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The Lean Forward Moment: Create Compelling Stories for Film, TV, and the Web
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's easy and inexpensive to create your own video. A digital video camera and some basic software aren't much of a barrier to entry. What's difficult is using those tools to create something that an audience will actually want to watch. No, bribing your brother-in-law with beer to sit through the thing doesn't count.

The Lean Forward Moment does as good a job as a book can to to help the budding DIY video maker acquire the knowledge to go in the right direction. No doubt many videos will benefit from their makers having read this book. While a book can't substitute for experience it can make learning quicker and more focused.

I help with a youth film making program. I've been learning with the kids as I offer them computer skills training. I'm enjoying this book and getting an insight into how the two film people who run the program do what they're doing. They're both semi-retired pros from Hollywood.

I let both look the book over. It got two thumbs up for people who actually know how this all works.

The book start at the beginning, before shooting, with discussions about story telling and examples of why successful films turned out well. It then moves on to writing, production design, directing, cinematography and editing. Also covered are visual effects, music, sound, special cases, and producing. There are good tips throughout the book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 12, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Least You Need To Know: A solid work that garnered a three-and-a-half star review; despite its slightly screenwriter-centric title, this is a book for an all-around filmmaker.

Full Review: This book, by its very title, immediately ignited my imagination. Reading through, the author has done a great job of inviting a deeper reflection about generating stories for media publication from its infancy through publication, mainly as a full-blown movie.

I have to admit being a little disappointed with the book in that, upon further reading, this is not a work that revolves solely around creating stories, ie. it doesn't dwell on what I originally thought it would: screenwriting.

That said, there is a fine chapter on writing (among others) that gives some really good information. For example, the author covers something a lot of writers don't fully understand when creating stories for movies: the logline. In fact, this is such an important aspect of creating stories for publication that Hollyn, a film editor by trade, continues referring back to the film's logline every so often as a method of clarifying and interpreting any issues that normally appear as the story makes its way from creation to production.

A good logline provides that kind of a guidance to everyone involved in the movie-making process, from the screenwriter on to the director. It is a sort of "constitution" for a good story, he infers and I agree.
Many concepts are discussed so expertly that the reader understand the author's confidence. Little tips and tricks abound. Again in the writing chapter, Hollyn refers to something he calls the shape of the words on the (script) page. This serves the screenwriter in trying to create yet another interesting concept Hollyn refers to throughout the work and is, of course, the title of the book: Lean Forward Moments.

Using both the logline and the concept of the Lean Forward Moment, Hollyn covers a very wide array that sometimes, but not often, seems like the book is spreading itself too thinly. Chapter 1 discusses the way humans tell stories, then on to the all-important Loglines in chapter 2. Writing is next then comes several chapters on the technical aspects of filmmaking: Production Design, Directing, Cinematography, Edition, Opticals and Visual Effects, Music, Sound, and Producing: Putting It All Together.

It's a wonder this thing is not much heavier. Each of these topics is enough to cover a book several times its size.

Still, a nice little book for a budding filmmaker that touches on all of the aspects of storytelling for moviemaking. I like the production value of the book itself, which is something I have come to expect from New Riders. The book reads very easily, almost like a good novel. It does become a bit bogged down going through the editing and production-specific chapters, as expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is the essential for any newcomer to the movie creating process. If you are looking for a book on the settings and dials of your camera, or how to import your video, this book is not for you. However if you want to take the first step in writing compelling stories for any medium, this is your book.

The Lean Forward Moment is not limited to traditional film, you will find tips and techniques that can be applied to any form of moving pictures, so whether you are shooting video, drawing animations or creating a documentary this book will be your guide.

The book starts at the beginning, before shooting, with discussions about story telling and examples of why successful films turned out well. It then moves on to writing, production design, directing, cinematography and editing. Also covered are visual effects, music, sound, special cases, and producing. There are good tips throughout the book. As you progress you will be introduced to real examples of movies using these practices and how that specific movie achieved the result the audience saw on the screen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 6, 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am not a film student nor aspire to be a filmmaker but in a world of Flip Videos (come back!) and phones where video camcorders are the norm, I find myself making more and more videos. Whether family-oriented, vacation, or just interesting documentation of my day-to-day life - I, too, have essentially become an armchair filmographer. I picked this book because, knowing nothing of the subject, I want a primer and "compelling" seemed like something we all look for when watching video, that or humor. It was a great primer, I learned some tips and they resonated. A lot of material also reached beyond my needs but I prefer a book like this from an authoritative figure like Norman Hollyn than a "Dummies" book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A detailed explanation and guide that leads the film storyteller towards engaging the audience so deeply that they actually become so engrossed in the narrative that they "lean-forward" so as not to miss a moment. Well written,fascinating and informative,The Lean Forward Moment explains in step-by step examples and references to classic films just how to achieve this important story-telling tool.A wonderful book for the student of film and for those interested in the structure of film technique.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Gosh, this sure brings back memories. When I began reading this book, the faded but familiar shadows of my college film major classes came wafting back to me, at least the very early, basic days.

