Categories
Directing Low Budget Filmmaking

Book Review: Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics (5th Edition)

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: January 24, 2013

Michael Rabiger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier offer young filmmakers one of the most comprehensive texts available on film directing. In fact, the book is designed for the classroom and offers all of the information that one might learn in film school (at a much lower price). Those who read and learn the information provided within these pages are bound to develop a foundational knowledge on the subject in which they can securely hang more focused and specialized information.

What’s more, the information earned here should be digested by not only those looking for a career in Hollywood but should also greatly improve the efforts of any low budget independent producers. Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics (5th Edition) earns an overwhelmingly enthusiastic recommendation.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Low Budget Filmmaking Producing

Book Review: Single-Camera Video Production (Sixth Edition)

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: June 28, 2014

Robert B. Musburger and Michael R. Ogden have written an excellent introductory textbook on single camera video production that is both helpful and easy to understand. Their text provides a general guide for future filmmakers and students that will serve as a foundation that they can build upon. The technology is discussed in an extremely in-depth manner, but their text is general enough so that the reader can apply their knowledge to the various cameras, microphones, and other technologies on the market. Each phase of production is covered (Pre-production, Production, and Post-Production) in some detail. Anyone planning a digital production in the near future should find the book helpful, and teachers should find the text to be a valuable introductory guide to the subject.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Production Design

Book Review: Film Craft: Production Design

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: October 1, 2012

The FilmCraft book series focuses on specific disciplines within the filmmaking profession using interviews from noteworthy professionals in the field. This volume by Fionnuala Halligan features interviews with sixteen production designers, and profiles of five other production designers.

The production designers interviewed in this volume are:

Ken Adam

Jim Bissell

Rick Carter

William Chang Suk-ping

Stuart Craig

Nathan Crowley

Dante Ferretti

Jack Fisk

Antxón Gómez

Sarah Greenwood

Grant Major

Alex McDowell

John Myhre

Eve Stewart

Yohei Taneda

Dean Tavoularis

The production designers profiled are:

John Box

Cedric Gibbons

William Cameron Menzies

Ferdinando Scarfiotti

Richard Sylbert

There may be a number of people that question the choice of production designers interviewed in this volume, but it would be nearly impossible to include every relevant artist currently working in this field. The individuals chosen for this volume come from very diverse backgrounds. This makes each of the interviews unique and valuable. Any reservations that one initially has are likely to fade once they start reading the book.

There is a wealth of conflicting information related to the readers. The idea that holds the volume together is that each of the artists has a unique approach to their job that set them apart from others working in the field. The book is especially valuable due to the fact that many people do not understand what a production designer actually does.

The text is illustrated with wonderful photos and concept sketches from recognizable films. This makes the book a visual treat. FilmCraft: Production Design will be a treasured addition to the libraries of anyone who loves the cinema, and a wonderful resource of inspiration to future filmmakers.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Producing

Book Review: Film Craft: Producing

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: January 3, 2013

The FilmCraft book series focuses on specific disciplines within the filmmaking profession using interviews from noteworthy professionals in the field. This volume by Geoffrey Macnab and Sharon Swart features interviews with fifteen producers, and profiles of five other producers.

The producers interviewed in this volume are:

Peter Aalbaek Jensen

Tim Bevan

Jan Chapman

Lorenzo di Bonaventura

Ted Hope

Martin Karmitz

Kees Kasander

Jon Kilik

Bill Kong

Jon Landau

Andrew Macdonald

Edward R. Pressman

Lauren Shuler Donner

Jeremy Thomas

Ron Yerxa & Albert Berger

The producers profiled are:

Michael Balcon

David O. Selznick

Dino De Laurentiis

Erich Pommer

Alexander Korda

There may be a number of people that question the choice of producers interviewed in this volume, but it would be nearly impossible to include every relevant producer currently working in this field. The producers chosen come from very diverse backgrounds, making the individual interviews unique and valuable. Any reservations that one has are likely to fade once they start reading the book.

There is a wealth of conflicting information related to the readers. This book differs slightly from other books in the series due to the business end of filmmaking. The “producer” is one of the most misunderstood positions in the film industry. Different producers have a different level of creative control. Some might function differently than others. This makes this volume all the more valuable.

The featured producers talk passionately about their craft, and engage the reader immediately. The text is illustrated with wonderful photos from films that make the book a visual treat. I would even say that FilmCraft: Producing is truly addictive! It will be a treasured addition to the libraries of anyone who loves the cinema, and a wonderful resource of inspiration to future filmmakers.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Screenwriting

Book Review: Alternative Screenwriting: Beyond the Hollywood Formula

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: March 13, 2013

“We outline conventions and then proceed to suggest practical ways to undermine or alter those conventions. We use specific examples to illustrate the points we’re trying to make. Our ultimate goal is to help you develop better screenplays. To do this, we talk about form, content, character, and language, while pressing you to develop alternative narrative strategies that prompt you to write the best screenplay you can write… We want you to look beyond the surface of scriptwriting, beyond form. You’ll be surprised what you find.” –Ken Dancyger & Jeff Rush (excerpt from Chapter 1: Beyond Form)

This 5th edition of “Alternative Scriptwriting: Beyond the Hollywood Formula by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush may be the best book on screenwriting that I have ever read. While most screenwriting manuals focus on the traditional three-act structure, this book goes far beyond structure and focuses on many other aspects of the scriptwriting form. The text also challenges the belief that the 3-act restorative structure is the only effective writing method. Other alternatives are presented to the reader, and these alternatives are elaborated upon in vivid detail. We learn what is gained and lost by challenging the traditional form. This book is recommended as a chaser for manuals by Syd Field and Robert McKee. It might make these more traditional texts easier to swallow.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Screenwriting

Book Review: FilmCraft: Screenwriting

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: April 11, 2013

The FilmCraft book series focuses on specific disciplines within the filmmaking profession using interviews from noteworthy professionals in the field. This volume by Tim Grierson features interviews with 15 screenwriters, and profiles of 5 other important screenwriters.

