Making Movies by Sidney Lumet
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Vintage (March 19, 1996)
It‘s well known that a vast number of people work on any given movie in roles as varied as writing scripts, choosing locations, dressing sets, costuming the players, lighting scenes, manipulating the camera, directing actors, editing film, working on sound, advertising the finished product, and screening it to an audience. Have you ever thought about how these components are collated? Or why the director is most often considered the author of a film? Wonder no more, because Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies is a terrific journey through each stage of filmmaking that is overseen by the director. Lumet, the veteran director of Twelve Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Verdict, and many other fine movies, knows the ins and outs of American filmmaking as well as anyone. In this excellent, personable account, Lumet tells what he’s learned about making movies in the course of the last 40 years. He shows why fine directors need to have strong imaginations, extraordinary adaptability, and skill in many different fields. His enthusiasm for his life’s work, particularly his love of actors, is evident on every page of this book. As Herculean as the labors of film directing are, Lumet takes great pleasure in his work, almost guiltily admitting that the film director’s job is “the best in the world.”
It isn’t only those hoping to one day be a famous director that gets curious about what it really takes to make a movie. I can’t really say it was way up there on my list of things to do, find out what it’s like to make that movie I liked so much. … but at times, I did wonder just how difficult it was.
There were also directors that I have admired over the years, Lucas, Spielberg, Jackson and Howard, among some of them, but I only mention those because they are names that are spoken so often everyone knows them. If I asked you who directed Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, or who was the lucky person to have directed all those fantastic stars in Murder On the Orient Express, you probably couldn’t name him. (well.. unless you really looked at the photo above..heh)
But other than your favorite movie you probably don’t know or remember the name of the director or producer or the writer. That’s probably normal… those names are more important to those either IN the industry or wanting to be in the industry in one way or another.
Naomi of Here In the Hills, suggested this little book by Sidney Lumet to me. I believe the word she used was fascinating. Since I’ve been doing a lot of reading on movies I thought I’d give the book a try.
Was I going to make a movie one day?.. ahhh, not hardly, but as soon as I began reading this book I felt comfortable. Which made it obvious it wasn’t just a text book!
Right away you get the feeling that you are sitting next to Mr Lumet, asking questions and listening to him tell you just howhe went about making some of his movies. He covers things such as: just where all the money goes, what it’s like working with some of the stars?, just how important are those cameramen?, are writers really that important?, what it’s like to actually shoot the movie, and more!
It‘s hard to believe he squeezed all of that into a book that‘s only 218 pages long, but he did it.. and did it in a way that made the book not only informative, but enjoyable to read!
So, even if you don’t plan on making a movie, but you have always enjoyed movies and have ever wondered just how a movies happens… this book is for you.
Here’s a quote from the chapter of the book called “Shooting the Movie”:
The varying physical characteristics of the actors may also necessitate changes. Sean Connery is six feet four, Dustin Hoffman isn‘t. Trying to get them in a tight two-shot presents some problems. I tend to shoot everything at eye level, but I’m talking about “my” eye level. And I’m Dustin’s height ( 5ft 6). For example: “Sean, give me a Groucho,” That means : Will you start lowering your body before you sit. As Sean comes toward us, the camera has to pan up to hold his head in the frame. Because of his height, this can mean that the camera is seeing over the top of the set, shooting into the lights. We don’t want to move the lights after all that work. And unless we want a ceiling for dramatic reasons, we don’t want to put one in. Sean does the Groucho. Most experienced actors can do it without breaking their concentration. “Give me a light banana on that cross from left to right.” That means: As you’re crossing, arc slightly away from the camera for the same reason that you gave us the Groucho. Otherwise we’d be shooting off set.
And one more from the chapter: Rushes
At Technicolor in New York, on the second floor of a ratty building surrounded by porn shops, there is an ugly little screening room. It seats about thirty people. The screen is no more than fourteen feet wide. Very often the light from the projectors is hot in the center of the screen and falls off on the sides, giving you an uneven picture. The sound system is to sound what two tin cans and a string are to telephones. Morty, the projectionist, has been complaining for years, but to no avail. When the air-conditioning clanks on, the hum is so loud that all dialogue is inaudible. If the air-conditioning hasn’t been turned on for a least a half hour before we come in, the smell of food gets mixed with the odor of the chemicals for the lab upstairs. The food smell wafts up into the room from the restaurant on the ground floor.
This is truly the everyday life of a director Making a Movie.
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