Barry Sonnenfeld is a director, producer and writer who broke into the film industry as the cinematographer on the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller’s Crossing. He was the director of photography on Throw Momma from the Train, Big, When Harry Met Sally, and Misery. Barry made his directorial debut with The Addams Family and has directed several other films including Addams Family Values, Get Shorty, and the Men in Black trilogy. His television credits include Pushing Daises, for which he won an Emmy, and Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. His memoir is titled: Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker.
Some interesting insights from this episode:
- Most movie directors use the camera as a recording device whereas he uses it as a story telling device.
- Lots of cinematographers have tried to become directors but have failed. Part of Barry’s success making the transition was hiring a world-class cameraman so he could focus on the actors and other areas as opposed to micromanaging the cameraman.
- The key to successful directing is to hire people better than you, answer everyone’s questions to ensure a consistent tone, and feign self-confidence.
- He’s known to be very neurotic but neurosis is a superpower when directing a project.
- His philosophy about comedy is that nobody on the show should think they’re working on one. The formula is to have an absurd situation or an absurd character played for reality.
- “Excellence is being capable, responsible, and the willingness to make the tough decision.”
Book: Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker