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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars rigid, but important
After reading screenplay books for years -- the likes of Syd Field, McKee, Howard, Hunter, etc. -- Mamet is a refreshing change. I realized how the other books, for all intents and purposes, were analyses of scripts, avoiding or skirting the issues of method and process. In other words, it's not hard to look at a huge box office and critically-acclaimed hit...
Published on April 4, 2000 by Jonathan LeMond

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66 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "It's a good thing the people in Hollywood have no souls..."
"...so they don't have to suffer through the lives they lead."
Mamet is always Mamet. Even when talking about directing-- after having directed only two films, HOUSE OF GAMES and THINGS CHANGE. Never heard of 'em, you say? Yes, this book is taken from a series of lectures he gave at Columbia film school in 1990. Since then, Mamet has directed Steve...
Published on August 19, 2003 by J. Ott


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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars rigid, but important, April 4, 2000
By 
Jonathan LeMond (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
After reading screenplay books for years -- the likes of Syd Field, McKee, Howard, Hunter, etc. -- Mamet is a refreshing change. I realized how the other books, for all intents and purposes, were analyses of scripts, avoiding or skirting the issues of method and process. In other words, it's not hard to look at a huge box office and critically-acclaimed hit (Chinatown being the consensus favorite) and explain what makes it so good. We all know it's good. We've seen the movie. We've read the script. We're all in awe. And we all know the elements. But the actual process of writing, of formulating a story visually, of actually creating instead of merely analyzing, seems to be an afterthough to these folks. I mean, in some way, you've got to ask yourself why these fellas -- McKee, Field, and others -- have never actually written a thing! Mamet espouses a simplicity to the process of storytelling in film, beat by beat. It's a bit repetitive and sterile, as is the man himself. I don't agree with him on everything, and neither will you. He contradicts himself all the time and seems to take delight in his own presence, but he is a great craftsman, and anyone looking to tell stories visually would be mistaken to think this book unimportant or trivial. A must read for aspiring filmmakers, especially those who write.
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66 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "It's a good thing the people in Hollywood have no souls...", August 19, 2003
By 
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
"...so they don't have to suffer through the lives they lead."
Mamet is always Mamet. Even when talking about directing-- after having directed only two films, HOUSE OF GAMES and THINGS CHANGE. Never heard of 'em, you say? Yes, this book is taken from a series of lectures he gave at Columbia film school in 1990. Since then, Mamet has directed Steve Martin not to be funny (THE SPANISH PRISONER) and Gene Hackman not to be cool (HEIST) as well as other actors not to "inflect."
Most people, like me, love Mamet's writing but find his directing stilted and wooden. This book explains why. Written half as rant and half as Socratic dialogue, Mamet lays out his film theory with second-rate Sergei Eisenstein (I think he means Kuleshov) and third-rate Bruno Bettelheim (who wrote about fairy tales, not film). The result is a mixed bag, not too informative about directing, but always entertaining.
If you want to know why telling a story on film is like telling a dirty joke, this is your book. If you'd like to read how to construct a movie about a farmer who has to sell a pig, or a student who wants to "get a retraction," this is your book. If you want to know why "[t]he less the hero is described to us, the better off we are," this is your book. It's slim, it reads fast, and it's easier to understand than THE THREE USES FOR A KNIFE. If you want a book about directing by a real director, I recommend Sidney Lumet's MAKING MOVIES.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book. It's worth it., January 6, 2000
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
I have found this book to be of great use. I have highlighted much of the text and have been assimilating it since it came out in hardcover. Technology is evolving toward consumer movie making and this book can serve as a point of departure for anyone with a video camera and a desire to tell stories but no pressing desire to become a part of "the industry". His technique is admittedly rigid but is simple to understand. When one honestly and patiently applies the technique in order to conceive a story outline, the results--since the unconscious is employed instead of the ego--can be quite enchanting. This book aims toward a more poetic cinema. I highly recommend it.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Short and Pleasing Account by Famed Screenwriter, November 22, 2000
By 
rareoopdvds (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
Of course the question begs, why is David Mamet teaching us how to direct? In one instance, aside from the films he has directed, his expertise and notariety is in writing the script or even the play for the theater. On the other hand, when a good writer has control of his craft, it will be written well enough for any director who takes the script and turn out similar products (either to each other, or even to the script writers vision). Yet, Mamet discloses himself as a competent teacher and director. Its a short book, but there is some good practical information that is discussed, and with student dialogue Q&A to give a sort of "interactive understanding" of how to write and direct a film. On the other hand, Mamet is dogmatic about his approach to the craft and the student answers are all wrong unless answered, not only correct, but the way he wants you to answer them, that is, what he knows to be correct. The dilemma I personally have with all books about writing or directing is they are from a single perspective and allow very little intuition or personal style to interfere. This book is, for the most part, no exception when one has to meet Mamet's standards for what is right or wrong. Given the fact that it works for David, it does not mean it will work for everyone. The trick is to take it all with a grain of salt and skim it off the top. Take what appeals to you and what feels good and what can be applicable to your writing. Its a short book that is clear and concise which is based on lectures given at Columbia University. One of the better books on the subject, so if you feel you need a little more study before you write, I would reccomend this one (although not before Lajos Egris book Art of Dramatic Writing).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book, June 13, 2001
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This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
This book, like all the books of Mamet I have read, is very short. It taught me a lot about film making without the need to turn a whole lot of pages. I think there comes a time when even the most faithful Mamet reader says, "I've read enough of this guy's short little books, I'm moving on." I've reached that point myself. Nonetheless I'm glad I read this book and think anyone who is interested in theatre or film will consider its purchase a good investment of money and time. Per page it is expensive, but it is provocative and thoughtful, and never boring or trite.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock would have loved this book, August 22, 2001
By 
GreatAjax "greatajax" (Portland, ME United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
Those who think that modern orgies of self-indulgence by directors such as Tarantino and Guy Ritchie are masterpieces, might think again after reading this well written and concise primer on the craft of directing.
Mamet's argument is essentially that film is a visual montage of shots presented in logical order, that lead the viewer through the goal directed struggle of the protagonist. Every shot should further the immediate goal of the scene and the longer term goal of the movie. The director tells the story by juxtaposing uninflected shots one after the other.
His claim is that this juxtaposition of images is all but forgotten in today's cinema (Hitchcock would certainly agree). Modern directors instead rely on "making the shot interesting" regardless of its merit in the larger goal of the film. Or they rely on the actors to tell the story verbally. Or they follow the protagonist with the camera and ignore the benefits of montage to film plotting.
This book is a careful restatement of time-honored principles of filmmaking expounded by Eisenstein and adhered to by the greatest filmmakers, such as Lang and Hitchcock.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenged my views of film making, April 22, 2000
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
Amatuer film makers like myself tend to romanticise the creative process. Mamet in this books enphasises the importance of working through the progression of your plot logically. After a quick introduction to his key film making philosophies we are taken through the process beat by beat and shot by shot in an example from one of Mamet's lectures. It can be rather shocking how formulaic this aproach is but I think it is important to remember that this book is only dealing with the fine technical skill of visualising a script and that the creative mind still has a place in this art form.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting take from an interesting storyteller, December 14, 2004
By 
defgrem "defgrem" (Chattanooga, TN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
I read the other reviews here and I laugh.

