8 Tips from Legendary Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn

In a recent chat with Giles Alderson and Dom Lenoir, listen here director-producer Matthew Vaughn shared his unique approach to building his franchise and the challenges he has faced in transitioning from a producer to a director.

Building A Franchise And Making Films

His response to how he approached building a franchise is refreshingly simple: “I imagine I’m a member of the audience. I try to make movies that I would be sitting with a bunch of friends watching and enjoying.” Emphasizing that he always aims to avoid the mundane “same old thing done in the same way again and again.”

His Unexpected Directorial Debut

Matthew’s journey into directing was not planned. He’d had “no intention of ever being a director – no interest, no aspirations and no belief.” Initially, Guy Ritchie was meant to direct Layer Cake, with Matthew producing.

However, after Guy withdrew, Matthew found himself at a crossroads. His wife and Layer Cake writer J.J. Connolly’s encouragement, and the realization that finding another director would be challenging, led him to take the risk; along with the potential label of being a “failed director/producer.” Which he was worried would impact his future work as a producer.

Working with Actors and Camera

The scariest thing for him, as a director, was working with “actors and cameras”.

His saving grace was a collaboration with DP Ben Davis, who became his mentor on set. As well as guidance from actors, namely Daniel Craig, emphasizing the importance of giving direction to actors rather than providing line readings.

He has also learnt that the camera is the voyeur into the scene. Telling the story.

Why Casting Well is Vital

He echoed John Houston’s opinion that “directing is 90 percent casting” emphasizing the crucial role of brilliant actors. “All I can say is cast it properly.” But how does he know that they’re right? He has a skill in knowing, within seconds, if an actor is right for a role.

From Independent Films to Action Franchises

He attributes his journey, from brilliant independent films like Lockstock, Snatch and Layer Cake to full-blown action franchises like Kick-Ass and X-Men, to his commitment to storytelling. And also says that his successful projects often rely on sticking to the rules of storytelling.

The Struggles of Independent Filmmakers

Reflecting on the independent filmmaking process, Matthew shares his insights into raising funds for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. They tried cold-calling investors and faced the realisation that verbal ‘promises’ didn’t always transfer into actual funds. His tip to aspiring filmmakers, who plan on reaching out to investors: “Once you raise a bit, more fish will come.”

He also shared the tale of getting distribution for Lock, Stock, after they’d “showed the movie to everyone and had got no offers”, emphasizing the importance of resilience.

His Brand is Entertainment

He says that with directing, “there are no rules.” His brand is about delivering entertainment to the audience and says “as long as you’re delivering what they’re hoping they’re going to get, that’s our job.”

Lessons for his Younger Self

Matthew said that he would tell his younger self to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. He also said he’d warn younger filmmakers against being blinded by Hollywood by making “sure you love the idea of making the movie.”

For the full podcast episode of our chat with filmmaker Matthew Vaughn, listen here.

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