Federico Fellini was a film director, screenwriter, and producer who directed more than twenty movies between 1945 and 1991.

The Italian filmmaker has earned his rightful place in the pantheon of great auteurs, known for his masterpieces like La Dolce Vita and  which are regularly ranked in lists of the greatest films to have ever been made.

Fellini’s films were usually characterized by dreamlike sequences, distinctive features such as black or white to represent light and dark backgrounds, or emotions with special visual symbols that emerged from surrealism.

Fellini’s unique blend of realism and fantasy and his penchant for striking imagery has influenced generations of filmmakers and he remains one of the most important film directors of all time.

Below we’ve put together a list of our favorite Fellini quotes which are guaranteed to inspire and help you develop your own filmmaking.

Federico Fellini Filmmaking Quotes

Anyone who lives, as I do, in a world of imagination must make an enormous and unnatural effect to be factual in the ordinary sense. I confess I would be a terrible witness in court because of this–and a terrible journalist. I feel compelled to a story the way I see it and this is seldom the way it happened, in all its documentary detail.

Our duty as storytellers is to bring people to the station. There each person will choose his or her own train… But we must at least take them to the station… to a point of departure.

I make pictures to tell a story, to tell lies, and to amuse.

The movie business is macabre. Grotesque. It is a combination of a football game and a brothel.

I’m afraid of solitude, of the gap between action and observation in which solitude dwells. That’s a reflection on my existence, in which I attempt to act without being swept away by the action, so as to be able to bear witness at the same time. I fear losing my spontaneity precisely because of such testimony or witnessing, because of my habit of constantly analysing and commenting. I also fear old age, madness, decline. I fear not being able to make love ten times a day.

I don’t believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there’s one thing that’s dangerous for an artist, it’s precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and the rest of it.

Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something as in a dream.

No doubt there’s a connection between pathology and creation, we can’t deny it. Yet I view with pleasure the work of film professionals I love, such as Bunuel, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Bergman.

[on Akira Kurosawa] I think he is the greatest example of all that an author of the cinema should be. I feel a fraternal affinity with his way of telling a story.

The visionary is the only true realist.

Our dreams are our real life. My fantasies and obsessions are not only my reality, but the stuff of which my films are made.

Fellini Quotes on Storytelling

I’m just a storyteller, and the cinema happens to be my medium. I like it because it recreates life in movement, enlarges it, enhances it, distills it. For me, it’s far closer to the miraculous creation of life than, say, a painting or music or even literature. It’s not just an art form; it’s actually a new form of life, with its own rhythms, cadences, perspectives and transparencies. It’s my way of telling a story.

Making films for me is not just a creative outlet but an existential expression. I also write and paint in isolation, in an ascetic manner. Perhaps my character is too hard, too severe. The cinema itself is a miracle, though, because you can live life just as you tell it. It’s very stimulating. For my temperament and sensibility, this correlation between daily life and the life I create on screen is fantastic.

I am not a “therapeutic” artist, my films don’t suggest solutions or methods, they don’t put forward ideologies. All I do is bear witness to what happens to me, interpret, and express the reality that surrounds me. If, through my films – that is, recognising themselves in them – people come to an equal, awareness of themselves, then they have achieved the state of clear-sighted detachment from themselves which is essential in making new choices, in bringing about changes.

I cannot distinguish my films one from another. For myself, I’ve always directed the same film. It is a matter of images and images only which I have directed, using the same materials, perhaps urged on, sometimes, from varying points of view.

As a rule, I don’t like seeing films I have made. When I do, I feel indifferent. I am faced with something dead, which has all interest for me.

Every creative process is like an operation to uncover one’s personality. For this reason, any work, be it a book, a picture, music, or a film, can be considered a means to free oneself from an obsession. The liberation is in realising the obsession and giving it form.