As soon as the book started its discussion of CITIZEN KANE, I began to sense that this was sort of a modern amalgam of film study texts of yore. Yes, KANE is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, movies ever made, but it is also a staple of film lectures. My next thought was, "I wonder if the Odessa Steps sequence from POTEMKIN is coming?" Sure enough, it popped right up (remember how Woody Allen spoofed it in BANANAS?)

Now, lest you think I am dismissing Mr. Hollyn's book as a mere rehash, that is not the case. Actually, I wish there was a book as clear and concise as this back in my prehistoric Flintstone days. Maybe there was and my professor's didn't put it on the textbook list. What I did plow through was a lot of books where the philosphy was "why use ten words when you can use 35?"

I recall asking one professor why some of the erudite essyists often chose such severely serpentine ways to say something. His answer was that the writers wanted to be extremely precise and certain they were putting their posits across as carefully as possible. Maybe it's just me. After all, I'm still trying to figure out the point of THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY (Why didn't he get any dessert and go straight to bed? Didn't his brothers do the same thing he did, in a sense? Was it good parenting to fill the hole before he could get through the fence? But that's another review.)

Anyway, I was particularly glad to see films like FINDING NEMO in this book too, in a nice effort to balance the college-type "arty" films with the commercial ones, albeit to point out things that many casual viewers miss. Its highly visual layout also makes it very pleasant for even the non-student to read should he or she choose to learn more about the filmmaker's craft.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Lean Forward Moment: Create Compelling Stories for Film, TV, and the Web attempts to do a lot of things, and accomplishes most of them very well. Rather than focusing on the minutia of on particular medium, this book looks at film and video production from a universal standpoint. At the most fundamental level, all film and video productions are trying to tell a story that will keep audiences interested. How do you heighten tension? What are the techniques to send clues to your audience about impending danger? How do you frame the characters to make each shot count? How do you connect your scenes to make one cohesive story? These are the questions that this book seeks to answer. And while the author's point of view is his own, he does a very good job of answering those questions in his own way.

Now, I am not a film-maker. I am a film lover and a student of film. I have worked on short features, and I have several friends who do video production full-time. So the lessons in this book are probably going to take several more readings to fully sink in. But do not be misled by skeptics regarding the value of the information here: there are many useful lessons to be learned from this book for the novice and the experienced film-maker alike.

The author chooses a very effective method of conveying his storytelling concepts. He selects critical elements from various films to use as examples. The most often cited film is The Godfather, but more than a dozen others are referenced as well. The Matrix,300,Finding Nemo and many other recent films are cited. I found this to be very useful, since several of the films used as examples were ones I knew well. In fact, I think most people would know them well. There were a few others that are somewhat obscure, and so not everybody will be pleased with those examples. Still, all the films cited were purposefully referenced. And several of the films that others have called "obscure" are indeed classics of independent film and well known to most serious film lovers.

This book has been one of several that I have been rotating through my "to be read" pile for more than a month. The primary reason is that the concepts in this book are only going to be useful if you are actively applying them and taking time to reflect upon them.

While the book uses film for most of it's examples, it promotes the idea that these concepts can apply to all video platforms. In that one area it seems to leave a small gap. New media enabled by web delivery does not have a sufficient treatment here to be a starting point for somebody looking to explore that avenue. It is covered but not as much as I would have expected given the top billing it is given in the title. Still, it's hard to fault the author considering how much ground he covers here.

This is a dense book that is not an *easy read*. This is really more like a work-book to be read as you re-watch the scenes that are cited. If you are serious about learning more about what makes truly compelling film stories, the time you invest will be well worth it.

Highly recommended.

Enjoy.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ok, it appears that creating a great film is a lot harder than just writing a great story and then filming it. I am not a screenwriter or in any way involved with the film industry, other than watching a lot of movies. I have been kicking around a pretty good idea for a film, probably like most people out there, and thought it would make a great movie. I thought I could write the story out, then film it. Pretty simple right? Oh no, Norman Hollyn completely messed up that notion for me once I started reading his book. And it is a very good book.

