Book Review: Reading and Writing a Screenplay – Fiction, Documentary, and New Media

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Publisher: Routledge

Release Date: April 12, 2019

“If a screenplay tells a story, it must also let viewers picture and hear the film in its gestation. Screenplays are written versions of future movies, and the wording should allow viewers to have a sense of what that film could be, as they are reading it. The way a script is read is critical to its realization. How should it be read? By whom? And with what criteria in mind?” –Isabelle Raynauld (Introduction, Reading and Writing a Screenplay, 2019)

Routledge gives a fair description of the book:

“[Reading and Writing a Screenplay] explores the screenplay and the screenwriting process by approaching the film script in three different ways: how it is written, how it is read and how it can be rewritten. Combining contemporary screenwriting practices with historical and academic context, Isabelle Raynauld provides key analytical tools and reading strategies for conceptualizing and scripting projects based on the impact different writing styles can have on readers, with various examples ranging from early cinema to new media and new platforms throughout.” –Routledge

Raynauld often places more emphasis on the reading of screenplays than the act of writing them. It’s an interesting enough dissection of the form, but it may not offer novice writers much in the way of guidance or inspiration. Frankly, it doesn’t add as much to the conversation as one might have hoped.

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Book Review: Steven Spielberg Interviews

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Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Release Date: August 15, 2019

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Steven Spielberg began as an auteur wunderkind filmmaker, but developed into a successful Hollywood mogul. The interviews in this revised edition of Steven Spielberg Interviews—one in a series of texts from the ‘University Press of Mississippi’ entitled the Conversations with Filmmakers Series—covers much of his career as a filmmaker up to this point. The final interview in this collection was given during the publicity for Ready Player One while one of the earliest was given during a press tour for Sugarland Express.

The original edition (which was published in 2000) included 18 interviews that covered the span of his career up to that particular point in time. This revised edition includes 11 of those 18 interviews, omits 7 of them, and adds 9 new interviews so that the entirety of his career is covered. One wonders why they didn’t simply publish a second volume that covers the span of time between 2000 and 2019, but those who haven’t already invested in that earlier edition will certainly be happy that they didn’t (since they will not have to buy both volumes). We can’t completely agree with all of the editorial choices that were made while curating this new edition. An example would be their decision to omit an interview that covers The Color Purple while keeping the interview for Always. Whatever criticisms one might have about The Color Purple, the film was inarguably a milestone in Spielberg’s career. It was certainly more important and more successful than Always! However, few will lament the interview entitled “1941: Bombs Away” (even if an interview about Spielberg’s first failure has value).

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This is the cover used for the original edition that was published in 2000.

This list of the interviews contained in both editions may help those considering an upgrade. All interviews that are not in bold are unique to that particular edition.

List of Interviews – Original 2000 Edition:

At Sea with Steven Spielberg

Filming Sugarland Express: An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Primal Scream: An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Close Encounters with Steven Spielberg

The Mind Behind Close Encounters of the Third Kind

1941: Bombs Away

Steven Spielberg and His Adventures on Earth

A Conversation with Steven Spielberg

Spielberg Films The Color Purple

Spielberg at 40: The Man and the Child

Always: An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Hook

Steven’s Choice

Seriously Spielberg

A “World” Apart

Five Star General

Crossroads: Steven Spielberg

Steven the Good

List of Interviews – Revised 2019 Edition:

At Sea with Steven Spielberg

Filming Sugarland Express: An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Primal Scream: An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Close Encounters with Steven Spielberg

The Mind Behind Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg and His Adventures on Earth

Always: An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Steven’s Choice

Seriously Spielberg

A “World” Apart

Five Star General

An Interview with Steven Spielberg

Spiegel Interview with Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg

A Telephone Call with Spielberg

Spiegel Interview with Steven Spielberg

Q&A: Steven Spielberg

Interview: Steven Spielberg Tempts the Fates with His Animated Tintin

Steven Spielberg Interview for Lincoln

Steven Spielberg on the Cold War and Other Hollywood Front Lines

Ready Player One’s Steven Spielberg and Ernest Cline on Pooling Their Nostalgia to Tell a New Story

One may question their decision to omit interviews from their original volume since the new edition is only 206 pages (if one doesn’t count the preface or the index). 7 extra interviews wouldn’t have made the book too long. In the end, this new edition is a valuable upgrade and is recommended for Spielberg fans. Those who do not already own the earlier text should opt for this version, and those who already have that text on their shelves may wish to upgrade. Just remember to hold on to that earlier edition for the interviews that haven’t been carried over.

Book Review: The Making of ‘Alien’

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Publisher: Titan Books

Release Date: July 23. 2019

Titan Books is marketing the book as “the definitive work on this masterpiece of popular cinema,” but it is difficult not to become skeptical about these so-called “making of” coffee table books. They are too often anemic in terms of actual information, and the often gorgeous production photography tends to feel like padding. This isn’t at all the case here as J.W. Rinzler’s text is surprisingly comprehensive. It covers each stage of the filmmaking process in rich detail, and the sometimes rare production photography is icing on a very enjoyable cake. It’s an essential book for fans of the film (although they are certain to already know at least some of the information presented here).