Fellini on Filmmaking

For people who live in the imagination there is no lack of subjects. To seek for the exact moment at which inspiration comes is false. Imagination floods us with suggestions all the time, from all directions. What we need, in order to give an exact shape to this imagination, is to find a reason – any reason – to begin; we need to connect it to physical reality. I need a brutal reason. Without this I would never give a concrete form to my ideas, I would do nothing.

When I start a picture, I always have a script, but I change it every day. I put in what occurs to me that day out of my imagination. You start on a voyage; you know where you will end up but not what will occur along the way. You want to be surprised.

Everything that happens during its conception, or while preparations are being made for takes or cutting, is useful to a film. There are no unimportant elements. Everything is important. There are no ideal conditions for the making of a film, or rather, conditions are always ideal, since they are what definitely allows the film to be made as it is. The illness of an actress, which makes it necessary to replace her, a refusal from a producer, an accident that holds up work – all these are not obstacles but elements in themselves, from which a film is made. What exists in the end takes over from what might have existed. It isn’t just that the unexpected is part of the journey: it is, in fact, the journey itself. The only thing that matters is the inner open-mindedness of the director. Making a film doesn’t mean trying to make reality fit in with preconceived ideas; it means being ready for anything that may happen.

When I have chosen my actors, I really love them. I always make friends with them, fall in love with them: like a puppet-master that falls in love with his puppets.

The most important thing now is the choice of the faces and heads – the human landscape of the film. During this time, I am likely to see up to five or six thousand faces, and it is precisely these faces which suggest to me the behaviour of my characters, their personalities, and even some narrative sections of the film. I look for expressive, characterful faces for my film – faces which immediately say everything by themselves as soon as they appear on the screen. I could if I wanted simply say to the actors in my films, be yourself and don’t worry. The result is always positive. Each one of them has the face that belongs to him, that no one else could have: and the faces always all go together, nature never makes a mistake.

A good opening and a good ending make for a good film provide they come close together.

I am not the kind of director who sits in a chair smoking a cigar talking with a microphone to 10 assistants. I need to move. To touch. To put a painting on a wall. To arrange a set.

It’s absolutely impossible to improvise. Making a movie is a mathematical operation. It is like sending a missile to the moon. It isn’t improvised. It is too defined to be called improvisational, too mechanical. Art is a scientific operation, so I can say that what we usually call improvisation is in my case just having an ear and eye for things that sometimes occur during the time we are making the picture.

Dialogue is not important to me. The function of dialogue is merely to inform. I think that in the cinema it is much better to use other elements, such as lighting, objects, and the setting in which the action takes place, since these are more expressive than pages and pages of dialogue. The sound effects should aim to emphasise the image. I work on the soundtrack myself after making the film. The noises one can get in the sound studio are very much better – quite apart from tricks and artifice – than those one can get by recording the sound live during filming. All my films have been post-synched, even the earliest. I put dialogue into the film after I have made it. The actor plays better that way, not having to remember his lines. This is all the more so because I often use non-actors and in order to make them behave naturally, I get them to talk as they would in real life. A café waiter can talk like a café waiter. I have even got people to say prayers or make a list of numbers. Then I sort it all out in the sound studio.

As far as my own films are concerned, I move the camera very little. As I believe in expression, what matters is the way the space is cut up, the precision of what happens within the magical space of the frame, where I refuse to allow the smallest clumsiness. I become furious if there is a wrong movement, or a bad patch of lighting.

My films don’t have what is called a final scene. The story never reaches its conclusion. Why? I think it depends on what I make of my characters. It’s hard to put it – but they’re a kind of electrical wire, they’re like lights that don’t change at all but show an unchanging feeling in the director from start to finish. They cannot evolve in any way; and that’s for a reason. I have no intention of moralising, yet I feel that a film is the more moral if it doesn’t offer the audience the solution found by the character whose story is told.

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Federico Fellini: Interviews (Conversations With Filmmakers Series), 2006
Making a Film, 2015
Fellini On Fellini, 1996

Federico Fellini Quotes Final Words

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