Let me start with a quote from Roger Ebert’s autobiography, Life Itself:
In my childhood the Church arched high over everything. I was awed by its ceremonies. Years later I agreed with Pauline Kael when she said that the three greatest American directors of the 1970s—Scorsese, Altman, and Coppola—had derived much of their artistic richness from having grown up in the pre-Vatican II era of Latin, incense, mortal sins, indulgences, dire sufferings in hell, Gregorian chant, and so on. Jews likewise had inspiring ceremonies. Protestants were victims of sensory deprivation.
I find it a mistake to limit this revelation (no pun intended) to directors who made their mark in the 1970s.
In the days of the Hollywood studio system, you had John Ford, Frank Capra, and Alfred Hitchcock—all raised as Catholics. Since that time, we’ve had John Sayles, Kevin Smith, and Michael Moore. Again, all of them were raised Catholic. I’m sure there are many others.
Not all of them remained religious Catholics (although some did), but that’s not the point. But there must be something about that religion (of which I know little), that turns out great filmmakers.