FilmCraft: Screenwriting by Tim Grierson (a J!-ENT Book Review)

July 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 


Tim Grierson’s “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is another fantastic book in the FilmCraft series!  Grierson interviews a few of the well-known screenwriters in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names from cinema past. Learn about the challenges that writers have faced when taking on a film or the relationship in working with a well-known filmmaker plus a lot more insight to the amazing films that these writers have written for and sometimes having to rewrite another screenwriter’s work! “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is  recommended!


TITLE: FilmCraft: Screenwriting

BY: Tim Grierson

PUBLISHER: Focal Press


RELEASED: April 11, 2013

Screenwriting looks at the foundation on which every great film is built—the script. Whether an original concept or an adaptation, the screenplay is the key to the success of a movie—good dialogue, story pacing, and character development are the framework everything else hangs on. Featuring in-depth interviews with modern masters of film including Stephen Gaghan, Guillermo Arriaga, Caroline Thompson, Hossein Amini, and Jean-Claude Carrière, this book reveals the mysteries behind how the best scripts are written and reach the screen.

For any cinema fan, one can watch a film with great acting, cinematography but in the end, it comes down to writing a storyline that captivates the viewer.

Screenwriting, when effective, it can make a film become a blockbuster hit, a memorable classic or a film that may inspire you.

So, within the banality of cinema of cliche and lack of plot, there are those who can craft a screenplay by achieving what the studio wants, making a character and storyline relatable but also taking on challenges of making a screenplay that leads to a great film.

In the latest FilmCraft book series, writer Tim Grierson takes on “Screenwriting”.

While a screenwriter unfortunately is often behind-the-shadows of a director (an always debatable issue in Hollywood between who deserves credit for a film, a director or writer), the fact is that there are many people who have written a screenplay but only few succeed in creating a hit film.

Over the years, I have read and purchased a variety of books on screenwriting but what I have wanted to read is what influenced a screenwriter to focus on certain aspects of a character or a plot for these major films.

And this is where “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” comes in as Tim Grierson features 15 writers of different backgrounds and those who have created different types of films that have succeeded.

In order to get an idea of what a screenwriter does and how they utilized their skills, featured in this book are interviews and “Legacy” spotlights on the following writers from around the world:

  • Hossein Amini (Iran/UK) – Writer for “Drive”, “Snow White and the Huntsman”, “The Four Feathers”, etc.
  • Guillermo Arriaga (Mexico) – Writer for “Babel”, “21 Grams”, “Amores Perros”, etc.
  • John August (USA) Writer for “Big Fish”, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Corpse Bride”, etc.
  • Woody Allen (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Bananas”, “Midnight in Paris”, etc.
  • Mark Bomback (USA) – Writer for “Live Free or Die Hard”, “Total Recall”, “Race to Witch Mountain”, etc.
  • Jean-Claude Carriere (France) – Writer for “Cyrano de Bergerac”, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”, etc.
  • Lee Chang-dong (South Korea) – Writer for “Poetry”, “Oasis”, “Secret Sunshine”, “Peppermint Candy”, etc.
  • Ingmar Bergman (Sweden – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “The Magician”, “Wild Strawberries”, “The Seventh Seal”, etc.
  • Stephen Gaghan (USA) – Writer for “Traffic”, “Syriana”, “Rules of Engagement”, etc.
  • Christopher Hampton (UK) – Writer for “A Dangerous Method”, “Atonement”, “Total Eclipse”, “Dangerous Liaisons”, etc.
  • David Hare (UK) – Writer for “The Reader”, “The Hours”, “Page Eight”, etc.
  • Paddy Chayefsky (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “Altered States”, “Network”, “Marty”, etc.
  • Anders Thomas Jensen (Denmark) – Writer for “In a Better World”, “Brothers”, “The Duchess”, etc.
  • Billy Ray (USA) – Writer for “The Hunger Games”, “Color of the night”, “State of Play”, “Flightplan”,  etc.
  • Whit Stillman (USA) – Writer and director for “Damsels in Distress”, “Metropolis”, “The Last Days of Disco” and “Barcelona”.
  • Ben Hecht (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “Notorious”, “His Girl Friday”, “Spellbound”, “Scarface”, inc.
  • Robin Swicord (USA) – Writer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Memoirs of a Geisha”, “Little Women”, etc.
  • Caroline Thompson (USA) – Writer for “Edward Scissorhands”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Corpse Bride”, “The Addams Family”, etc.
  • David Webb Peoples (USA) – Writer for “Blade Runner”, “Twelve Monkeys”, “Unforgiven”, etc.
  • Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond (Austria-Hungary/USA & Romania – SPOTLIGHT) – Writers for “Some Like It Hot”,”The Apartment”, etc.

