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On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director Paperback – August 11, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Alexander Mackendrick directed several films, including The Man in the White Suit, which earned him an Oscar Nomination for Screenwriting. He died in 1993.

Paul Cronin is the editor of Herzog on Herzog.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571211259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571211258
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Shaw said, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." In a strange way, Alexander Mackendrick fits both sides of that dictum. "Sandy" Mackendrick was an accomplished film director. After having worked in advertising, he started making films for the British Government during World War II. After the war he wrote scripts and he began directing. For the Ealing Studios, he made _Whiskey Galore!_, _The Man in the White Suit_, and _The Ladykillers_. Then he came to Hollywood, where he made the wonderfully biting _Sweet Smell of Success_. He could direct fine movies, and he did; but then he slipped into the "can't do" category, not for any lack of talent, but because he was not much of a deal-maker, and resented having to negotiate details with the studios. He started teaching, becoming dean of the film school at the California Institute of the Arts in 1969. He continued teaching until his death in 1993, but now filmmakers and audiences can get a glimpse of what he taught, in _On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director_ (Faber and Faber). It is a sampling of his lecture handouts, some illustrated by his own sketches, that he delivered to students over the years, and shows the richness of his thinking on the surprising complexities of artistic decisions regarding even simple shoots on tiny films. Those who enjoy movies, but don't know much about how they are made, will be astonished at how many details of technique the director has to consider before anyone yells "Action!" Those who make movies, or want to, could not do better than to study what Mackendrick has to say.

Mackendrick emphatically agrees with Truffaut, who in his interview book with Hitchcock wrote, "Whatever is _said_ instead of being _shown_ is lost on the viewer.
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Format: Paperback
I have read many books on filmmaking and I have a film school degree (from CalArts, as it happens, where Mackendrick once taught). You can't learn filmmaking from a book or from school, only by making films. Nevertheless, "On Film-making" comes as close as any book I've ever found to explaining precisely and beautifully the work of a film director. Whether you want to make films or are simply a film fan, this book will be an immensely rewarding and illuminating experience.
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Format: Paperback
I've got over fifty books dealing with all types of writing (screen, novels, TV), and this is one of only a handful I consider truly essential. The first half of the book examines screenplays. Most books on filmmaking give only a cursory glance at the screenplay, but we writers know that the screenplay is the most important part of the film, don't we!

Mackendrick is one of an elite group of filmmakers who excelled in both screenwriting and directing. His insights are profound. His "writer's wall" quotes are equal to the entire content of many other books on screenwriting.

Mackendrick is basically the bridge between classical and modern cinematic writing. He emphasises that what is going to happen NEXT, as opposed to what is happening NOW, is the core of good storytelling. He also teaches that the preparatory period before a significant event AND the after effects of that event are equally or more dramatically significant than the actual event itself (as demonstrated by a movie like Reservoir Dogs). Mackendrick's book is one of the few which covers such advanced concepts as negative action, activity versus action, and plot density. The only area I don't agree with him is his dislike of flashbacks (although he has valid reasons).

I judge a book by how many notes I take when reading it. I took a lot of notes when reading this one. Now go and buy it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book got stellar reviews and Martin Scorsese writes a glowing preface. I appreciate Mackendrick's advice but wish the content were a little more comprehensive. We get bits and pieces, anecdotes, into the art of screenwriting and directing. The book was edited together, post mortem, from Mackendrick's notes on the craft of filmmaking, and the seams show. The content is good but fragmentary. The book is somewhat like reading the pre-socratic philosophers--a great deal of wisdom but not much coherence or development. On Filmmaking seems best, not as an introduction to the craft as advertised, but as a secondary or tertiary reference for an emerging filmmaker.
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Format: Paperback
This book is, quite simply, amazing. Seriously, if you're a prospective film student, before you sling the deadly weight of massive student loans around your neck, read this book, get yourself a camera, a computer, and some Avid software, and see if you still feel like you need to go to film school. I went to film school and honestly, I learned a lot, but I learned most of the most useful stuff I know from this book and form experience. Do yourself a favor, and educate yourself and try filmmaking on your own first. You simply will not find a better place to start than this book.

A couple of low-star reviews call this "dry" and to me, it is not -- it is passionate and written with conviction. But it is very nuts and bolts, drilling down into the elements of film storytelling in a way unlike any other text I've ever read. So yes, as another low-star review said, it is "didactic" -- trying to teach you something. Chances are you, like everyone else without Mackendrick's breadth and depth of experience, have a lot to learn. I know I did, and still do. But this book closed a LOT of loops for me. BUY IT.
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