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Ridley Scott Tells Aspiring Filmmakers They Have ‘No Excuses’

Acclaimed filmmaker Ridley Scott told young filmmakers Monday night that they had “no excuses” not to be able to go out and make a movie. Speaking at a special BAFTA: A Life in Pictures event celebrating his career, Scott said the availability of modern technologies, such as digital cameras and computer editing programs, meant many barriers to making a film had fallen and that if aspiring filmmakers really wanted to follow in his footsteps they should “go out and make a movie this weekend or stop moaning.”

But he said aspiring filmmakers needed to be prepared to work hard or they should try something else. “There are a lot of them now,” said Scott. “I think they think it’s going to be all fun and parties. When I do a movie I’m shooting by 8:45 a.m. You have to or you’ll never catch up.”

The event came a day after Scott was awarded BAFTA’s Fellowship, the body’s highest accolade, at the British Academy Film Awards. It was held at BAFTA’s headquarters in London before a packed public and industry audience.

Scott had lots of tips for young filmmakers, saying first they had to learn to be able to get through filming on time and budget. “Film school never teaches you that,” said the veteran director.

He also advised never to sit in on editing rooms or mixing sessions, saying if a director has prepared properly, he or she should be delivering the materials needed to put together the movie as envisioned and that seeing or hearing the same things over and over were like comedy – you start to question it. “If you sit in the editing room with the editor every night you’ll drive each other crazy. I shoot. I see rushes. I leave it,” said Scott, adding that that way he could always stay fresh when seeing the first cut. “It’s a good tip.”

Discussing his enthusiasm to shoot “Alien” the filmmaker said he told studio 20th Century Fox he had no notes and was ready to shoot it as was, advising filmmakers working in Hollywood never to go back with notes on a screenplay they already liked. “You’ll turn a gold film into a development deal,” said Scott, though he later admitted he got more into development and producing because “you rarely get a script that lands on your desk like ‘Alien.’”

“Writing is the most powerful thing in the business,” said the director. “If I get it written then making a movie is dead easy. When it’s not on paper it’s a nightmare. If you get it real chances are it’s going to be strong. I can tell within half a page if I’m in good hands.”

Of his latest film, “All the Money in the World,” Scott said it took him just 20 minutes to decide to reshoot the scenes he had already filmed with Kevin Spacey, replacing the actor with Christopher Plummer following the sexual harassment scandal that enveloped Spacey in late October only weeks ahead of the film’s planned premiere. Scott said he hadn’t heard anything from the actor or any of his representatives since making the decision. Scott made light of the difficulties involved. “I was shooting in nine days. I can make it sound really difficult but it’s not. The biggest challenge was for [Christopher Plummer] to learn 22 scenes.”

Scott also revealed that the recently confirmed second season of BBC and FX drama “Taboo” starring Tom Hardy, which Scott executive produces through Scott Free Productions alongside Hardy’s company Hardy, Son and Baker, was expected to go into production in September this year.

The 80-year-old filmmaker has directed 25 features since his debut with “The Duellists” in 1977, including sci-fi classics “Alien” and “Blade Runner” and the Oscar-winning “Gladiator.” He also has more than 100 movie and television producing credits and, by his own estimation, has directed “roughly 2,000” commercials.

He revealed that after “The Duellists” he had originally intended to make a version of romantic tragedy “Tristan and Isolde” before producer David Puttnam suggested the two of them go and see a new film called “Star Wars” at the Chinese theater in L.A. one Saturday morning. “Lucas’ first ‘Star Wars’ was absolutely seminal; blew me away. I’ve never felt such audience participation,” said Scott of George Lucas’ game-changing blockbuster. “I thought, ‘What am I doing going off to make another art film?’ Within six weeks I got the script for ‘Alien’ across my desk. The rest is history.”

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