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Books for Direction?


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#1 Kavanjit Singh

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 02:44 AM

Hi,

Can you please recommend some good books on direction and cinematography (but from directors point of view leaving all tech details out). I could find lot of recommended books on cinematography but cant find much on direction. Also is there any website which caters to direction like this site does to cinematography?

tia,
Kavan
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#2 Jamie Lewis

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 12:36 PM

Hi,

Can you please recommend some good books on direction and cinematography (but from directors point of view leaving all tech details out). I could find lot of recommended books on cinematography but cant find much on direction. Also is there any website which caters to direction like this site does to cinematography?

tia,
Kavan

Five C's of cinematography.

Shot by Shot.

Film Directing Fundamentals, Second Edition: See Your Film Before Shooting.

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet.

Edited by Jamie Lewis, 09 July 2008 - 12:36 PM.

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#3 Jake Vander Ark

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 06:21 PM

Kavan,

I haven't been able to find a website this good for directing. There isn't a lot of activity here, but I'm trying to change that!

Jamie's suggestions are good... I would also STRONGLY recommend getting the "Hollywood Camera Work" DVD set. Watch it a few times and you'll get the "language of film" down pretty quickly. In fact, this could almost replace the book "Shot by Shot" that Jamie recommends.

As for directing actors (the most important part), I would recommend both books by Judith Weston - "Director's Intuition" and "Directing Actors".

Also, a HUGE inspiration for me has been a book called "Writing a Great Movie" by Jeff Kitchen. It looks like any other lame writing book, but his explanation of Drama vs mere story is invaluable stuff for a director to know.

Once you plow through those, check out "New Cinematographers". It does tend to get pretty technical, but that is balanced out with tons of pictures... easy to learn from!
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#4 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 10:34 PM

Jake recommended the Weston books and I second that, they are good resources, I also like Bruce Block's "The Visual Story" it's a very strong guide to learning to control the visual elements of film and video. He shows you the visual tools but its up to you to apply them.

For learning standard coverage there is a book called "Grammar of the film language" Its not a great book but if you want a quick start guide to the standard ways of covering different situations with different numbers of actors in different situations it does provide the basics.

What books to recommend really depends upon what kind of director you are wanting to be. If you just want to direct hollywood type film and TV then closely watching TV and films is a very good education, if you are observing the right elements. What you miss in viewing (and in all the books) are all the nuances that you can only really see in the editing bay. What I mean by this is all the small distinctions that make the difference between the shots that get on air and those that do not, including performance, framing / type of shot, camera moves, etc. etc. etc. Each type of show has different "rules" that are not really in the books on directing, but they are writ large in the network notes!
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#5 Jim Keller

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 01:40 PM

As for directing actors (the most important part), I would recommend both books by Judith Weston - "Director's Intuition" and "Directing Actors".


I'm going to disagree about Weston's Directing Actors. I've found directors who attempt to use her techniques for directing actors to just annoy professionals and befuddle amateurs. I have not read Director's Intuition.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 05:41 PM

You'll have to direct actors, so best learn a bit of their craft. David Mamet's "True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor"



-- J.S.
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#7 Jim Keller

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 07:38 PM

You'll have to direct actors, so best learn a bit of their craft. David Mamet's "True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor"


You'll also have to direct an art department, an editor, a gaffer, a sound recording engineer, etc. You need to know enough about all aspects of filmmaking to clearly communicate your needs. But that doesn't mean you need the skill set to do their jobs in their stead. The best filmmakers surround themselves with good people, share the vision of the picture, and then trust them to bring that vision to life.
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#8 Jake Vander Ark

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 07:55 PM

I'm going to disagree about Weston's Directing Actors. I've found directors who attempt to use her techniques for directing actors to just annoy professionals and befuddle amateurs. I have not read Director's Intuition.

You'll also have to direct an art department, an editor, a gaffer, a sound recording engineer, etc.


I disagree. Yes, you need to direct an art department, editor, etc, but as a director, your job is first and foremost about directing the actors and getting the performances that are suitable for the story you're telling. All the other departments have multiple people looking out for each other. The actor only has the director, and "Directing Actors" gives many great tips on how to be on the same wavelength as the people you are trying to help.
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#9 Jim Keller

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 09:08 PM

I disagree. Yes, you need to direct an art department, editor, etc, but as a director, your job is first and foremost about directing the actors and getting the performances that are suitable for the story you're telling. All the other departments have multiple people looking out for each other. The actor only has the director, and "Directing Actors" gives many great tips on how to be on the same wavelength as the people you are trying to help.


Switching to my "professional actor" hat briefly, I don't feel that the actors are more important than the other aspects of filmmaking. If I give an amazing performance that is underexposed, on an inappropriate set, with lousy sound, badly costumed, mis-edited, poorly lit, with a huge scratch running across my face -- well, I'm not winning any Oscars. I would much rather have to self-direct and know everything else is going to be done competently.