As a person who has observed cinema and have written screenplays, I’m always often intrigued of the challenges these writers face.  Many who are signed to deals with studios after a successful film, but then having to take on a storyline that is much different than the films they tend to writer for.

But how does a writer prepare for these challenges of writing for a film that is much different, especially if that film doesn’t do well?   It’s not easy when after having written a top notch screenplay and following up with another hit.  But when it comes to various challenges that a screenwriter faces, this is where “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” shows its efficacy and its author Tim Grierson’s choosing various writers who have written for films of different genres and allows them to discuss these films, some giving more detail than others.

For example, one of the writers featured is Mark Bomback, known for having to do the re-writes or tweaking of others screenplays.  He worked on “Total Recall”, “Live Free or Die Hard”, “Race to Witch Mountain” and many more titles.

Bomback gives wonderful insight to some of the challenges he had faced.  For example, being approached to write the screenplay for “Total Recall” and having to work off Kurt Wimmer’s script.  While he writes of how concerned that people will have two strikes against the remake because people loved the original, while I enjoyed the film for its action, any writer would have hard time trying to surpass the original.

His rewrite for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” brought emotion to the characters but also making the viewer understand the emotions of the apes.  But the challenge he faced when rewriting the upcoming sequel to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and what he should bring to the character.   At the time of writing for that Wolverine sequel, he watched “The Avengers” and wrote about how the film was well-executed.  But I found it interesting for him to discuss the misconception that franchise movies is all the studios care about and that is action.  How studio execs are concerned with the character, the narrative but while I understand where Bomback is coming from, truth be told, there are many films that focus too much on the action and not so much on the film’s plot.

But as I was reading Bomback’s entry, the first thing that came to my mind was the “Total Recall” remake.  Sometimes I wonder if what the writer conveys, is what the director brings to the table especially for a special effects, green screen driven film such as “Total Recall”.

With the original 1990 film, it maintained some semblance to the original short story that it takes place on Mars.  This new film, there is nothing about Mars at all, nor are their aliens.  The original was darker, bloodier but that’s what makes the 1990 version a sci-fi classic.  The 2012 version doesn’t try to be anything like the original, it doesn’t want to be an exact remake and I like that.  I tend to dislike remakes of older films but if they can maintain some semblance to the original but yet be something different, I’m all for it.  But that was Kurt Wimmer’s original script and Bomback was hired to rewrite it.

Bomback worked with director Len Wiseman for “Live Free or Die Hard”, who worked on “The Underworld” films and when a director tends to focus on films that are geared to more popcorn action, is it more the direction because that director is used to making such films or is it the screenwriter that sets up the film to focus a lot on the action?

Still, Bomback does offer a good amount of information on the films he had worked on and the book does provide some insight to Bomback’s mindset and approach to writing a film.

Another wonderful writer featured is Christopher Hampton.  He writes smart dramas, well-thought out stories with a lot of detail and he goes into detail of his working relationship with the directors but also discussing what he did to make films such as “A Dangerous Method”, “Atonement” or “Dangerous Liaisons” work.

