Reviewed by Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 24, 2012
FilmCraft: DirectingBy Mike Goodridge
Focal Press, 192 pp., $29.95 (paper)
If there's a lesson to be learned from Mike Goodridge's new collection of interviews with 16 film directors and legacy profiles of five others, it's this: There is no single method or guidebook that one can follow in order to become an effective maker of movies. Sure, there are strategies and techniques that can be learned from school and from practice, but more important are life experiences – learning about the world and how one fits into it, while developing a personal style and greater self-knowledge. The methodologies, however, are as various as the directors.
The book's chapters are presented alphabetically from Pedro Almodóvar to Zhang Yimou. In addition to the interview transcriptions, Goodridge presents more focused material about specific films and methods in breakout boxes wherein the filmmakers address details about their work and techniques. Each section is lavishly illustrated with production stills and on-set photographs, and the pull-out boxes range from such material as storyboards from Terry Gilliam, Park Chan-wook's discussion of the creation of an iconic sequence in Oldboy, and Peter Weir's explanation of why he cast Linda Hunt as a male in The Year of Living Dangerously. Many of the interviews also have a section in which the director provides "Advice to Young Filmmakers." The other filmmakers interviewed include Olivier Assayas, Susanne Bier, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Guillermo del Toro, Clint Eastwood (who is pictured on the book's cover), Stephen Frears, Amos Gitai, Paul Greengrass, Michael Haneke, and István Szabó.
Goodridge, who until recently was the editor of Screen International (a position he left to take a post in film production), introduces each section with a two-page overview of the director's career. These overviews are good prefaces for the interviews to come, yet that's essentially all the material he provides in the less-enlightening "legacy" chapters (whose directors include Ingmar Bergman, John Ford, Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, and Akira Kurosawa), which are presented sans interviews. It's also notable that only one female director – Susanne Bier – is included in this volume, a fact that perhaps reveals more about the international film industry than the author. Directing is, nevertheless, a fun volume with anecdotes that will stick with you over time.