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Make Film History: Rewrite, Reshoot, and Recut the World's Greatest Films Paperback – November 1, 2012
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Make Film History is both a book and a hands-on website. The book describes crucial moments when movies fundamentally changed. It explains how yesterday’s great filmmakers live on today in contemporary films. On the website, simple hands-on exercises put you in the place of (or next to) great filmmakers as they solved filmmaking problems. You watch — or second-guess — or do it yourself — as the building blocks of movies emerge. Make Film History! is for every movie lover who has ever asked, “How did they do that?” or ever said, “I’d like to make a movie, too!”
About the Author
Robert Gerst, Ph.D., chairs the Liberal Arts Department at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. He has taught film aesthetics and film history to thousands of designers, artists, and young filmmakers in North America and, in online courses at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, to film students around the world. A veteran teacher who first cut movies standing at a Moviola, he brings a digital filmmaker perspective to the history of the movies.
Top customer reviews
The book is a loaded with info about film history and techniques, but there is never a dull moment. It is written in a comprhensive and easy-to-read style. The website (where you go to do the exercises in the book) is dazzling yet simple to navigate. And, amazingly, you do not need any special programs or equipment to do the exercises. If you have a computer, you can edit, create montage, change endings and more, to clasic film clips.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in filmmaking, film history or just wanting to have fun with movies!
Why I Read It: The idea of recreating key moments in film history seemed intriguing.
What I Liked About It: The book records the evolution of film, and it's an interesting journey. Each chapter is devoted to a key evolutional component of filmmaking. Gerst looks at things like sound and voiceovers, technicolor, and green screen. Each chapter also looks at a film that is representative of these evolutional moments, and the great thing about the book is the companion website that features clips that allow you to edit and recreate the film each chapter talks about. What I found really interesting was where film originated. It started with a man trying to recreate the movement of a race horse by showing a series of still images. The evolution from there is just as interesting. This is a great book for people interested in film history and in learning the elements of filmmaking in a fun way by using real film clips.
Review copy provided by Michael Wiese Productions
There are problems with the book. They are not enough that I'd vote down the book, but it would benefit from revision. The main issue is his explanations of many terms seem slightly off from how they are understood by filmmakers. They're not wrong, but I found myself re-reading and questioning even though I'm familiar already with concepts like mise-en-scene and various types of cutting. The writing is not super strong, so it makes for awkward explanations. Partly it sounds like someone who studies film but doesn't have a ton of practical experience.
Similarly, his writing style also disrupts the flow of the information on occasion. He likes to inject little details that feel like an author saying "look what I know" but read as non-sequiturs. Often it gives the appearance that he wrote much more and it has been heavily trimmed down, as he'll write a sentence that seems like it might be leading somewhere but then be totally disconnected from what comes after. It seems meant to add color and flavor, but ends up distracting without being a more complete set of thoughts. This problem doesn't invalidate the value of the book for someone willing to go through its exercises, but they do make reading and understanding slower. A stronger edit pass would greatly improve this book.
The website with the files for experimentation is a little clunky, but it's hard to expect an extremely polished experience from a book publisher and author who no doubt don't have a lot of resources for maintaining that experience.
Despite the issues, there isn't really another text like this, so definitely check it out if you want to give yourself a real film education with genuine perspective on the history of the medium.