Roberto Rossellini on his "absolutely spontaneous" filmmaking process
Plus: How do creators create when life is literally falling apart?
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Roberto Rossellini (1906–1977)
The Italian neorealist filmmaker didn’t believe in “fixed scenarios” for his films, and he placed great importance on inspiration and improvisation during the filmmaking process. He did write scripts, “because it would be crazy to try to improvise everything at the last minute,” he said. “But the scenes, the dialogue, and the scenography are adjusted from day to day.” He often invented new episodes on the spot, and he would jot down dialogue on the backs of envelopes or even the cuffs of his shirt.
This freewheeling approach made some actors uncomfortable (including Rossellini’s third wife, Ingrid Bergman, who hated to improvise on camera.) But Rossellini insisted that it was the only way he could work. “Maybe people think I’m crazy, but I refuse to know how my film will end on the day I begin to shoot it!” he said in 1948. “I’m incapable of working in a corset. A detailed script to be followed step by step, a studio full of equipment, all that preplanning with scenery and lighting, it’s totally odious to me.” In another interview, he said, “One must be absolutely spontaneous and nothing else, because if you start to think in terms such as, ‘I am an artist,’ you are immediately a son of a bitch.”