I have written before about my feelings towards Christopher Hampton’s work.  Amazing research, wonderful character development and may I say, I find his writing for his films to be quite intellectually stimulating.  But having written “A Dangerous Method”, which was based on his play “The Talking Cure”, Hampton’s approach as a writer for this film was amazing.

The film is fiction based on assertions that Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung had a sexual relationship.  I enjoyed the film for giving attention to Sabina Speilrein, as she was the first person to introduce the idea of death instincts (best known for her published work “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being”), a concept that Sigmund Freud would incorporate into his own theory.  She was also known to introduce psychoanalysis to Russia and was an inspiration to future psychoanalysts, including Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

Always known as a footnote in Sigmund Freud’s book and considered as a “forgotten pioneer of psychoanalysis”, unfortunately Sabina Speilrein’s life in reality was cut short and her two children were killed by a German SS Death Squad.  But her contributions as a psychoanalysis should have been shown.  This woman’s work have been forgotten and now that she has been brought back to the masses, she is not seen for her accomplishments but her sadistic needs.

But as a writer, I find it fascinating of where Hampton zeroed in on this character for his screenplay.  Not many writers, especially for today’s cinema, would want to focus on Carl Jung for a film.  Perhaps a documentary but a film, even I found it maybe too cerebral for today’s audiences.  But how he carefully woven a story around Jung’s sexual relationship with a woman who was nothing but a mere footnote and bringing her to life, was amazing but also a bit troublesome.

It is known that Spielrein had wrote about masochism and the sadistic component of sexual drive as a “destructive drive” but does it mean she was a woman who loved to be spanked by Carl Jung?  I found a bit worrisome as people will see her more as Carl Jung’s sexual exploit rather than her contributions as a psychoanalyst but as a writer, especially taking on a characters in which a good amount of research would be needed.

But in “FilmCraft: Screenwriting”, Hampton goes into the discussion of writing for the film despite his bias towards Freud and also commenting how Jung’s books were hard to digest.  Considering the source material to write a film such as a “Dangerous Method”, not many screenwriters would overtake such a project.  But relationships and conflict has been Hampton’s cup of tea.

The way that Hampton approached this film was simply sensational and intriguing and as much many would give David Cronenberg and also author John Kerr praise for the film, prior to “A Dangerous Method”, Christopher Hampton as screenwriter has demonstrated his strength in the building the characters.  May it be for “Atonement”, “Total Eclipse” or most notably “Dangerous Liaisons”, it’s what makes Christopher Hampton one of the most intriguing screenwriters of today’s cinema.

You read about screenwriters who travel to a vacation home and lock themselves up to get away, for writer Anders Thomas Jensen, he discusses his rules of gaining privacy but the importance of creating something fresh and something not done before.

Then there are writers who are upfront and giving credit where credit is due.  For “The Hunger Games”, Bill Ray talks about how he came to do the writeup but also explains that Gary Ross went and rewrote and shot his movie and he’s amazed that his name was even shown in the credits as he gives Ross recognition for his work on the film.

One of my favorite writers and filmmakers is Whit Stillman.  having only made four films, each film that he creates is intellectual, humorous and just wonderful to watch. Often writing about society but giving a more intellectual side to the characters.  Most films can be easily doomed right at the start for having characters encourage in so much banter but the dialogue is what makes Whit Stillman films great. In fact, for his film “Metropolis”, there are people including myself who visit a Facebook page dedicated the to the Urban Haute Borgeousie and post various dialogue between characters from the film.

It’s so uncharacteristic for even me to participate in this type of fandom towards dialogue but that is what makes “Metropolis” so fun is because the conversations are so smart but yet entertaining.  The way Stillman is able to get into character and have conversations that go like this (from the film “Metropolis) which I find so fascinating:

Audrey: What Jane Austen novels have you read?.
Tom: None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelist’s ideas as well as the critics thinking. With fiction, I can never forget that none of it ever really happened, that its all just made up by the author.

