If you’re looking for the best Alfred Hitchcock quotes then you’ve come to the right place.

Hitchcock took great delight in discussing and writing about how he worked, and constantly emphasized the need for cinema to rely on pictures rather than dialogue. Something which is lost in modern filmmaking.

After reading over a hundred Hitchcock books and interviews, I have put together what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of Alfred Hitchcock quotes on his filmmaking process available anywhere. 

This article covers everything from writing (or rather designing in Hitch’s case) the screenplay to camera movements to creating suspense and emotion on the screen. Below you’ll find plenty of wisdom from one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema.

If you find this Alfred Hitchcock quote article helpful then I would be grateful if you could share it with others on your own blog or via the usual social media channels. The article took over two weeks to complete, sharing takes less than a minute.

Notable Hitchcock films: Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958), Notorious (1946), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Rebecca (1940).

Alfred Hitchcock Filmmaking Quotes

If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a pretty clear idea of what was going on.

There is something more important than logic: imagination.

I enjoy playing the audience like a piano.

Films should not be photographs of people talking.

What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out.

I’m a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.

Self-plagiarism is style.

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

Puns are the highest form of literature.

Television is like the American toaster, you push the button and the same thing pops up every time.

A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.

Hitchcock films
Hitchcock and his films.

Hitchcock on Story

The formula for making a picture is to find a single problem which is sufficiently enthralling to hold the attention of the people who are watching the play unfold, and yet not sufficiently difficult to demand uncomfortable concentration.

I tend to gravitate towards a situation where an innocent man is pulled into a bizarre series of events. In North by Northwest, for example, a businessman is mistaken for a superspy. In Rear Window a convalescing man witnesses a murder across the courtyard via binoculars while peeping on the neighbors. People can easily identify with these situations and they are totally believable. They could happen.

A woman who spends all day washing and cooking and ironing don’t want to go to the movies to watch a film about a woman who spends all day washing and cooking and ironing.

There is a no-man’s land between good and evil. It is this gray area which interests me.

A book may have the germ of a screen idea in it. This germ may be in plot; it may be in the characters; it may be in the background; or it may be in certain of the situation. But that does not mean the book itself would make a good film. I have always mantained that it is supreme foolishness to take any book and film the whole of it just because one angle of it is really worth screening. There can be no doubt that The 39 Steps is a rattling good book, but I couldn’t see it as good film material. I found that by taking certain of the characters, part of the plot, and the excellent locales, I had the background for a very good screen story. Therefore I ignored the book as it stood, and the develope the story with the screen in mind. This I always do, and always have done. I never soak myself in a book before starting to adapt it. In fact, before now, I have written a scenario without even completely reading the original book, knowing the bare plot, the characters, and rough outline. It has been interesting afterwards just where the author and I have hit upon the same developments.

Quotes on Visual Storytelling

The secret of good directing is to remember that you are telling a story visually. Your medium is that of sound and sight. The screen should tell this story as much as possible – not the dialogue.

The point is that pure film is montage, which is the assembly of pieces of film, which in their turn must create an emotion in an audience. That’s the whole art of the cinema, the montage of the pieces. So it’s merely a matter of design, subject matter, and so forth.

The silent pictures were the purest form of cinema.

People don’t always express their inner thoughts to one another; a conversation may be quite trivial, but often the eyes will reveal what a person really thinks or feels.

Whenever possible, you show what is happening, not say it.

I don’t understand why we have to experiment with film. I think everything should be done on paper. A musician has to do it, a composer. He puts a lot of dots down and beautiful music comes out. And I think that students should be taught to visualize. That’s the one thing missing in all this. The one thing that the student has got to do is to learn that there is a rectangle up there – a white rectangle in a theater – and it has to be filled.

The great art of the motion picture is by means of imagery and montage to create an emotion in the audience and, therefore, the content is a means to an end. In other words, I would choose a story that would help toward that end rather than just photograph a story without any technique.

The creed that I chalk up in front of me today is that we are making motion pictures. Too many men forget that. A film has got to be ocularly interesting and above all it is the picture which is the thing. I try and tell my story so much so in pictures that if by any chance the sound apparatus broke down in the cinema, the audience would not fret and get restless because the pictorial action would still hold them!

