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The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark Paperback – January 1, 2011

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The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark + The Best Film You've Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love + The Film Snob*s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Filmological Knowledge
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556528256
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556528255
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Thirty disparate directors discuss their transformative moviegoing experiences in this collection of revealing and entertaining interviews. The subjects cover the cinematic gamut, from mainstream veterans (Arthur Hiller, Bill Condon), art-house auteurs (Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan), and young turks (Jay Duplass, Richard Kelly) to cult figures (Kevin Smith, John Waters), documentarians (Alex Gibney, Steve James) and animators (Pete Docter, Chris Miller). Some watched their pivotal flick as children—John Landis saw the fantasy epic The 7th Voyage of Sinbad at age eight and said, “Hey, I could do that”—while others were already committed to the medium and viewed their picks in film school. Many of the choices show an obvious influence—for instance, John Woo, renowned for his hard-boiled Hong Kong crime epics, cited Rebel without a Cause and Mean Streets—but others are genuinely surprising, such as horror auteur George Romero’s picking Michael Powell’s opera adaptation The Tales of Hoffmann. The discussions provide insight not only into the chosen films—most have been viewed repeatedly by the enthusiastic interviewees—but also into the directors’ own works. Their heartfelt and passionate tributes are cinephilia made concrete. --Gordon Flagg


"If you love films and care about filmmakers, you'll have a hard time putting this book down..." -- Leonard Maltin, author of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide

"A great and provocative read...It's addictive." --Michael Phillips, film critic, Chicago Tribune

A bonanza for film buffs & a wonderful recommendation to all who love movies. Elder has done us all a favor: read this book --Lawrence Grobel, author, The Art of the Interview

"If you love films, and care about filmmakers, you’ll have a hard time putting this book down once you dive in."  —Leonard Maltin

"Elder has done us all a favor: Read this book, then go to your video store or to Netflix and see for yourself why these movies made the cut!"  —Lawrence Grobel, author, Al Pacino: in Conversation and The Art of the Interview

“A great and provocative read. The wonderful thing about being a critic or a lifelong movie lover is that life changes all the time in relation to the spells being cast on the screen. Elder’s book honors that alchemic relationship many times over. It’s addictive.” —Michael Phillips, film critic, Chicago Tribune

More About the Author

Robert K. Elder is an editor at Chicago's Sun-Times Media Local, an author and the founder of Odd Hours Media, LLC.

Pulitzer-winner Studs Terkel calls Elder "a journalist in the noblest tradition" in his introduction to Elder's book, "Last Words of the Executed." Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean called it, "a dangerous book." Last Words of the Executed received rave reviews in The Economist, Harper's Magazine, and The New York Review of Books, among many other outlets. The New Yorker called it, "...A harrowing portrait of our justice system."

Praise for his 2013 book, "The Best Film You've Never Seen" came from critic Roger Ebert, who said, "How necessary this book is! And how well judged and written! Some of the best films ever made, as Elder proves, are lamentably all but unknown."

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips called Elder's 2011 book "The Film That Changed My Life": "A great and provocative's addictive." Film critic Leonard Maltin also said, "You'll have a hard time putting this book down."

Elder's work has appeared in The New York Times,, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe,, The Oregonian and many other publications. For more than a decade, he served as a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune and from 2010 to 2012, he worked as a regional editor for the AOL Huffington Post Media Group's hyperlocal news initiative, In 2012, Elder served as the founding managing editor of DNAinfo Chicago before joining the Chicago Sun-Times in 2013. He was soon after promoted to editor-in-chief of Sun-Times Media Local, overseeing 36 newspapers in the Chicago area.

Elder is also the founder of Odd Hours Media LLC, which specializes in crowdsourcing, social media and TV production. In late 2012, Elder and his agents at William Morris Endeavor signed a development deal with Towers Productions in Chicago to produce television based on an original idea from his body of work. The company also launched the user-generated sites Tales of Romantic Dead Ends and Tales from the Beginning of Love. Both sites went viral very quickly, attracting more than 1 million hits within a few months. In late 2009, Sourcebooks signed the sites to a two-book deal.

Elder is also the editor of "John Woo: Interviews," the first authoritative chronicle of the filmmaker's life, legacy and career. He has also contributed to books on poker, comic books and film design. A former member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, Elder has taught film classes at Facets Film School.

He teaches journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School and Columbia College.

A Montana native and graduate of the University of Oregon, Elder lives and writes in Chicagoland.

He has been known to carry a digital voice recorder.

His official website is:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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This is mandatory reading for film buffs. In interviews ranging from roughly five to ten pages in length, Robert Elder asks a bunch of filmmakers what movies made them want to start directing their own films. What makes this book so spectacular is that the author-interviewer knows as much (or sometimes more) than the people he is interviewing. I have been obsessed with several of the films discussed at length in this book, and I was blown away by the little-known trivia this guy is able to dredge to the surface when he starts talking about the movies he and his interviewees love.

Highlights include Danny Boyle talking about how "Apocalypse Now" affected him (Boyle comes across as the most intelligent and film-literate in a very bright bunch of directors), as well as Richard Linklater's tale of how Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull" literally changed his life (Linklater was planning on becoming a writer until he saw the movie, at which point he decided he wanted to make movies).

Some of the directors may seem like odd, or even poor choices, when one first gets a look at the table of contents. My first thought on discovering Brian Herzlinger's entry on "E.T" was, do I really want to hear about how a guy who made a documentary about Drew Barrymore feels about E.T: The Extraterrestrial? But the surprising answer to that question was Yes, yes I do.

The "old Hollywood" crowd gets its say, alongside the younger auteurs, with solid interviews featuring John Landis talking up "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" and John Waters explaining why "The Wizard of Oz" has provided him with his own prayerful mantra that he recites daily. Highly recommended, both for film buffs and those generally curious about how to skillfully conduct an interview
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By George on February 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
One of the best film books on the market right now. All the directors choices are varied and enlightening. Lots of fun!!
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