The screenwriters interviewed in this volume are:

Hossein Amini
Guillermo Arriaga
John August
Mark Bomback
Jean-Claude Carrière
Lee Chang-dong
Stephen Gaghan
Christopher Hampton
David Hare
Anders Thomas Jensen
Billy Ray
Whit Stillman
Robin Swicord
Caroline Thompson
David Webb Peoples

The screenwriters profiled are:

Woody Allen
Ingmar Bergman
Paddy Chayefsky
Ben Hecht
Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond

There will certainly be those that question Tim Grierson’s choice of screenwriters, but it would be nearly impossible to include every relevant writer in a single volume. The writers were chosen come from very diverse backgrounds, and this makes the individual interviews unique and valuable. Any reservations that one has about these particular choices are likely to fade once they start reading the book.

Those looking for a manual about script structure or a manual on “how to write a screenplay” will likely be disappointed with the text. The book is meant to be a resource of inspiration. There is a wealth of conflicting information (and advice) related to the readers. The idea that holds the volume together is that there are as many approaches to writing a screenplay as there are screenwriters. The writers interviewed talk passionately about their craft, and engage the reader immediately. The text is illustrated with wonderful photos, set drawings, and storyboards that make the book a visual treat. FilmCraft: Screenwriting is another addictive volume in the FilmCraft series. It will be a treasured addition to the libraries of anyone who loves the cinema, and a wonderful resource to future screenwriters.

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Cinematography Directing

Book Review: The Filmmaker’s Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition

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Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: September 1, 2010

“I always wanted to have a guide that specialized in the specific requirements that are inherent to the composition of shots intended for telling stories with moving images, also known as cinematic composition. The reason for the differentiation is simple: the composition of shots for movies has developed its own set of conventions, sometimes appropriating concepts from other art forms (like painting or still photography), but also creating its own aesthetic principles and visual language because of its unique characteristics (the fixed size of the frame, the movement of the subject and/or camera, the technology used to capture images, the way images are shown in conjunction with other images, etc.).

 As you can probably guess, I never found such a guide, so I decided to write The Filmmaker’s Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition to fill the gap in this critical area of filmmaking. This book combines, for the first time, a specialized, focused guide to the most common and basic shots of the film vocabulary, from the extreme close up to the extreme long shot…” -Gustavo Mercado

Gustavo Mercado’s book is an essential read for anyone wanting to work in the film industry. This is especially true if they plan to direct a film, or work as a cinematographer. The book opens with general information about composition. This overview covers such topics as aspect ratios, frame axes, the rule of thirds, balanced and unbalanced compositions, and image systems. The information learned in the opening pages is essential for the reader to get the most out of the following chapters.

These chapters cover the various different shots that one finds in films (Close Up, Medium Shot, Long Shot, Dolly Shot, Zoom Shot, and etcetera). Each chapter is exactly six pages in length. The first page contains a screenshot that provides a visual example of the kind of shot the chapter will discuss, and second page gives an overview of this particular type of shot. The next two pages provide another example of this kind of shot, along with text to explain why the shot works. The fifth page does into the technical considerations that one must understand before trying to achieve such a shot. Finally, the sixth page provides a screenshot (or a series of screenshots) from yet another film. The text included on this page discusses how one might subvert the rules in order to achieve unique results with this kind of shot (or how to break the rules).

This is an excellent introduction to cinematic composition. It is certainly the best resource on this particular topic that I have read. Mercado wisely uses screenshots to illustrate his text in a way that the reader can quickly grasp the material. Film schools should use this book in their curriculum (if they don’t already).

Review by: Devon Powell

Categories
Directing

Book Review: Film Craft: Directing

9780240818580

Publisher: Focal Press

Release Date: June 8, 2012

The FilmCraft book series focuses on specific disciplines within the film-making profession using interviews from noteworthy professionals in the field. This volume by Mike Goodridge features interviews with 16 directors, and profiles of 5 other directors.

The directors interviewed in this volume are:

Pedro Almodóvar
Olivier Assayas
Susanne Bier
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Guillermo del Torro
Clint Eastwood
Stephen Frears
Terry Gilliam
Amos Gitai
Paul Greengrass
Michael Heneke
Park Chan-wook
István Szabó
Peter Weir
Zhang Yimou

The directors profiled are:

Ingmar Bergman
John Ford
Jean-Luc Godard
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kurosawa

There will certainly be those that question Mike Goodridge’s choice of directors, but it would be nearly impossible to include every relevant director in a single volume. The directors chosen come from very diverse backgrounds, making the individual interviews unique and valuable. Any reservations that one has are likely to fade once they start reading the book.

There is a wealth of conflicting information (and advice) related to the readers. The idea that holds the volume together is that there are as many approaches to directing a film as there are film directors. The one constant piece of advice is the importance of trusting and being faithful to one’s individual vision.

The featured directors talk passionately about their craft, and engage the reader immediately. The text is illustrated with wonderful photos, set drawings, and storyboards that make the book a visual treat. FilmCraft: Directing is truly addictive! It will be a treasured addition to the libraries of anyone who loves the cinema, and a wonderful inspiration for future filmmakers.

Review by: Devon Powell