William Friedkin began by confiding: "I decided to become a filmmaker at the age of 21, after seeing Citizen Kane. I didn't go to film school. My school was the Nouvelle Vague and Alfred Hitchcock". He reminded his listeners that he had started his career in 1965 with a documentary film called The People vs. Paul Crump, about a man who was condemned to the electric chair. "I wanted to save his life.".
The director also referred to his formative experience working for a year alongside Harold Pinter, who, Friedkin acknowledged, had exercised a major influence on him. The dramaturge taught him how to shape stories, with the credo that "only the good ideas work."
On the topic of directing actors, William Friedkin confessed that he liked to make sure that they understood the story of the film for which he had engaged them the same way he did. He said that on set, he liked to give priority to the first shots, which are "more spontaneous and believable". This was the case in The Exorcist and French Connection, for which he "frequently told the actors to forget the dialogue and to act their character".