read books, go to museums. Inspiration can come from anywhere - a car show, who the hell knows? Go to bookstores and really listen to everyone around you. If you hire the right people, listen to them. There are great ideas from everyone. My gaffer had one of the greatest ideas because we created an environment where everyone was heard. You get the greatest ideas from places you'd never expect.

Q: What film made you want to be a screenwriter or director?

I think I probably have to say "Apocalypse Now." When I watch that, I think that was the most transforming film for me. I think I was 8 or 9 when I saw it. My dad took me. We still ask why he took such a young kid to see that? For me, it felt like I was witnessing someone else's dream. It was surreal, yet real.


The thing about that movie is that I was only able to see it once when I was 8 or 9, and didn't see it again until I was 14 when VCRs came out. So for years, my perception of the film is what existed. It was my own minds dream-like memory of the film that I recalled. It's so different from how we view films now - basically on demand.


As a kid, I was also obsessed with something called a 4:30 movie that aired every day on ABC. Each week was a theme week, such as Steve McQueen or a monster-themed week. My mom would call me in at 4:30 every day to watch, no matter what was going on.

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