A Book of Tricks and Manipulative Exploits for the Film Director

cover-directors-bag-of-tricks

The tricks and exercises in this book are justifiable and perceptive enough to succeed any literal knowledge, in the field of directing, gained from three years at film school or university. They are irrefutably researched and practiced insights from the top, the best; they are known to be the most effective. In most cases, the tricks are kept brief in hands-on example, but they come with enough resource to guide the beginner or advanced practitioner (or “wizard”) to furthering their magic skills quite considerably. In fact, this metaphor of the director as magician, or wizard, is instinctively argued and becomes a remarkably valuable way of understanding the craft. These tricks that Mark proposes do indeed involve the slight-of-hand of what are fundamentally psychological sidesteps and manipulations, or illusions, if you like.

And what do these illusions hope to achieve? Essentially, it is to excel in the creative collaboration with actors and directors. While, the book does focus on working with writers and actors, the tricks are, in fact, applicable to the entire filmmaking process as a director and all the obstacles you will come to face. It is clear, that the most important consideration for a film director is to get the best performance from his/her actor. And Mark gives some great answers to this largely inexplicable phenomenon. I will mention, what I believe to be, an underlying theme across making all Mark’s tricks work, a strong focus on the subtext of the text/character/scene/or any situation (in filmmaking and, dare I say, life).

I won’t recite the tricks in this post; you will have to buy the book. However, I wouldn’t be able to offer a patch of the intuitive and mature outlook of Marks writing, which surrounds each technique with an extra flavour of humour and reflection. There is the odd bit of cynical wit surrounding the director and Mark fulfills the good old joke of the director doing, at the end of the day, whatever he can to get what he wants. In fact, the interviews that Mark conducts with wise, noble and expert wizards are occasionally diverting and even mocking of what we, as directors, do. Of course, this is no criticism, it is the insight of entertaining personalities, and they offer ample bouts of sharp knowledge and evidence of everything that Mark has talked about during the book. The book is a package that folds together to form a neat little parcel full of treasures and surprises.

If you have read Mark’s other books (The Directors Journey and Directing Feature Films) you will be familiar with his style and friendly approach. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that this book will be a rework of his past writings, it is essentially distinct and whilst a few intuitions are understandably repeated (Mark even acknowledges these areas), the bulk are remarkably fresh and even rewarding to read. Thanks Mark (and Michael Wiese)!

Find the book on Amazon here.

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Short Reflections from the Silver Screen: Husbands and Wives

Husbands-and-WivesHusbands and Wives

US. 1992. Woody Allen.

Woody gives us a rational taste for married life; it is compulsive and there are plenty of hysterics. But, ultimately, this movie delivers deep meanings, wistful emotions and it is classic Woody Allen.

Can our fantasies ever escape the truth? Is there more to relationships than the passion? Why are things in life so complicated? Such questions and themes Allen likes to explore, and does so fervidly here through two marriages that seem happily complacent on the surface, but are really dismally repressed with problems ranging from sexual thirsts to mere attention seeking. As always in Allen’s films, the cast is spot on and bold in their performances of largely inflammatory and disparate characters.

The relentless camera that darts around the room struggling to keep up with the couples’ tirades adds to the invigorating and neurotic emotional states that they possess. These long takes cut with interview snippets of the characters and a narrator’s voice over that give the whole film a documentary feel; it could even appear as an extraordinarily well conducted reality TV show on Husbands and Wives.

 

*All reflections are from my film journal.

Short Reflections from the Silver Screen: Port of Call

Port-of-Call

Port of Call

Sweden. 1948. Ingmar Bergman.

Bergman gives an unflinching depiction of a hard-hearted world with industrial backdrops, misspent youths and two-dimensional characters. One of these characters is Berit, a young girl, stuck in the pitiless turmoil of her past. She struggles to confide in others due to her overtly anxious remembrance of this past and is therefore burdened to having relationships due to her introverted self. Berit is a convincing character and underneath her neuroticism she shows signs of a dear heart, a heart to share with Gosta, a new sailor in town who seeks to settle down. However, it is not easy for Gosta either, he develops commitment issues and is susceptible to bursts of emotional vigor.

There are hints of Bergman traits in this early piece of work as he tries to solve a catch-22 with sensitive souls, liberal politics and compelling actresses. Bergman’s affinity for working with actresses is clearly evident. There is also the occasional trick of the camera; a first-person address directly with the audience amidst pressing scenes for example, works as a chilling manoeuvre. The cinematography is likewise appropriate to capturing the psychic battle (mirrors and agile dolly shots) and marks Bergman’s first collaboration with Gunnar Fischer who would go on to shoot such notorious films as The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries.

 

*All reflections are from my film journal.