Categories
Cinematography Directing Filmmakers

Book Review: Shoot Like Tarantino

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Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions

Release Date: Aug 01, 2015

Christopher Kenworthy’s Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling is a strange animal. It is a book written and arranged for burgeoning filmmakers in an effort to help them learn from Tarantino’s camera techniques. Kenworthy does an admirable job at explaining his intentions in the book’s introduction, and they bear repeating here:

“…This book shows you why the best moments in [Tarantino’s] films work so well, and how you can take that knowledge to make your own films work more effectively.

You don’t want to copy Tarantino. Hundreds of people copy Tarantino without understanding what it is that makes him brilliant and the result is usually a lot of swearing and pointless violence. When people copy Tarantino badly, it makes for an embarrassing mess.

You want to be an exciting and original filmmaker, but when you learn the shots, shortcuts, and creative setups that Tarantino has mastered, you will become a better filmmaker. An understanding of how he works should give you more opportunities to be creative with the camera… The films explored in this book show that no matter how good your actors or your script, you need to explore the magic of the camera to make your story work on the big screen.

The scenes chosen for this book range from unforgettable masterpieces to more functional moments, to show that a good storyteller must make the most of the shot, whether it’s the best scene or one of the minor plot points…

…By the time you have reached the end of the book you should have a good grasp of how Tarantino sees a scene, how carefully he sets it up, and how he films creatively. You’ll be able to shoot your own scenes with a better understanding of the visual techniques that make a scene come to life.” -Christopher Kenworthy (Introduction, Shoot Like Tarantino, 2015)

It is good that Kenworthy makes it a point to discourage the reader from merely using the information in the book in an effort to copy the director’s methodology. The book is meant to illuminate the visual language of the cinema and how Quentin Tarantino is able to filter this language through his own voice. It is the language that the reader is intended to learn. The voice that this language is filtered through should absolutely be their own. It is a similar concept to how great painters once learned their craft by painting the works of the great masters that proceeded them. Only after learning their craft could they filter this through their own unique subjective voice to create art. Luckily, for anyone with innate talent, their material will automatically be filtered through their own unique perspective without any pretentious effort on their part—but they will need to learn and understand the language, and this book is an extremely fun way to do this (even if it doesn’t cover the entirety of this language).

For those learning film direction, this book is best used as a supplement to more in-depth texts. This point should absolutely be stressed, but there is another audience for this book. Fans of Quentin Tarantino may very well find that the book is a great resource when it comes to gaining an understanding into this unusual director’s working methods. The book was originally released in August 2015—a few months before Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight was released into theaters, so this film isn’t covered at all in the book’s pages. Death Proof is also noticeably absent—although, this is likely due to the fact that the film is considered to be his weakest effort. What’s more, none of the films discussed are covered in their entirety as such an approach would require several volumes!

Kenworthy merely takes a few scenes from Tarantino’s canon in order to illustrate various intentions or tasks (each of which is given its own chapter and covers a single scene or sequence): “Raising Tension” (Inglorious Basterds), “Subtle Conflict” (Jackie Brown), “Anticipation” (Inglorious Basterds), “Unbearable Tension” (Inglorious Basterds), “Minimal Cuts” (Django Unchained), “Impending Violence” (Django Unchained), “Deliberate Anti-climax” (Kill Bill, Vol. 1), “Breaking Normality (Pulp Fiction), “Controlling Space” (Pulp Fiction), “Group Conversation” (Kill Bill, Vol. 2), and “Losing Control” (Reservoir Dogs). Those who have read his three volume Master Shots series will have a general idea of the basic structure and presentation of the book.

Obviously, certain readers might disagree with some of Kenworthy’s comments as to the intentions and effects of Tarantino’s shooting choices, but this doesn’t ultimately matter. The important thing is that it forces the reader consider these shots and how they are used in Tarantino’s work. Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling is well worth reading for both Tarantino fans and anyone attempting to learn the craft of filmmaking.

Categories
Low Budget Filmmaking

Book Review: The Filmmaker’s Handbook – A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age

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Publisher: Plume Publishing

 Release Date: November 27, 2012

 Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus have probably written the most comprehensive book about film production for anyone that is interested in independent filmmaking. Nearly every element of production is covered in exhaustive detail, but the book is written so that it is easily understood. The only real criticism that one might have about the text is that there is so much detail, that the timid may find that they become overwhelmed. However, anyone that makes it to the end of this 790 page text will have gained a level of knowledge that can only boost their confidence, and increase their creative potential. Admittedly, this book tends to lean towards the technical aspects of the filmmaking craft. However, knowledge is power. It opens one’s mind to the creative possibilities so that they can move forward with confidence. This alone is worth the price of the book.

 Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Low Budget Filmmaking Producing

Book Review: Independent Film Producing

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Publisher: Allworth Press

Release Date: October 1, 2013

“It is my hope that this book has contributed to [your] basic understanding by providing a framework for the major issues encountered in producing a low-budget feature film – at the least it should enable you to ask the right questions of attorneys and producers and anyone else you will need…” –Paul Battista (Epilogue)

Paul Battista’s “Independent Film Producing: How to Produce a Low-Budget Feature Film” is very similar to Andrew Stevens’ “Foolproof Filmmaking: Make a Movie That Makes a Profit.” There are differences. Battista tends to concentrate more on the legal issues involved with making a film on a low budget, and less on creating a film project that meets the needs of the current market. There are also fewer anecdotal examples in the book. Battista relays valuable information to the reader, but one wonders if the information is practical for most low budget filmmakers. Future filmmakers should read this one only if they aren’t easily discouraged.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Directing

Book Review: The Innocence of the Eye: A Filmmaker’s Guide

The Innocence of the Eye

Publisher: Silman-James Press

Release Date: October 1, 2002

Ed Spiegel’s The Innocence of the Eye: A Filmmaker’s Guide is a rather lucid study of film language, and an affectionate memorial of Slavo Vorkapich (who was once the head of the film department at USC). Vorkapich had coined the phrase, “the innocence of the eye” to describe film’s unique qualities. He had influenced a number of visual artists, including Saul Bass (who is unfortunately referred to as “Sol Bass” in the book).

Spiegel’s main objective is to relay a basic understanding of film’s visual language (and how one should exploit this language). The book is not unlike other books on film language. While the principals discussed in the text are important, other books seem to relay the same information (and often in more memorable ways).

Review by: Devon Powell