But, back as a producer-director, the thing I don't like about Weston's book is that she seems to think that all actors work the same way, and the way she teaches is used by a distinct minority of professional actors. If you want to know how professional actors work, you're much better picking up an acting textbook -- or, rather, several dozen, representing the various schools of thought -- than a directing textbook. Just like there's a dozen ways the art department may build a platform, there's a number of ways for an actor to get to get to the end result you need. Your actor may use Method, Chekhov, Meisner, Alexander, Suzuki, Technical, etc. Any book that tries to tell you "how actors work" is either going to be so broad as to be useless, or miss out on the explaining the majority of actors you will encounter in your career.

Weston also believes in holding the actors hands rather than just saying what end result you need. A professional actor is trained to show up on time, deliver the performance as quickly and consistently as possible based on "result-oriented direction," and get out of the way of the other departments, allowing the director to focus on the entirety of the production. It's drilled into us over and over again that at several thousand dollars per minute of production time, the director simply can't take the time to walk us through things. So when a director declines to say what end result they're after and instead fishes around for personal metaphors, the actor either feels like the director is an idiot, or feels that the director thinks they can't act. Not a good relationship to have with your cast.

This book is probably excellent if you're working with students all trained in the same facility using the techniques she believes all actors use who still need the handholding, but, really, on a professional set, where time is money your best bet is to break her cardinal rule and give result-oriented direction, and then only spend the time getting "actory" when the actor is having trouble.
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#10 VOlodya VO

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 06:57 PM

Switching to my "professional actor" hat briefly, I don't feel that the actors are more important than the other aspects of filmmaking. If I give an amazing performance that is underexposed, on an inappropriate set, with lousy sound, badly costumed, mis-edited, poorly lit, with a huge scratch running across my face -- well, I'm not winning any Oscars. I would much rather have to self-direct and know everything else is going to be done competently.

But, back as a producer-director, the thing I don't like about Weston's book is that she seems to think that all actors work the same way, and the way she teaches is used by a distinct minority of professional actors. If you want to know how professional actors work, you're much better picking up an acting textbook -- or, rather, several dozen, representing the various schools of thought -- than a directing textbook. Just like there's a dozen ways the art department may build a platform, there's a number of ways for an actor to get to get to the end result you need. Your actor may use Method, Chekhov, Meisner, Alexander, Suzuki, Technical, etc. Any book that tries to tell you "how actors work" is either going to be so broad as to be useless, or miss out on the explaining the majority of actors you will encounter in your career.

Weston also believes in holding the actors hands rather than just saying what end result you need. A professional actor is trained to show up on time, deliver the performance as quickly and consistently as possible based on "result-oriented direction," and get out of the way of the other departments, allowing the director to focus on the entirety of the production. It's drilled into us over and over again that at several thousand dollars per minute of production time, the director simply can't take the time to walk us through things. So when a director declines to say what end result they're after and instead fishes around for personal metaphors, the actor either feels like the director is an idiot, or feels that the director thinks they can't act. Not a good relationship to have with your cast.

This book is probably excellent if you're working with students all trained in the same facility using the techniques she believes all actors use who still need the handholding, but, really, on a professional set, where time is money your best bet is to break her cardinal rule and give result-oriented direction, and then only spend the time getting "actory" when the actor is having trouble.


very strange opinion!
"professional DOP knows how to shoot, actor - how to play, producer - how to produce etc etc...."
So -what DIRECTOR do!? ;)
If you want to have a good film, you must learn HOW to give playable tasks to actors!! Thats what Weston told you! If you speak a lot about "time is money" you MUST know how to get result quickly, realistic and ORIGINAL!!! "Original" - is the main word! And "result-oriented direction" is stupid because anybody can do this! This is waste of your money!!!
By the way - giving playable tasks not depends on which method you choose! Method - is actors problem.
p.s.
If you think that your "time is money" read Stanislavsky, Chechov BEFORE giving advices at forums;)
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#11 Jim Keller

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 11:57 AM

very strange opinion!
"professional DOP knows how to shoot, actor - how to play, producer - how to produce etc etc...."
So -what DIRECTOR do!? ;)
If you want to have a good film, you must learn HOW to give playable tasks to actors!! Thats what Weston told you! If you speak a lot about "time is money" you MUST know how to get result quickly, realistic and ORIGINAL!!! "Original" - is the main word! And "result-oriented direction" is stupid because anybody can do this! This is waste of your money!!!
By the way - giving playable tasks not depends on which method you choose! Method - is actors problem.
p.s.
If you think that your "time is money" read Stanislavsky, Chechov BEFORE giving advices at forums;)


OK, let me start by getting the defensive part out of my system. I have read Stanislavski, and studied with Sharon Carnicke, the premier re-translator of his works into English. I have also read Chekhov, and studied with Mala Powers, a former student of Chekhov and (at the time) the executrix of his literary estate. I have also read Hagen, Meisner, Whelan, Mamet, and a host of others whose names aren't coming to me off the top of my head. In point of fact, I have a degree in exactly this subject.

