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   Book Review
   Film Techniques and Aesthetics
   Author: Michael Rabiger
   Publisher: Focal Press
   Pages: 571 pgs.
   Topic: Directing

   MSRP: $49.99

   Special Pricing:  Click Here
   Website: Focal Press' Website
   Expected Release: Available Now
   Review Date: February 1, 2008
   Reviewed By: Monika DeLeeuw-Taylor

Final Score:

Directing a film is a lot like planning a wedding. There is the initial state of ecstasy – all-nighters filled with planning and calling everyone in your address book – which soon gives way to the reality that you are about to spend a lot of time, money, and sanity on a venture which, statistically, has about a 50/50 chance of having a happy ending.

Fortunately, for the bride-to-be, there are countless books full of checklists, hundreds of websites for networking, and the all-inclusive wedding planner to delegate any and all stressful tasks. However, for an aspiring director, few of these resources exist. Prior to the launch of Microfilmmaker Magazine, the most many low budget filmmakers could hope for was a couple of shelves at Barnes & Noble, a few websites with conflicting information and, if they were lucky, the advice of friends who have already been down that road.

Making a movie is stressful enough, without the added fear that something might be forgotten. Of course, few people win an Oscar for their very first movie (with the exception of Matt Damon & Ben Affleck), but there is always a lesson or two to be learned in the process. If many of these lessons could be collected into one central source, it would certainly make things easier on a first-time director, which is exactly this particular book has done.

Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetic, is laid out like a textbook, divided into parts and then chapters. It takes a little while to figure out this layout style, since an individual table of contents precedes each part, and the entire table of contents is not located in the front of the book. This could be difficult if one is searching for something specific, but that is where the index comes into play. The separation into parts is actually quite clever, as it follows the course of the entire process of filmmaking. It begins with the basics, references to themes in classic movies, choosing a medium, the dramatic arc, and so on. There follows a section on screen craft – definitions, a filmmaker’s “grammar,” etc – then two parts on both writing and refining a screenplay, preproduction, production, post production, and a final section on filmmaking as a career.

My one complaint about the book’s layout is that there are no page numbers in the initial table of contents to denote the beginning of each part, just page numbers for the individual chapters. This makes it harder to find the beginning of the section; however, with so much information to cover, the use of a divided and subdivided format is clearly the most efficient way to organize it all.

Depth of Information
This book is a good 1 ¼ inches thick; yes, I measured it. And the font is not terribly large either, but given the amount of information that a filmmaker ought to know, I’m surprised the book wasn’t even thicker. One only has to browse the index to realize how many film-related topics it covers, everything from how to deal with your cast and crew, to examples of storyboards, to casting actors, and even a career assessment test.

It is not terribly heavy on the technical aspect. For example, the section on Editing discusses far more of its theory than its actual practice, i.e. use of music, subtexts, and smooth transitions, as opposed to the advantages of editing suite A versus editing suites B and C. For a first-time director this might be a bit difficult, as he or she may not have a clue which editing system to invest in, but that is not exactly the point of the book; and there’s at least enough information included to point a skittish director in the right direction.

Interest Level
At first glance, I would venture that many readers would get a bit of information overload. This is a large book with a lot of content, so it might be a bit intimidating for a first-timer. My advice is to take a couple of shots of liquid courage and stick with it. Besides, no one said you have to read it cover to cover.

This book would probably be best for the first or second timer, as it starts with the absolute basics of filmmaking (i.e. what a close-up is). The seasoned veteran might only find a few bits and pieces of helpful information, whereas, those who have gone through film school (even if they have never really made a movie) will recognize a good deal of theory that is discussed throughout.

Unless you are Andy Warhol, I doubt you intend to make the same film over and over again. (Unless it was a disaster, in which case one re-make should suffice.)

For a virgin director, this type of resource could be invaluable in preserving one’s sanity during the filmmaking process and it would come in handy for a second, third, or even fourth film. There are always new things to learn when it comes to the filmmaking process, but after a few films, this book will probably outlive its usefulness. In addition, the issue I am reviewing is its Fourth Edition and, as technology is ever changing, this particular edition will certainly be out of date in a few years. Although, it is a bit heavier on theory than technology, which means it won’t be totally outdated over time. At the very least, it could be passed on to anyone else foolish enough to contemplate making their first movie.

Value vs. Cost
The virtues of purchasing this book really depend on one’s level of comfort with the filmmaking process. If you’re a rookie, it is definitely worth putting out the initial cash in lieu of shelling out for more costly mistakes down the road. Chances are a “non-virgin” filmmaker will have learned a good deal of these lessons already, but even a director with a couple of finished products in the can might be surprised. At the very least, it is worth an afternoon at the bookstore having a look-through.

Overall Comment
If directing a microfilm were really like planning a wedding, there would be a whole host of people running about to use as resources delegate tasks to. Unfortunately, this rule only applies in the world of Bridezillas and Hollywood’s multi-million dollar cinema, so we microfilmmakers are forced to fend for ourselves. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with all the tasks at hand, and a book like Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics could be a valuable asset to both pocketbook and sanity.

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           
The author of half a dozen screen plays, two novels, and a proficient camera-woman in her own right, Monika DeLeeuw-Taylor is Microfilmmaker's lead writing analyst and one of our top film reviewers. When she's not writing a critique for Microfilmmaker, she's writing screenplays for Viking Productions.

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