On Directing Film

On Directing Film

Book - 1991
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Baker & Taylor
Describes the basic principles of film making, argues that directing is an extension of screenwriting, and explains how films tell stories

Publisher: Viking, 1991
ISBN: 9780670830336
Branch Call Number: 791.43023 Mam


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Andrew Kyle Bacon
May 05, 2018

David Mamet says a lot of things I disagree with, in fact I think some of them are plain stupid, yet he is so clearly founded in his beliefs about drama, and so well proven in his field, that one can hardly argue with him. Mamet makes clear his approach to cinematic drama: tell the story without words, in as few shots as possible, hinting at the subtext rather than spelling it out. The power of cinema, Mamet says, lies between two shots and not within them.

A girl in a yard.
A pig in a fence.

Can you tell a story with those two images? Mamet says you can, or, at least, you can start a story with those two images. Can you suggest the idea of "being early" without ever stating the earliness of an event or the time at which it is intended to occur? Mamet says you can. I'm inclined to say he's correct on this. In fact, I'm inclined to say he understands the cinematic form more than many other filmmakers/writers that I've studied. His main point of reference are Kuleshev and Eisenstein. It's hard to disagree with those influences, especially since they practically invented the cinematic form.

This is a very good, informative book. Very short, easy to read. Overall, it's a book on the cinematic form that is easy to grasp. It is, in most respects, more about film theory than it is directing itself, but it's hard to separate these two fields in general. They're almost inseparable in fact.

"It's not up to you to say whether the movie is going to be 'good' or 'bad'; it's only up to you to do your job as well as you can, and when you're done, then you can go home. This is exactly the same principle as the throughline [of a screenplay]. Understand your specific task, work until it's done, and then stop."
- David Mamet

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