In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema: they are mostly what I like to call “photographs of people talking.” When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try first to tell the story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between. It seems unfortunate that with the arrival of sound the motion picture, overnight assumed a theatrical form. The mobility of the camera doesn’t alter this fact. Even though a camera may move along the pavement, it’s still theatre. One result of this is the loss of cinematic style, and another is the loss of fantasy. In writing a screenplay, it is essential to separate clearly the dialogue from the visual elements and, whenever possible, to rely more on the visual than the dialogue. Whichever way you choose to stage the action, your main concern is to hold the audience’s fullest attention. Summing it, one might say that the screen rectangle must be charged with emotion.

There are too many films with what I call photographs of people talking. When they get translated into a foreign language with superimposed titles,the audience spends their evening reading. They never get a chance to look at the picture. You see, most people get confused; they think that galloping horses are cinema. They are not. They are photographs of galloping horses. Pure cinema is montage, the joining together of pieces of film and creating an idea. It’s like putting words together in a sentence. From that comes the audience’s emotion.

Hitchcock, Rear Window
Hitchcock with stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly on the set of Rear Window (1954)

Writing the Screenplay (or Designing the Film)

To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.

A rule that I’ve always followed is: Never use a setting simply as a background. Use it one hundred percent. You’ve got to make the setting work dramatically, You can’t use it just as a background. In other words, the locale must be functional. In the crop duster sequence in North by Northwest, the crop duster is used as a weapon carrier. That is to say, someone in the plane shoots at Cary Grant; but that is not enough. If we are using a crop duster – then it must dust crops. In this particular case, the crops are the hiding place of Cary Grant. So I don’t use a crop duster with only a gun. That’s not enough. It must be used according to its true function. All backgrounds must function.

One of the cardinal sins for a scriptwriter, when he runs into some difficulty, is to say, “We can cover that by a line of dialogue.” Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.

I always make movies on paper. I don’t rely on the writer. In fact I’ve never filmed another’s screenplay. Never. I bring in the writer. I sit him down there.I sit down here. The film is constructed this way from beginning to end. The writer helps me a lot. He finalizes the dialogue and may even offer an idea. And when I begin to shoot the film, for me it’s over. So much so that I wish I didn’t have to shoot it. I’ve seen it all in my head: topic,tempo, framing, dialogue, everything.

I plan out a script very carefully, hoping to follow it exactly, all the way through, when shooting starts. In fact, this working on the script is the real making of the film, for me. When I’ve done it, the film is finished already in my mind.

Very often scripts are written and then the location manager is called in and he tries to find some location that fits the script. I don’t believe in that. I think you should go to the location first and then put it in the script.

Writing Process

The screenplay normally passes through certain stages; these stages have been established over the years and depend on the working habits of those engaged in writing it. The practice of these years has come to establish three main stages:(1) the outline; (2) the treatment; (3) the screenplay. The outline, as the term implies, gives the essence of the action or story and may present either an original idea or, more usually,one derived from a successful stage play or novel. The outline is then built up into the treatment. This is a prose narrative, written in the present tense, in greater or less detail, that reads like a description of what will finally appear on the screen. This treatment is broken down into screenplay form, which, like its stage counterpart, sets out the dialogue,describes the movements and reactions of the actors and at the same time gives the breakdown of the individual scenes, with some indication of the role, in each scene, of the camera and the sound. It likewise serves as a guide to the various technical departments: to the art department for the sets, to the casting department for the actors, to the costume department, to makeup, to the music department, and so on.

When I am given a subject, probably a book, play or an original, I like to see it on one sheet of foolscap. That is to say, have the story in its barest bones, just laid out on the sheet of foolscap paper. You might call it the steelwork, or just the barest bones, as I said before. Now you don’t have to write down very much, maybe, just a man meets a woman at a certain place, and something else happens. In the briefest possible way, this thing should be laid out on a piece of paper.

First, when I’ve got my story I like to strip it right down to the bone – just take the essentials and write them down so they only cover a single sheet of paper. When I have made the picture I like to feel that if a man in the audience is asked, what it’s about he will describe it just as I did on that on this one sheet. That is the beginning. Next comes the forming of the pattern the picture’s going to take. I have a hand in this, treating the essential ideas in a way which I feel is suited to the film medium and planning out the course of the script should take. This is usually a two months job and is highly important stage to which a full understanding of the general plan is essential to all the writers. For example, as soon as the plan of the first sequence is written out it must be shown and explained carefully to the dialogue writer so that he can feel exactly the mood of the speech required. And so, gradually, with all the writing units cooperating with each other, the full story is completed. But there’s another step to come before shooting begins: when the treatment is on paper and the dialogue added, the whole script must be cut into individual shots. When this has been done I feel the worst is over. I have an exact plan of operation and can go straight ahead putting it on celluloid.

