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On Directing Film [Paperback]

David Mamet
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Jan 1992
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright comes invaluable insights and practical instructions on the art of film directing. Mamet looks at every aspect of directing--from script to cutting room--and draws from a wide variety of sources to make his points.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 107 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition (30 Jan 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140127224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140127225
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 0.9 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important chapter in directing theory 13 April 2010
Maybe it's just because it came at the right time in my life and film experience, but this book changed my way of thinking about film. As an aspiring cinematographer, I think it's extremely important for any key member of a film crew to be well versed in all aspects of filmmaking and film theory, and this book, which I read just after DP'ing my first film, set me off on a journey of film theory which has brought me to Eisenstein, Mackendrick, Stanislavski, Aristotle and all of Mamet's non-fiction.

The bulk of the book is based on a series of lectures given at Columbia in 1991, when Mamet was new to the film industry and had ideas which he expressed a little radically. This book has to be read in conjunction with more Mamet, in particular True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor and Three Uses of the Knife (Diaries, Letters and Essays): On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, as well as with an understanding of the principles called into question (eg The Kuleshov Effect and Eisenstein's theory of montage) or it will seem radical and exaggerated.

Despite the above, this book hits one of the most important concepts in film theory and art right in the bullseye, raising the question "Where is the intersection of preparation and freedom, of planning and creativity?".

If read carefully and with an open mind, this book may just set you off on a journey.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! 12 Nov 2007
For Mamet film is about the juxtaposition of uninflected images, and to anyone familiar with his terse writing style this will come as no surprise. Great film-making is nothing more than simple shots that tell the story in an unpretentious and "least interesting way". His ideas are direct, challenging, and genuinely useful.

A slim book that is very readable, and a must read for budding film-makers (and actors) that will liven up any debate on the subject.

p.s. My favorite Mamet quote (but not from this book): "All human relationships are either coercive or manipulative." Think about that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
That David Mamet has firm views on any subject he addresses in print is a given - this short tome being his views on filmaking is no exception, being a short series of lectures on filmmaking he gave at a US university, though at times they do not read much like any lecture you may have attended!

For Mamet as a script writer, the story is key with his love of older movies for this aspect showing continually. Getting the beats of the acting, visuals, editing of scenes and ensuring these do nothing but support the key motivations and storyline of any scene and script is the key discipline to be learnt under filmmaking by Mamet. While at times he overstates some of his points, and reconfirms his dislikes of Hollywood and its inability at many levels to understand what makes a great movie plus method acting with its over emphasis on "what is my motivation?", there is a major lesson that is pretty well thumped into you by the time you have finished this book. That is be endless in your focus of questioning what are you trying to show or get to in the story through any dialogue/camera shot/visual edit/sound addition. The end result will then become an automatic process of continually challenging your team and yourself with "Do I really need this?" and "If I do this, what does it really add?" on everything and paring down to the essence of the story.

Applying this to each scene in any film will in turn make the whole movie better simply because you will have discovered the overall story you want to tell and how. The loser will be all the superfluous concepts and motives that many filmmakers burden and overload their films with, which in the process simply confuse or are irrelavant. For that very hard to learn lesson alone, this short book is worthy of being read by all filmmakers.
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