The critics of Mamet claim they hate Hollywood movies, then tell us Mamet has no business writing this book because his movies aren't like all the other movies in Hollywood.

Mamet is one of the very very few true auteurs of American cinema. He has his own style and controls it from front to back. And now we have not only House of Games, but The Spanish Prisoner, Heist, and the best Mamet on film to date in Spartan.

In these films we find the theories he teaches here put to awesome use. Watch the films, read the book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes it's point succintly, May 31, 2006
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This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
I'll keep it short. For one, this book is really short. I read it on the way to and from work in the same day. Secondly, Mamet says more in these hundred or so pages than most textbooks on the same subject. All that matters is that every scene serves a purpose and drives the story forward. True, there are exceptions to this rule but hearing Mamet tell it like it is with very little fat around his words is a refreshing alternative to long winded suggestions. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in directing anything at all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insights!, November 12, 2013
This review is from: On Directing Film (Paperback)
While I can't say that I agreed with everything Mamet has to say about the role of a director or actor, I definitely appreciate his perspective on the subject. Reading this book is like being a fly on the wall in several of his lectures, and hearing his process of deconstructing a scene down to it's basic fundamental element - the shot - was very insightful. While I wouldn't consider this "the bible" on film directing, it's a quick read with some great insights that left me with several techniques I can apply in my own craft.
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On Directing Film
On Directing Film by David Mamet (Paperback - January 1, 1992)
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