I never gave a second thought to filming, or storylines, and I never even heard of a "logline" before reading this book. I just figured you write, film, edit, and now you have a movie. Who would have thought you needed to take control of every single detail on the filming set? While I understand the power of a "lean forward moment", I never thought about how the surroundings could make the shot so much different. How color could change and set the mood and tone. How an actor, Al Pacino as Michael in The Godfather, could say so much in the dinner scene with Sollozzo, right before he killed Sollozzo and the Chief of Police, without saying much at all. Michael makes a critical turn in that scene, and you can see the inner struggle in his face without him having to say anything. I will never watch a movie the same way again. Thanks to this book.

This book covers loglines, writing, production design, directing, cinematography, editing, opticals, special effects, music, sound, and more. While you probably cannot read this book and make phenomenal movies, it is a great starting point to really get a thorough understanding of movie creation.

I may never shoot my own movie, but after reading this book I will bet my home movies will look a whole lot better.
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VINE VOICEon March 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
"The Lean Forward Moment" is an unusually accessible book about creating compelling stories for film, TV, Web, and other visual media. The author, Norman Hollyn, is an experienced editor and an instructor at the University of Southern California film school, and he has produced an insightful manual for those interested in learning how to effectively relate stories in moving visual media.

This book is not about producing movies, although it includes a great deal of material about all of the aspects of movie and video production - directing, cinematography, editing, music and sound effects, production design, and overall film production. The focus here, however, is on knowing how to tell a visual story in the best possible way utilizing a number of key design concepts that interrelate with all other production elements.

The book is a comprehensive and detailed analysis of storytelling technique using examples of well-known movie scenes which the reader will recognize or can view himself on DVD and refer back to the book. The author supplements his careful presentation of concepts with numerous personal anecdotes about his own experiences in the moviemaking industry which embellish the material.

The main concept is the " lean forward moment" which is defined as that key part in a scene where major change occurs at the right moment with the effect of grabbing an audience's attention and interest and creating deep emotional responses in it. Hollyn explains that film is about change and change is drama which invoke feelings in an audience. It is the " lean forward moments" which maximize those feelings and effects.

There are many more important concepts involved in telling a compelling story and using change to affect audiences. The Rule of Threes says that the effect of any change in a particular scene depends on the scene just before and just after. He describes the Kuleshov Effect in which different sequential orders of scenes alter audience emotions. Dramatic change requires contrasts among scenes in sequence. Scene analysis involves deciding, among characters, whose scene it is? how does an actor change from beginning to end in a scene? and where, exactly, should the change occur?

Nearly all production, regardless of how long or short, requires an organizing framework. In the movie making business this framework is called a "logline"- a three sentence or shorter identification of the major characters with whom the audience will identify, tone setting details, definition of key elements of the story, and identification of other major story lines. Chapter 2 of the book lists loglines from 19 movies, including many major Hollywood productions like The Godfather, Citizen Kane, the Matrix, Finding Nemo, and others.

There are separate chapters on writing, directing, editing, and other elements of the production process which always reference the basic concepts of logline, scene analysis, and decisive moments. Selected scenes from the movies referenced in chapter 2 (a Godfather scene is in nearly every chapter) are examined over and over in each chapter but from different production perspectives. The basic story components are shown to be supported and highlighted in separate ways by the separate production elements.

The most examined the scene is the Sollozzo killing scene from The Godfather where reluctant mobster, Michael Corleone, vengefully kills a gangster competitor and his associate in a restaurant. The direction of the sub-scenes is explained in terms of its support of the dramatic elements. The cinematography chapter shows how the camera angles, lighting, and color palette support the story. The elements of music and sound are examined in a later chapter.

The ultimate effect of applying these multiple perspectives is a wholesale dissection of the scene in all its component production elements so that the whole is clearly seen as a coordinated construction designed to create a peak dramatic moment. Important scenes from other works, including animated and episodic, are treated in the same fashion. Even with all the repetition of scenes, there is no waste or boredom, as the scenes are examined in depth from different points of view, the whole of which makes masterpiece film moments.

The "Lean Forward Moment" is an unusually insightful combination of knowledge from practical experience expressed in professorial instruction. It provides the core techniques for affecting most film audiences, and I say most, only because the instruction here is arguably about a formula, which clearly works for most (and the most popular) movies. Not all stories can, or should be so crafted. Avant-garde movie makers and some European and other international directors probably would find this approach too limiting, as a matter of art.