It’s how Stillman conveys these upperclass characters but what happens when you have an intellect who is not rich trying to fit in with this group.  He manages to poke fun using his experiences with this crowd for the big screen and people continue to post various quotes from his film because they are just so fun and exciting.  And in terms of writers using music to write, Stillman discusses how writing to music brings a lot of pleasure because scriptwriting can be painful and discusses his appreciation for Woody Allen.

Another favorite chapter is with writer Robin Swicord who goes into detail about her writing for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.  What’s interesting about this is that she wrote 16 drafts of the screenplay 20 years before it made it to the big screen.  She discusses the differences of Eric Roth’s rewrite of her screenplay.  For “Memoirs of the Geisha”, Swicord talks about how she wanted the job so badly and interviewed to be a screenwriter and rumor has it that 44 writers were interviewed.

But perhaps a chapter that I was surprised to see but also very happy was with writer Jean-Claude Carriere.  It’s one thing to have written book adaptations for Jacques Tati’s “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” or “Mon Oncle” but its the working relationship he had with one of my favorite surreal filmmakers in cinema, Luis Bunuel.

“Diary of a Chambermaid”, “Belle de Jour”, “The Milky Way”, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”, “Phantom Liberty” and “That Obscure Object of Desire”… Six films that are required watching by cineaste but it doesn’t stop there.  He was also involved in writing other notable films such as Volker Schlondorff’s “The Tin Drum”, Philip Kaufman’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Cyrano de Bergerac”.

While there are many chapters with amazing writers, when it comes to legendary writers that are still among the living, the fact that Jean-Claude Carriere is featured and gives comments on working with the legendary Luis Bunuel the various films they have worked together, the information and advice is priceless!

I will say that I was surprised by the mention of Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”.  The film is credited to primarily to Haneke and had no idea that Carriere even worked on the film as a script consultant. I really don’t know how much Carriere had a part in various rewrites for the film.

For years, I have championed Haneke’s film as his own true masterpiece as Haneke knows how to make the audience feel uncomfortable and its the point of the film to open the viewer’s eyes of idealism shattered and radicalism, extremism breeding and eventually planting the seeds to terrorism.  But now knowing that Carriere had worked on the film and his work with Bunuel, knowing how to usual visual’s to make one feel uncomfortable… I can see why Haneke turned to Carriere for help in trimming down 4 1/2 hours of Haneke’s film to its final 144 minutes. But it was a surprise for me to read that Carriere had any involvement in the film.

So, the chapter on Jean-Claude Carriere came to me as a surprise but also very thrilled that Tim Grierson had a chapter featuring this talented, legendary writer.

For those wondering if the book is primarily an American affair, fortunately not.  FilmCraft books have been magnificent in the fact they try to include a variety of people from different countries, granted you can’t fit every country but each author in the FilmCraft series has done well in trying to incorporate as many talented people in the industry as they can.

For “FilmCraft: Screenwriting”, Grierson includes Hossein Amini from Iran, Guillermo Arriaga from Mexico, Jean-Claude Carrier from France, Lee Chang-dong from South Korea, Christopher Hampton from the UK, Anders Thomas Jensen from Denmark and more.

And these are just a few tidbits from this wonderful book from Tim Grierson, “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” covers writers from the present but also giving spotlight to those from the past.  From notables such as Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Paddy Chayefsky, Ben Hecht, Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond are each given the spotlight treatment.

For those wanting more from the spotlighted legendary writers and reading comments in their ow personal words, one can search out books such as Stig Bjorkman’s “Woody Allen on Woody Allen”, “Images: My Life in Film” by Ingmar Bergman and Cameron Crowe’s “Conversation with Wilder”.

Overall, “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known screenwriters in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past. I really do hope that Tim Grierson considers doing a part two because his first book is well-written, informative and there is so many other writers from around the world that can still be featured and many can learn from.

You get a combination of those who have written screenplays from the past and many from the present featured in “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” and for those who have been considering a career or interest in screenwriting will find this latest book in the FilmCraft series to be worth owning.