Once the screenplay is finished, I’d just as soon not make the film at all … I have a strongly visual mind. I visualise a picture right down to the final cuts. I write all this out in the greatest detail in the script, and then I don’t look at the script while I’m shooting. I know it off by heart, just as an orchestra conductor needs not look at the score … When you finish the script, the film is perfect. But in shooting it you lose perhaps 40 percent of your original conception

The Short Story and Structure

To my mind the nearest parallel to the feature motion picture as an art form is neither theatre nor the novel but the short story. In a play there are intermissions. There are lapses of minutes to weeks in the reading of a novel. But short stories and films are taken in all at one sitting. There are no breaks to give the audience digestion time. The plot in both cases must spin directly to a climax, and speed is essential to directness. Implicit, indeed. So the short story and the screen play have unity and speed in common, and one thing more – each, in my opinion, requires a twist ending.

Now in the shape of this thing, it is inevitable that you must design your incidents and your story shape to mount up. I always think the film shape is very much like the short story. Once it starts, you haven’t time to let up. You must go right through, and your film must end on its highest note. It must never go over the curve. Once you have reached your high spot, then the film is stopped.

[on adapting plays] Some people make the mistake of trying to open the play up for the screen. I think the whole conception of a play is confinement within the proscenium – and that’s what the author uses dramatically. Now you are undoing a newly-knitted sweater. Pull it apart and you have nothing.

Hitchcock Behind the Scenes on Psycho

Hitchcock on Emotion

Our primary function is to create an emotion and our secondary function is to sustain that emotion.

I believe it’s for the following reason: in my opinion, viewers must have a strong emotion while watching the film. They expect that I should raise their anxiety concerning what will happen. And that is possible only if I succeed in making the audience identify with the characters.If they remain indifferent, sitting there – if they remain only observers – there isn’t sufficient emotion, and no anxiety at all. That’s why the content is always better when the audience can experience the same emotions as the actors on the screen.

Emotions are universal, and art is emotion. Therefore, putting film together and making it have an effect on an audience is for me the main function of film.Otherwise, it is just a record of events.

You’re pulling an emotion out of an audience. That’s our purpose. That’s why I’m not a self-indulgent director in terms of “I’m only going to make a film to please myself.” I think the whole power of film is that it belongs to so many people on a given night. You create an emotion through film and you have the possibility of having an audience in Tokyo, West Berlin, London and Paris, all going through the same emotions at a given time. I don’t think any other medium can do that. Stage can’t.

Hitchcock Quotes on Fear

Fear is a basic emotion. People like to be scared if they can control it. That’s why people go on the fastrides at amusement parks and to movies like mine. They want to be scared for some inner emotional reason. They don’t want to be scared in a real sense, though. They want to be scared of non-existent things like monsters and theatrical characters. Imagination plays an important part in what I do,the way I scare people.

Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.

Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.

alfred hitchcock, janet leigh
Hitchcock directing Janet Leigh in Pyscho’s infamous shower scene.

The Master of Suspense

Mystery is an intellectual process. But suspense is essentially an emotional process.

What makes a picture successful? In my films, the “touch” is suspense and for this good reason. The action of a film is non-stop and you can’t ask an audience to sit through ninety minutes of film without dramatic relief of some kind. In the theater you have curtains and intervals – an audience doesn’t require “holding” for the same length of time as in a cinema. Movie-goers require their interest regularly jerked – either by movement, dialogue or atmosphere.

Motion picture mood is often thought of as almost exclusively a matter of lighting, dark lighting. It isn’t. Mood is apprehension.

In all my films I try to supply a definite contrast. I take a dramatic situation up and up to its peak of excitement and then, before it has time to start the downward curve, I introduce comedy to relieve the tension. After that, I feel safe with the climax. If the film petered to an end without any contrast, the climax would probably turn into an anticlimax. Which heaven forbid!