The book's layout is well-conceived to instruct, having loglines clearly set out and repeated as necessary in the text, scene analyses set out in index card-like boxes, and numerous photographs illustrating the text. There is also a handful of schematics showing camera locations, shot angles, and the like.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon February 23, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is designed for the sophomore or junior film maker. By this I mean, somebody that has mastered the technical aspects of making a film - they know how to use a camera, write scripts in the correct format, edit film, produce optical or CGI effects, light a scene, direct the project, etc. It is also somebody that has made several movies already, ones that are serious projects, not just the random home playing around type. And obviously, it is not for the master film maker, or the senior. If you placed this on a college course level, this book would come in at the 300 level (100 being introductory classes and 400 being graduate work).

The author is an accomplished film maker. The purpose of this book is to teach, it is almost a text book. What the student learns from this book can be applied to every craft in making a film (or as the author says, a moving picture story), script writing, editing, cinematography, production (set design and blocking), and sound. These are the fundamental processes that are controlled in a film. He wraps these crafts together during his discussion of the director, or the person who oversees the entire project. He concludes the book twice, once with how to break the rules that he describes. And secondly how nobody in the film industry explicitly uses exactly these terms during the making of a film, but all great film makers do exactly what he has described. It's a bit of a paradox.

Another way to look at this book is as a study of film semiotics. How did a particular craft communicate what the casual viewer understands? Semiotics is the study of letters and sounds that make up a language and how together they create meaning. No author would ever knowingly apply semiotics in the writing of a book, but all great authors understand almost instinctively the power behind their words and how to use them properly. So Norman Hollyn disects a given scene at almost a frame by frame rate to help the reader understand why this was done, or why this was filmed, or why this sound was made, or why that cut was made here, etc. For this reviewer it was fascinating to see that dissection and reminded him of watching the mirror scene in Duck Soup frame by frame five times in a film semiotics class. There is infinitely more going on in a film than most appreciate.

The lean forward moment is a bit difficult to understand at first. The words don't really communicate very well what Hollyn is trying to accomplish, other than it is a wonderful short cut once understood. It breaks down to a fairly universal idea, the rule of threes. The concept seen in almost all art forms, beginning middle and end for story telling; thesis support and conclusion for term papers; three supports of a term paper; thirds in composition; rule of threes in landscape architecture...

The lean forward moment is when something has changed; an event happens that is important. What happens before that moment, and what happens after that moment all affect, in a dramatic way, that moment of change. The Kuleshov effect is such a fantastic example. The director took a single shot of an impassive face, and then juxtaposed that shot with a bowl of soup, a woman in a coffin, and finally a young woman asleep. In all cases the emotion felt is different depending on what the impassive face was watching. He uses many examples like this throughout the book, a made up murder scene, a new scene added to Citizen Kane, the central Sollozzo shooting in the Godfather, the Odessa steps in the Battleship Potemkin, and many other major and minor film moments.

A common mistake made about this book is that it is focused on script writing. That could not be farther from the truth. It is understandable from the book tagline "Create compelling stories for film, TV, and the web." The key factor here is "create" - not write. The creation involves all the crafts, from writing through sound to editing.

After the first few chapters it becomes clear that the creation of film starts with a logline, a three sentence statement of the critical points a film is trying to make. It is different from the promotion line or the sales pitch. It is a factual terse statement that every person working on the film, especially the director, must know. This logline is used to make quick choices during the making of the film.

The writing style is easy to digest. The author uses at least three if not four or five real world examples of the particular topic in each chapter. He references readily available movies along with the time stops for these scenes. It is definitely not a book to read cover to cover in a few days, instead it is one to read and apply over time. In fact it is very much a semester long course.

My criticisms of the book are very few. As with all film fanatics, we all choose films we love to illustrate the points made. I am not a huge fan of every film choice Norman Hollyn made - Satacracy 88, Drawn by Pain, and Coons references were weak to me. But, that does not change the point that the author was making at that moment. The whole logline concept became repetitive, but then again, I read this book over two weeks time. And the Sollozzo killing scene of Godfather, well I probably know that scene by heart now (not overplayed, just referenced a lot).

This is truly a fantastic film book. The printing is outstanding, the paper stock thick, and the page layout pleasing. My frame of reference is a fair amount of film history study, some film production, and an avid film watcher (well over 2,000 films in the past 3 years). Anyone in the middle of their film making career or an aspiring film person would benefit from this book.
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