- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140127224
- ISBN-13: 978-0140127225
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Directing Film Paperback – January 1, 1992
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According to David Mamet, a film director must, above all things, think visually. Most of this instructive and funny book is written in dialogue form and based on film classes Mamet taught at Columbia University. He encourages his students to tell their stories not with words, but through the juxtaposition of uninflected images. The best films, Mamet argues, are composed of simple shots. The great filmmaker understands that the burden of cinematic storytelling lies less in the individual shot than in the collective meaning that shots convey when they are edited together. Mamet borrows many of his ideas about directing, writing, and acting from Russian masters such as Konstantin Stanislavsky, Sergei M. Eisenstein, and Vsevelod Pudovkin, but he presents his material in so delightful and lively a fashion that he revitalizes it for the contemporary reader.
"Passion, clarity, commitment, intelligence—just what one would expect from Mamet."—Sidney Lumet, Academy Award-nominated director of 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict
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David Mamet is one of the great filmmakers that my Peter Pan wanted to pose as, but in reading this book I have learned that everything I had been told about the science of Mamet's method was completely false. Either Dopey had a far poorer grasp on reading (and watching) comprehension than I ever realised, or he just made it up as he went along. In truth, I learned in reading this book that Film Directing is much more creative and far less pretentious than I'd been led to believe, and this lecture series made me wish that I had chosen Columbia instead of Boise State way back when these classes were first taught.
David Mamet's positive view that the film director is a "Dionysian extention of the screenwriter" makes the prospect much less dull. His philosophy about "letting the story evolve," how that happens, and allowing the subconcious mind to lead shot sequences and angles is brilliant. But his final advice to "stick to the channel, it's marked," is what makes this series of lessons timeless. All of the classes I have taken have left me feeling daunted, worried about the future direction of my path, losing focus in the minutiae of technicality, camera choices, light angles...resisting the urge to pummel bad actors. But then there is the clearheaded, short-and-sweet teaching of Mamet to follow first principles, plotting a sure course, summed up with:
"The more time you have invested, and the more of yourself you have invested in the plan, the more secure you will feel in the face of terror, loneliness, or the unfeeling or ignorant comments of those from whom you are asking a whole bunch of money or indulgence."
This book is truly a series of peptalks from a great and humble mentor, and is going into my war chest to be referred back to whenever I need to find the center again. It's so much more sensible than the ramblings of the idiot I married.
This book is a brilliant study in taking the role of the director and bringing an idea to life through communicating a series of images - the shot list. It's a book on Directing, but I would just as much recommend it to any screenwriter as well.
Mamet works hard to stay away from discussing angles & visual style as he thinks you should (at least in your initial planning) as these are not his strong suits (to which he admits) but instead demands that shots should communicate through staging, action and juxtaposition. Information should not be read or told but questioned, answered and experienced.
His points are further stressed through demonstration in workshop format between students and himself in two of the longest chapters near the beginning and end of the book that I quite enjoyed.
A strong theme running throughout the book is putting in the hard work will help you to know the job as it focuses heavily on workshopping down to communicating the information in the shot to it's core which in turn cuts away the fluff making it easier to communicate (in theory) what's happening in said shot with the sets, props, actors, etc.
The book's back cover purports that this book looks at every aspect of directing - "from script to cutting room floor" - that's simply not true if you simply learning about film and are just getting into the art form.
However if this is a chapter slightly further along on your journey I would HIGLY RECOMMEND this as an advanced masterclass. Not too advanced to understand for anyone by any means - but maybe too advanced to fully absorb... But what do I know. Read it anyways :)