The most powerful means of gripping attention is suspense. It can be either the suspense inherent in a situation or the suspense that has the audience asking, “What will happen next?” It is indeed vital that they should ask themselves this question. Suspense is created by the process of giving the audience information that the character in the scene does not have.

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

Suspense doesn’t apply merely to melodrama or mystery. You can very well utilize suspense in a love story. In fact, you had very well better if you want the audience to hang around long enough to see reel seven.

Another obvious example is to have the audience provided with information not available to the characters, as when youhave a man about to be stabbed in the back by another man,the audience sees but the victim does not. Suspense results from the audience wishing to warn its friend, the character who is about to be stabbed.

There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” yet many pictures continually confuse the two. Let us suppose there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and the all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised , but prior to this surprise, it had seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware that the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock, and there is a clock in the décor.  The public can see that it is quarter to one. In these conditions the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There’s a bomb beneath you and it’s about to explode!” In the first case we have given the audience fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of explosion. In the second, we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible, the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.

There is a thing which one might term the springboard situation. In the first reel of the a film you establish a given situation. You might take a sympathetic character who gets himself into some sort of trouble, whatever it might be. The rest of the film then is “Will he get himself out of that situation?” I always call that the springboard situation.

Hitch and The MacGuffin

The main thing I’ve learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing. I’m convinced of this, but I find it very difficult to prove it to others. My best MacGuffin, and by that I mean the emptiest, the most nonexistent, and the most absurd, is the one we used in North by Northwest. The picture is about espionage, and the only question that’s raised in the story is to find out what the spies are after. Well, during the scene at the Chicago airport, the Central Intelligence man explains the whole situation to Cary Grant, and Grant, referring to the James Mason character, asks, “What does he do?” The counterintelligence man replies, “Let’s just say that he’s an importer and exporter.” “But what does he sell?” “Oh, just government secrets!” is the answer. Here, you see, the MacGuffin has been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!

Well, it’s the device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after. I’ll tell you about it. Many of them were spy stories, and they were concerned with the efforts to steal the secret plans out of a fortress. The theft of secret documents was the original MacGuffin. So the “MacGuffin” is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a acGuffin, since it’s beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.

Hitchcock, The Birds
Hitchcock directing The Birds (1963) on stage at Universal Studios,

Developing Characters

Once you have established the heroes and heroines, you must rescue them at the last second. That’s because you have transferred the feelings of danger facing your characters to the audience. The only way they can enjoy the sensation of the hero and heroine facing death is knowing they will be saved. If you don’t do this, you have betrayed this unspoken agreement with your audience.

The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.

One must never set up a murder. They must happen unexpectedly, as in life.

The most frequent mistake that bothers me is that I never get to know the victims. That personal information makes the crime that much more horrible because you identify with a person, not just a body being shot up or hacked to pieces.

Shooting the Movie

Only when I have my theme firmly set in my mind do I really feel ready to start filming. That’s why I never study the shooting script closely until a day or two before the film is scheduled to go on the floor. I let story and theme grow on me – then I study the script.

I favor shooting in sequence. After all, the film is seen in sequence by an audience, and, of course, the nearer the firector gets to an audience’s point of view, the more easily he will be able to satisfy an audience.

The size of the image on the screen and its composition is really orchestration. It’s no good throwing a close-up on the screen just for the sake of a close-up. It’s like music, you know. You have loud brass when you need it. The same applies to the size of the image. This side of the technical situation is almost completely ignored these days.

Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.

One doesn’t set the camera at a certain angle just because the cameraman happens to be enthusiastic about that spot. The only thing that matters is whether the installation of the camera at a given angle is going to give the scene its maximum impact. The beauty of image and movement, the rhythm and the effects-everything must be subordinated to the purpose.

You can improvise and should improvise, but I think it should be done in an office,where there are no electricians waiting and no actors waiting, and you can improvise all you want – ahead of time. Sometimes, I compare it with a composer who is trying to write a piece of music with a full orchestra in front of him. Can you imagine him saying, “Flute, give me that note again will you. Thank you, flute,” and he writes it down.

There are very, very strict rules that I adhere to. For example, never, never use a shot without its having a clear dramatic purpose. But on the other hand, I don’t shoot “master” scenes. I just shoot the one that’s necessary, unless there’s a dualogue. If you’ve got two people talking at a table, you shoot over-the-shoulder shots and have to repeat the scene, but otherwise not. Also to me, it seems that size of the image on the screen must contribute. You cannot shoot long shots indiscriminately unless you’re establishing a locale. But I think the long shot can be very dramatic when you need it.