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Book Review: Selling the Movie – The Art of the Film Poster

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Publisher: University of Texas Press

Release Date: October 2018

“As long as there have been movies, there have been posters selling films to audiences. Posters came into existence just decades before the inception of film, and as movies became a universal medium of entertainment, posters likewise became a ubiquitous form of advertising. At first, movie posters suggested a film’s theme, from adventure and romance to thrills and spine-tingling horror. Then, with the ascendancy of the film star, posters began to sell icons and lifestyles, nowhere more so than in Hollywood. But every country producing films used posters to sell their product.” -Ian Haydn Smith (Selling the Movie: The Art of the Film Poster, 2018)

The subject of the history and art of the film poster needs more study, so Ian Haydn Smith’s book on the subject is quite welcome. It may best be described as a fully illustrated coffee table book that covers both the history of the cinema and the evolution of poster art in general terms. Certain artists are given a more detailed study than others, but the book casts such a wide net that the text is only able to touch the surface of its subject. Luckily, it has so many beautiful posters throughout the book that it is quite difficult to be bothered by this particular weakness. This isn’t to imply that the book is lacking in information as it covers quite a bit of territory in general terms:

Selling the Movie: The Art of the Film Poster charts the history of the movie poster from both a creative and a commercial perspective. It includes sections focusing on poster artists, the development of styles, the influence of politics and ideology, and how commerce played a role in the film poster’s development. The book is richly illustrated with poster art from many countries and all eras of filmmaking.

From creating the brand of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp and marketing the elusive mystique of Greta Garbo, to the history of the blockbuster, the changing nature of graphic design by the decade, and the role of the poster in the digital age, Selling the Movie is an entertaining and enthralling journey through cinema, art, and the business of attracting audiences to the box office.” –University of Texas Press (Marketing Information)

If the subject is of any interest at all to those reading this, we can happily recommend adding it to your collection. It’s a beautifully designed book that should really appeal to most cinephiles.

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Book Review: Rocketman – Inside the World of the Film

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Publisher: Carlton Books

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Elton John bestows his personal blessings upon this book by providing this book with a forward, but one feels that Rocketman: Inside the World of the Film may have limited appeal for casual fans of the film. Much like their earlier book about Bohemian Rhapsody, Carlton’s beautifully illustrated book about Rocketman is short on actual information. There are plenty of textual quotes and blurbs about the film’s production, but they aren’t terribly revelatory. It seems as if it has all been chosen from the film’s press book (and it probably was taken from the same promotional interviews). However, while Bohemian Rhapsody: The Inside Story claimed to be an all-access glimpse at the production of that film only to disappoint fans who were expecting this to be the case, Rocketman: Inside the World of the Film makes no such claim. In fact, the marketing materials describe the book quite admirably. It merely claims that this book “contains a wealth of amazing photographs from throughout the development and shooting of the movie as well as quotes and interviews from the cast and crew.” However, they may be stretching a point by claiming that it provides “a fascinating insight into how the film was made.” The production photographs are the meat and potatoes of this book. It’s a book for the die-hard fans of the film. It may also become a collectable as one doubts that this book tie-in will see many future printings, but those hoping for a comprehensive “making of” text are likely to be disappointed.

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Book Interview: Hitchcock and the Censors

Alfred Hitchcock Master

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Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky

Release Date: June 14, 2019

A Conversation with John Billheimer

John Billheimer has written a book that seems long overdue. In Hitchcock and the Censors, he “traces the forces that led to the Production Code and describes Hitchcock’s interactions with code officials on a film-by-film basis as he fought to protect his creations, bargaining with code reviewers, and sidestepping censorship to produce a lifetime of memorable films. By examining Hitchcock’s priorities in dealing with the censors, this work highlights the director’s theories of suspense as well as his magician-like touch when negotiating with code officials.”

Billheimer has graciously agreed to discuss both his book and Alfred Hitchcock’s battle with censorship in this exclusive interview.

Joseph Breen Joseph Breen headed the Production Code Administration until his failing health forced him to step down in 1954.

AHM: Would you tell us about your new book? How…

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Book Interview: Hitchcock and Humor

Alfred Hitchcock Master

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Publisher: McFarland

Release Date: April 23, 2019

A Conversation with Wes D. Gehring

An analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s methodical use of comedy in his films is past due, and Hitchcock and Humor: Modes of Comedy in Twelve Defining Films helps to fill this void. The book examines what should be obvious: Hitchcock systematically incorporated assorted types of comedy—black humor, farce/screwball comedy, and romantic comedy—in his films to entertain his audience.

Alfred Hitchcock Master is honored to have had the opportunity to interview Wes Gehring about his work on the book, and we are proud to present it here for your reading enjoyment.

Alfred Hitchock Being A Big Goof (18)

AHM: Could you describe Hitchcock and Humor for our readers? What makes this book stand out amongst the others in your opinion?

WG: As the back cover blurb suggests, in preparing for TCM’s 2017 online Hitchcock class, as one of the resident scholars, I was shocked…

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