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Billy Wilder's Rules of Good Filmmaking

Writer and director Billy Wilder was the man behind some of Hollywood's most beloved films -- Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Double Indemnity and many more. He wrote or directed more than 50 films, winning six Oscars and numerous other awards.

In a modern Hollywood where big-budget formula films often command the box office, many filmmakers still look to Wilder -- who would have turned 100 this month -- as an example of how to make movies that matter. And his formula for success -- from hard-boiled thrillers to daffy romantic comedies -- is still available. It's distilled into a basic set of rules.

Some are obvious: be on time to the set, work on schedule -- in short, be reliable. But he codified some of his on-set knowledge, as well.

"Some of these rules are straightforward," says writer-director Cameron Crowe, who conducted a series of interviews with Wilder before the great director's death in 2002. "Rule two is 'grab 'em by the throat and never let go.' He means grab us, the audience, with great plots, winning dialogue and big Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe."

Another of Wilder's rules is to let the audience figure out key plot points. "Don't underestimate the intelligence of the audience," says film producer Tom Jacobson, another Wilder acolyte. "Treat your audience intelligently. What movies can do, at their best, is let us in -- they show us things, they don't tell us."

Wilder's most important rule is also the simplest: Don't be boring.

Keep these rules in mind this summer, when a Hollywood blockbuster is insulting the audience's intelligence or taking up too much valuable time. And hope whoever made the movie has watched his share of Wilder, too.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nihar Patel