Hitchcock Quotes, Pyscho
Hitchcock at the top of the image as the camera cranes in on Janet Leigh and John Gavin while filming Psycho’s opening scene.

Camera Movement

[On technique proceeding the action instead of accompanying it] I would like to mention what I regard as a fundamental rule: When a character who has been seated stands up to walk around a room, I will never change the angle or move the camera back. I always start the movement on the close-up, the same size close-up I used while he was seated. In most pictures, when two people are seen talking together, you have a close-up on one of them, then a close-up on the other, then move back and forth again, and suddenly the camera jumps back for a long shot, to show one of the characters rising to walk around. It’s wrong to handle it that way. If a character moves around an you want to retain the emotion on his face, the only way to do that is travel with the close-up.

I believe, as do many other directors, that a moving picture should really move. And I have definitive ideas about the use of cuts and fadeouts which, improperly handled, can remind the audience of the unreality of our medium and take them away from the plot. But those are personal prejudices of mine. I do not try to bend the plot to fit technique; I adapt the technique to the plot. And that’s the important thing. A particular camera angle may give a cameraman  – or even a director –  a particularly satisfying effect. The question is, dramatically, is it the best way of telling whatever part of the story it’s trying to tell? If not, out it goes.

Good Technique and Simplicity

The motion picture is not an arena for a display of techniques. It is rather a method of telling a story in which techniques, beauty, the virtuosity of the camera, everything must be sacrificed or compromised when it gets in the way of the story itself. An audience is never going to think to itself: “what magnificent work with the boom” or “the dolly is very nicely handled” they are interested in what the characters on the screen are doing, and it’s the directors job to keep the audience interested in that. Technique that calls itself to the audience’s attention is poor technique. The mark of good technique is that it goes unnoticed.

[The Director] must be searching for some new way of making his statement, and above all he must make it with the greatest economy and in particular the greatest economy of cutting; that is to say, in the minimum of shots. Each shot must be as comprehensive as a statement as possible, reserving cutting for dramatic purposes. The impact of the image is of the first importance in a medium that directs the concentration of the eye so that it cannot stray. In the theatre, the eye wanders, while the word commands. In the cinema, the audience is led wherever the director wishes. In this, the language of the camera resembles the language of the novel. Cinema audiences and readers of novels, while they remain in the theatre or continue to read, have no alternative but to accept what is set before them.

All uses of the camera, whether it be used straight on or at an angle, whether it be stationary or moving, must be directed to one and only one thing, namely to the dramatic impact of pictorial images that are to be cut together to reveal the progress of an action or story.


I never understand this business of shooting from all angles and getting millions of feet of film. I’ve never been on other directors’ sets, so I wouldn’t know. I’ve been asked,“Well, don’t you ever improvise on the set?” And I say, “No, I prefer to improvise in an office!” I think the main reason for people not doing this is that they lack the sense of the visual, they can’t visualize things ahead of time. I never look through a camera. What for? To confirm or to find out whether the cameraman is a liar? There’s no reason for it, because you’re dealing with a rectangle, just as much as any painter with a canvas. You have a rectangle in a theater, and that is the thing that you’re visualizing all the time.

You are all familiar with the “extra shots” that have to be made after the regular schedule is completed. The extra, expository shots are generally identified by an audience for what they are – artificial devices to cover what had been overlooked in the preparation of the film. Now, how can this be avoided? I think it can best be avoided if a shooting script is edited before shooting starts. In this way, nothing extra is shot, and, most importantly, story points will be made naturally, within the action itself. I try to never go to the floor until I have a complete shooting script, and I have no doubt everyone tries to do the same thing.

Hitchcock on Working with Actors

When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, ‘ I say, ‘Your salary.’

I have always been available to my actors for reasonable help. ‘Reasonable’ is an actor who, when he walks through the door, does not ask me ‘why?’ but‘ how?’”

I was misquoted for one thing. That statement was part of something else I was discussing. I said that actors had to be treated like cattle in that to direct actors you must guide their every movement, their looks, their total physical presence in front of the camera.

What I look for in talent, especially when we are in the area of purely cinematic, is the mobility of the face. In other words expression. The register of expression. Especially in subjective treatment it’s a very vital thing you see… the reaction.