The job of the director is to unify the creative visions of all the different creative minds on a production into a single, coherent film. Hence my advice of "communicate what you need and then let them do it," rather than "tell them how to do their job."

There's a big difference between me saying to a D.P., "I'm going for a very gritty, raw feeling, with lots of grain" versus me saying, "O.K., I want you to use Kodak 5294 and push process it two stops, and here are your lighting positions." DP #1 may agree that that's the best way to get a very gritty, raw feeling, but DP #2 may just be dumbfounded and/or insulted. It's the same with actors. Don't tell an actor how to act. Tell an actor what you need. If you find you've hired an amateur actor who can't do what you need, then you can decide if you have time to give acting lessons on set, but on a professional set, you're just wasting time if you start out that way.
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#12 VOlodya VO

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 06:44 PM

OK, let me start by getting the defensive part out of my system. I have read Stanislavski, and studied with Sharon Carnicke, the premier re-translator of his works into English. I have also read Chekhov, and studied with Mala Powers, a former student of Chekhov and (at the time) the executrix of his literary estate. I have also read Hagen, Meisner, Whelan, Mamet, and a host of others whose names aren't coming to me off the top of my head. In point of fact, I have a degree in exactly this subject.

The job of the director is to unify the creative visions of all the different creative minds on a production into a single, coherent film. Hence my advice of "communicate what you need and then let them do it," rather than "tell them how to do their job."

There's a big difference between me saying to a D.P., "I'm going for a very gritty, raw feeling, with lots of grain" versus me saying, "O.K., I want you to use Kodak 5294 and push process it two stops, and here are your lighting positions." DP #1 may agree that that's the best way to get a very gritty, raw feeling, but DP #2 may just be dumbfounded and/or insulted. It's the same with actors. Don't tell an actor how to act. Tell an actor what you need. If you find you've hired an amateur actor who can't do what you need, then you can decide if you have time to give acting lessons on set, but on a professional set, you're just wasting time if you start out that way.


Exactly!!! "Don't tell an actor how to act. Give him a KEY to what you need" There is no need to explain each step as in your examle with DOP!! And no need to tell final result also. Only KEY to this result! And to reach it - is an actor job.
Thats what Weston trying to say. Dont tell "be funny" but CREATE funny circumstances.
I think this is the best way to work with actors.
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#13 Jim Keller

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 01:25 PM

Exactly!!! "Don't tell an actor how to act. Give him a KEY to what you need" There is no need to explain each step as in your examle with DOP!! And no need to tell final result also. Only KEY to this result! And to reach it - is an actor job.
Thats what Weston trying to say. Dont tell "be funny" but CREATE funny circumstances.
I think this is the best way to work with actors.


Fair enough. The important thing, of course, is to find a system that gets you, the director, what you want.

Personally, as an actor, I'd rather be told "be funny" because then I bring an arsenal of funny choices to the table, most of which the director won't have thought of. Then we can play and decide what works and what doesn't together. If the director decides what will be funny and gives me that, it may or may not be the best choice I'm capable of.
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#14 Alex de Campi

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 08:51 AM

Books are only of moderate use - I'm a bit Mamet about books and schools. Getting on set and shadowing another director - making his/her coffee, being a runner, whatever - will teach you so much about how to direct (and more about how not to direct) than a book will ever teach you.

There are a couple books that are not how-tos, but teach you a lot about directing - one is Michael Caine's book on acting which is hilarious and oh-so-true; the other is the Walter Murch / Michael Ondaatje book, THE CONVERSATIONS, about editing and stories and all sorts of things. GREAT book.
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#15 Viviana Glz

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 06:38 PM

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Picture yourself directing a movie by Eric Nicholas
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#16 Bob Hayes

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 09:42 AM

Film Directing: Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen (Michael Wiese Productions)

Is a great book on blocking
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#17 Jim Keller

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 03:50 PM

Film Directing: Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen (Michael Wiese Productions)

Is a great book on blocking


Actually, now that you mention it, I've been happy with the Michael Wiese books across the board. The one on budgeting seriously saved my hide once.
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#18 Andrew McCarrick

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 12:26 AM

Jamie's suggestions are good... I would also STRONGLY recommend getting the "Hollywood Camera Work" DVD set. Watch it a few times and you'll get the "language of film" down pretty quickly.


If anybody gets the "Hollywood Camera Work" DVDs be prepared to be stopping to take breaks every hour or so.... the girl that did the voice over drove me insane. I could not stand watching for more than an hour at the most. I've barely made it through once as it is.... My biggest suggestion is the "Digital Cinema Training" DVDs.... they do cover more then directing though.
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#19 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 05:17 PM

I have to agree with the Judith Weston suggestion. Directing Actors was a great read and very informative.
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#20 Hal Smith

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 06:45 PM

One technique for "finding the story" is a table reading. Get your cast together as soon as possible and have them read through the script together. They'll surprise you with character shadings you'd never think of sitting in a room by yourself reading the script.
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