I applaud Tim Grierson in featuring the variety of writers in his book, the research involved.  But also a person who is a cineaste and has an appreciation for cinema internationally, not just the United States.  And last, to showcase a variety of writers who are involved in different film genres. Once again, I really do hope Grierson does continue or at least is given the opportunity to write a “Screenwriting” sequel.  I really enjoyed this latest FilmCraft book!

If you are looking for an insightful and well-written book on screenwriting, Tim Grierson’s “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is recommended! Logo - 225x79

FilmCraft: Producing by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart (a J!-ENT Book Review)

February 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“FilmCraft: Producing” is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known producers in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past.  I really do hope that Mcnab and Swart consider doing a part two because their first book was well-done!  For anyone wanting to learn about producers or wanting to become a producer, “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is highly recommended!


TITLE: FilmCraft: Producing

BY: Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart

PUBLISHER: Focal Press


RELEASED: January 3, 2013

The FilmCraft series of books will offer deep insight into the working practices of the world’s most distinguished professionals, covering their inspiration, collaboration, and work on set. Each professional will be interviewed exclusively, discussing their training and their influences and will go into detail on specific scenes in their films to give concrete examples of their craft. The result will be to provide readers with a fascinating inside look at the art of filmmaking, and a wealth of knowledge that they can apply to their own work.

As a cinema fan and also a filmmaker, although I graduated from college, I did not major in film or attend a film school.  But despite not having majored in film, I do have a passion for cinema.

In fact, if one was to visit my personal library, you would see a plethora of film books. Books on theory, cinematography, editing, producing, books on execution and books that focuses on various filmmakers. And also along with those books is a dedicated cinema shrine of DVD’s and Blu-ray’s featuring the work of the world’s talented filmmakers since the late 1890’s to present-time.

But within my collection of cinema books, the FIlmCraft books are what I find magnificent as the books give insight to some of the leading professionals, may it come to cinematography, editing and now with producing with “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart.

For those not familiar with what a producer is, one can think of the producer as the ringmaster.  The one in charge of keeping things together, following the budget and making a sure a film can be made but working with both the creative side and the financial backing side.  One that can win over the investors, one that can win over talent and it’s one major role of the filmmaking process that is extremely important.

In order to get an idea of what a producer does and how they utilized their skills, featured in this book are interviews and “Legacy” spotlights on the following producers:

  • Peter Aalbaek Jensen (DENMARK) – Producer of “Dancing in the Dark”, “Melancholia”, “Dogville”, “Breaking the Waves”, etc.
  • Tim Bevan (UK) – Producer of “The Big Lebowski”, “Fargo”, “Love Actually”, “Shaun of the Dead”, etc.
  • Jan Chapman (AUSTRALIA) Producer of “The Piano”, “Bright Star”, “Lantana”, “Somersault”, etc.
  • Michael Balcon (UK – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer of “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, “The Lavender Hill Mob”, “Dead of Night”, “The Man in the White Suit”, etc.
  • Lorenzo di Bonaventura (USA) – Producer of “Transformers” films, “Red”, etc.
  • Ted Hope (USA) – Producer of “21 Grams”, “Adventureland”, “In the Bedrom”, “American Splender”, etc.
  • Martin Karmitz (FRANCE) – Producer of “Three Colors”, “Every Man for Himself”, “Au Revoir Les Enfants”, etc.
  • David O. Selznick (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer of “Gone with the Wind”, “Rebecca”, “King Kong”, “Spellbound”, etc.
  • Kees Kasander (NETHERLANDS) – Producer of “Fish Tank”, “Prospero’s Books”, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”, “Ken Park”, etc.
  • Jon Kilik (USA) – Producer of “The Hunger Games”, “Babel”, “Inside Man”, etc.
  • Bill Kong (HONG KONG) – Producer of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hero”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “Fearless”, etc.
  • Dino De Laurentiis (ITALY) – Producer of “Red Dragon”, “Hannibal”, “Army of Darkness”, “Dune”, etc.
  • Jon Landau (USA) – Producer of “Titanic”, “Avatar”, “Dick Tracy”, “Solaris”, etc.
  • Andrew McDonald (UK) – Producer of “The Beach”, “28 Days Later”, “The Last King of Scotland”, etc.
  • Edward R. Pressman (USA) – Producer of “American Psycho”, “Das Boot”, “Wall Street”, “Thank You For Smoking”, etc.
  • Erich Pommer (GERMANY – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer of “Metropolis”, “Blue Angel”, “Jamaica Inn”, “Faust”, etc.
  • Lauren Shuler Donner (USA) – Producer of “X-Men” films, “Constantine”, “Free Willy”, etc.
  • Jeremy Thomas (UK) – Producer “A Dangerous Method”, “The Last Emperor”, “Sexy Beast”, etc.
  • Ron Yerxa & Albert Berger (USA) – Producer “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Cold Mountain”, “Election”, etc.
  • Alexander Korda (HUNGARY – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer “Richard III”, “The Third Man”, “Jungle Book”, etc.

“FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is a book that shows us how these producer’s approached films that they were best known for.

While I have never produced a big budget film and only have produced smaller productions, I’ve always wondered how producers managed to do work on these huge, big budget films and of course, their thoughts on productions for these films.

There aren’t so many books from the producers compared to the filmmakers who have the opinions on creating the film or the challenge they had with producers who were strict about the money, but I have always felt that it’s important for the producer and the director to have a great working relationship and that there is great communication.

I have read a number of books on the French New Wave to Italian Neorealism and other time periods of cinema around the world where there was constantly challenges between filmmaker and producer, but that was then, and with so much at stake today with films priced in the millions, location and big name talent or directors, you just want to know how these producers did it.

In “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart, big name producers took part in this book and some were very straightforward with their advice, discussing their success but even troubles that they had experienced.

For producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, he has worked on expensive action films from “The Matrix” and “Transformers” films and these films are known for their visual effects and 3D.  In his segment, Lorenzo talks about how it is important to reinvent and not go back to how things were done before.  And it makes sense with films such as “The Transformers” or “G.I. Joe”, people expect over-the-top special effects and one to outdo the other visual effects-wise.

Producer Marin Karmitz has had a long career from working with Agnes Varda in the French New Wave film “Cleo from 5 to 7” as an Assistant Director to working with notable directors such as Krzsztof Kieslowski for the “Three Colors” trilogy, “Melo” with Alan Resnais, “L’enfer” and “Madame Bovary” with Claude Chabrol, “Au Revoir Les Enfants” with Louis Malle, “Close-up” with Abbas Kiarostami.  But this is a producer who has worked with many filmmakers who speak a different language and he gives wonderful insight of how he has been able to do that.

In the other hand, Kees Kassander discussed the perils of co-production as he learned in 2009 with “Fish Tank” as the British side of funding tried to push him out and how their can be major challenges if you deal with partners with different attitudes towards production.

For Jon Kilik, he gives wonderful insight on how a big name can help towards the making of a film.  Such as “Babel” and having Brad Pitt who was instrumental in getting more of a budget dedicated to the film and getting the 60 extra days to create the film as opposed to the 40 days they were originally had been given.

Bill Kong gives great insight to producing in Hong Kong.  But the importance of working with directors who are organized and also why he hasn’t produced a film in the U.S.

One of the biggest features is with Jon Landau.  If Lorenzo di Bonaventura is known for working with filmmakers on big budget films with wonderful visual effects, only one producer and filmmaker is known for creating the most expensive films ever made and that is Jon Landau with filmmaker James Cameron.  From “Titanic” to “Avatar”, the production that was needed for those two films but also learning from experience of what his director needs and Landau had worked with Cameron for “True Lies”, David Fincher for “Alien 3” and Michael Mann for “The Last of the Mohicans” and one thing I liked about this interview with Landau is how his mind is set for global and creating films that work internationally.