If you do it right, casting, you don’t need to do much direction of actors. The really good ones find their way, and you only need recognize if they are going astray.

Disney has the best casting. If he doesn’t like an actor he just tears him up.

There has been a lot of talk about the Hitchcock blondes and my heroines, you know. The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience. Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex. Screen aspirants please note!

The best actor is the man who can do nothing extremely well.

I like an actor to play a part for which his personal experience in life has raised him. In this way he does not have to resort to cheap mannerisms and unnatural movements. The best actors are those who can be effective even when they are not doing anything.

Hitchcock, Marnie
Hitchcock works with star Tippi Hedren while shooting the thriller Marnie (1964).

Actors and Improvisation

Improvisation by actors is for the rehearsal room, not the movie studio.

The Method actor may be all right in the theater. He has a whole stage to move about on. But when it comes to film and you cut from the face to what he sees, the subjective camera, there must be discipline. I remember discussing this with a Method actor, not Newman, and he said, ‘We’re given an idea, and then we’re supposed to interpret it any way we want.’ And I said, ‘That’s not acting, that’s writing.’

Hitchcock Quotes on Editing

I shoot a pre-cut picture. The editor has to put it together as I have shot it. Somebody wanted to have alook at the outtake material on Rear Window. He went into the cutting room and there was a small roll of film on the floor. That’s all that wasn’t used, because I make a film on paper.

I want the cutting and continuity to be as inconspicuous as possible, and all I am concerned with is to get the characters developed and the story clearly told without any directional idiosyncrasies.

The basis of the cinema’s appeal is emotional. Music’s appeal is to a great extent emotional too. To neglect music, I think, is to surrender, wilfully or not, a chance of progress in filmmaking.

Film music and cutting have a great deal in common. The purpose of both is to create the tempo and mood of the scene. And just as the ideal cutting is the kind you don’t notice as cutting, so with music.

Silence is often very effective and its effect is heightened by the proper handling of the music before and after.

People think, for example, that pace is fast action, quick cutting, people running around, or whatever you will, and it is not really that at all. I think the pace of the film is made entirely by keeping the mind of the spectator occupied. You don’t need to have quick cutting, you need to have quick playing, but you do need a very full story and the changing of one situation to another. You need the changing of one incident to another, so that all the time the audience’s mind is occupied. Now so long as you can sustain that and not let up, then you have pace. That is why suspense is such a valuable thing, because it keeps the mind of the audience going.

The Business of Film

My conscience forces me to make commercial films. Because, you know, a lot of money is involved, other people’s money loaned to you so you can express yourself. And my conscience tells me: One must tone it down so “they” don’t lose their money; or else the industry will die peacefully. There’s my reasoning.

After all, what greater satisfaction can a filmmaker have, to know that a given scenethat he’s devised in a film, to know that on the same eveningin Tokyo, West Berlin, London, and New York, the audience are all reacting in the same way? And that’s the power of the cinema. Theater doesn’t have it, literature doesn’t get the chance to have it, but we are able, by the manner of copying films and placing them in movie houses all over the world, and that is the greatest satisfaction one can have.

If you have ideals about pictures and you direct them it’s like walking on a tightrope with an umbrella in one hand and a script in the other. For however artistically inclined a director may be he can’t afford to turn an entirely blind eye to “box-office.”

You have to design your film just as Shakespeare did his plays – for an audience.

Hitchcock’s Tips for Filmmakers

I think to really know the motion picture industry one must go backwards to the silent films and learn how to tell a story visually. These new people spend most of their time copying each other. It gets boring watching scenes of out of focus flowers and faces in the foregrounds. Art is supposed to create emotion and most of the new wave directors fall short on this point. They sacrifice story and visual rhythm for gimmicks.

Something I do today makes me feel that the methods I used yesterday are out of date, and yet tomorrow I may be faced with a problem which I can best solve by usng yesterday’s methods. That is why I try and make my first rule of direction – flexibility.

I learned professionalism, dedication to goals, and discipline to one’s own routines. Many people in the arts lack this discipline and it shows in their work. I have a system for what I do and I never waver from it.

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Hitchcock (Revised Edition), Truffaut, 1985
Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series), 2003
The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures, 1991

Alfred Hitchcock Quotes Final Words

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