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Directors: Life Behind the Camera
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
DIRECTORS:LIFE BEHIND THE CAMERA is not really a movie, nor is it a documentary.

It is, in fact, a series of short clips from interviews conducted by, I presume, the American Film Institute with thirty-three major motion picture directors. They include Robert Altman, Tim Burton, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Clint Eastwood, Nora Ephron, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone and many others. These interviews are enhanced with occasional film clips and on-camera remarks from various actors and other folk with whom these directors have worked (e.g. Kevin Bacon, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Leslie Nielsen, Roy Scheider, etc.)

The two-disc set is totally interactive. The viewer chooses a topic, such as "Everyone Has to Start Somewhere," or "The Art of Writing and Choosing Scripts," or "The Care and Feeding of Actors," or "Will the Industry Survive," then he can either decided to listen to all of the responses to that subject, or just select the directors that interest him.

Although most of the answers are interesting and informative, many are only a sentence of two long and don't really add much to the discussion. I think this package would have benefited greatly from the services of an experienced editor and a narrator, both of whom could have woven this worthy material into a much more involving presentation.

© Michael B. Druxman
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2011
I found this DVD very disappointing. It had a lot of potential - it's an interactive DVD with various categories, such as scripts, working with actors, working with cinematographers, etc. And in each section, you can select a director to hear their thoughts on the topic. The problem is, most of the 'interviews' are about two to three sentences long! It is clearly a short excerpt from a longer interview, and a lot of the time it feels like they're cutting them off mid-sentence.

Here is what Martin Scorsese has to say about working with actors: "They're your whole movie; their faces, you know, how they just literally ignite the frame, their emotion, you can't fake it, you can't paint it, you have to deal with the humanity of it, and the humanity of the actor". And that's it. I can't believe that's all he has to say on the subject. James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, they all say about two or three sentences and that's it. And it doesn't feel like a complete answer or thought, it feels like a tiny excerpt from a much larger and more interesting discussion.

This DVD is the definition of superficial. It claims to have been created from over 300 hours worth of interviews... what a wasted opportunity.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This mammoth project co-sponsored by the American Film Institute is both fascinating and frustrating. With about 3.5 hours of footage over two discs, this is neither a film or a documentary per se. It is a compilation of interviews from 33 of the top directors (and I do mean top!) as they discuss a variety of topics from how they got their start, to writing and choosing scripts, to working with actors, to cinematographers, to personal films of import to them, to their legacies, and to the film industry in general. Some directors are more verbose than others offering real insight, some speak in platitudes. Some segments are genuinely involving, some are two sentence sound bites. While I do think this is a vital piece of film, it is maddening in its construction. The interactive menu allows you to choose a topic and than choose one of the 33 directors to respond to that topic. It's too much to watch everything straight through, but a lot of work to pick and choose. I loved it and hated it--it was like treasure hunt. KGHarris, 10/11.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
For anyone interested in motion pictures of the last half of the 20th century this is a must-have DVD! First Run Features previously released similar DVDs about cinematographers and script writers. Now we get to the real backbone of classic movies - the Director!

Produced in conjunction with the American Film Institute this DVD includes four hours of interviews culled from over 300 hours recorded in 2006 with 33 well known Directors. (only Francis Ford Coppola - and his daughter, Sofia- seem to be missing). Sure, we've love to see all 300 hours, but that would probably be cost prohibitive - and onlt the true scholar would have time to watch them.)

The interviews are grouped by "subject" - which the DVD's Director thinks of as "answers to questions". The background question is titled "Everyone has to start somewhere", Choosing actors for roles is titled "The Care and Feeding of Actors", and so on. There are seven categories in total. Not all of the 33 Directors are featured in each segment but they all appear in the background one and "One of Your Most Compelling Films", which is at the hear of the DVD and the longest segment. If that section alone was available, it would be a must own!

The Directors range from veterans like William Friedkin (The French Connection), Robert Altman (MASH), and Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets) to the new crop of "hot Directors" such as Tim Burton, Spike Lee and Bryan Singer. James Cameron is here too but, since the interviews are pre-2006, there is no mention of Avatar and his other recent projects. Sadly quite a few of the older Directors are now deceased so its great that their comments are preserved. Nearly all are excellent conversationalists and their stories will keep you interested. Personally I found only Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat) to be off-putting. But that is just my opinion.

There are also interviews with actors that appeared in many of the films or are identified with the Director. Leo DiCaprio for Scorsese (sadly no DiNiro here), Robert Englund for Wes Craven and Dennis Hopper for David Lynch, for example.

There are also clips from the Directors' films, though in many cases the film is not identified, unless its an obscure one. I would have wished that ALL the clips were identified on the screen as there is a new generation of filmgoers that may not recognize them.

The menus are made to be somewhat "interactive". Under each question you can choose a particular Director or "Play all" for that section. Most viewers will - and should - use the "play all" hyperlink the first time through. But if they want to go back, the link "by Director" is useful.

I really found only one negative to the indexing. When you start each disc it requires you to watch a two-minute "medley" of quotes from the Director before you get to the Main Menu. The only way to avoid this is to press the "speed" button on your remote. I'm not sure why this was made mandatory, but it is annoying at best.

The importance of these interviews and the breadth of Directors chosen more than offset the defect I noted above so this gets five stars from me and I highly recommend it!

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2012
Verified Purchase
The DVD isn't what is says it is. There is no real insight into what these directors do behind camera. No tips or tricks. Just short, uncomfortable clips that leave you going "what?"
Could have been better.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2013
Verified Purchase
A real disappointment! Dozens of very short statements that say absolutely nothing. Should have concentrated on one or two directors rather than 33.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2012
This series of interviews plays like several short stories, told by the master storytellers of the last 30 years. It's fascinating, and riveting. Every one of these directors is a heavy hitter, who have all made movies that became iconic. To hear them talk about their humble beginnings, and what drives them, is a lesson in accomplishment. When they speak of "faking it till they made it," it illustrates how we all "have to start somewhere."
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2014
This is an unbelievably poor excuse for a documentary. You spend more time looking at your remote instead of the content in order to move from one shallow short clip to another. If you know someone with ADHD get this for them. It was obviously edited by someone with the disorder.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2013
Verified Purchase
Great to hear about the inner workings of a movie. we really enjoyed watching this dvd. If you are a movie lover, this is for you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Verified Purchase
This is a very nice look behind what goes on in movie making with several great directors giving their input.
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