These are just some of the examples but the fact is that Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart really did a fantastic job in finding producers from all over the world, those with extensive experience, expensive experience and those who have worked in a variety of situations or with filmmakers worldwide, these producers give good insight and wonderful advice to the budding producer or those who feel they are good at managing production and want to learn how the professional producers do it.

While some producers discuss the challenges they experienced, the book doesn’t get too involved with those who failed with a film.  You have someone like Bill Kong who accepts that some films will very good and some that will do bad but I would like to hear from producers who get into major binds but were able to bounce back.  I’m not sure what happens to successful producers who get into “John Carter” territory (budgeted at $250,000,000 and made only $73 million), part of me is curious how one is able to bounce back from that.

Overall, “FilmCraft: Producing” is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known producers in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past.  I really do hope that Mcnab and Swart consider doing a part two because their first book was well-done! And it’s another wonderful addition to the FilmCraft book series.

For anyone wanting to learn about producers or wanting to become a producer, “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is highly recommended! Logo - 225x79

FilmCraft: Cinematography by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson (a J!-ENT Book Review)

January 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“FilmCraft: Cinematography” by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson is one of the best cinema books out there when it comes to featuring famous cinematographers worldwide.  Highly recommended!


TITLE: FilmCraft: Cinematography

BY: Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson

PUBLISHER: Focal Press


RELEASED: November 17, 2011

The book covers the complex craft of cinematography (motion picture photography) through interviews with well-known cinematographers, like Vittorio Storaro and Christopher Doyle. With photos and in-depth exploration of contemporary projects, such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago, and Nine. Cinematography gives readers access to lauded professionals, providing them with the perspective to think like professionals and create a compelling visual story.

Discussions with the world’s most notable filmmakers, giving insights into professional practice, working relationships, and influences.  Sidebars featuring practical advice on topics that filmmakers can apply to their own work.  “Legacy Sections” focusing on the work of past filmmaking greats.

As a cinema fan and also a filmmaker, although I graduated from college, I did not major in film or attend a film school.

But despite not having majored in film, I do have a passion for cinema.

In fact, if one was to visit my personal library, you would see a plethora of film books.  Books on theory, books on execution and books that focuses on various filmmakers.    And also along with those books is a dedicated cinema shrine of DVD’s and Blu-ray’s featuring the work of the world’s talented filmmakers since the late 1890’s to present-time.

And having reviewed many films on Blu-ray and DVD and also cinema-related books, I tend to gravitate towards liking books from writers who acknowledge other filmmakers.  From books such as Francois Truffaut’s “Hitchcock”, “The Parade’s Gone By” by Kevin Brownlow, Sergei Eisenstein’s “Film Form: Essays in Film Theory”, Andre Bazin’s “What is Cinema?”, Peter Bogdanvoich’s “Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors”, to name a few.

And there are many books that focus on the work of these famous directors with in-depth interviews but what about cinematographers?  I can think of three wonderful books and now, you can add a fourth.

“FilmCraft: Cinematography” by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson is a book which focuses on 18 cinematographers from all over the world.

Featuring priceless interviews and article spotlights on the following cinematographers:

  • Vilmos Zsigmond (Hungary/US) – Known for his work on “The Deer Hunter”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Deliverance”, “Maverick” and more.
  • Christopher Doyle (Australia/Hong Kong) – Known for his work on “Chungking Express”, “In the Mood for Love”, “Hero”, “2046” and more.
  • Michael Ballhaus (Germany/US) Known for his work on “The Departed”, “Goodfellas”, “Gangs of New York”, “Dracula” and more.
  • James Wong Howe (China/US) – Known for his work on “Hud”, “The Thin Man”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Sweet Smell of Success” and more.
  • Ed Lachman (US) – Known for his work on “Erin Brokovich”, “The Virgin Suicides”, “Far From Heaven”, “I’m Not There” and more.
  • Rodrigo Prieto (Mexico) – Known for his work on “Brokeback Mountain”, “Babel”, “21 Grams”, “Amores Perros” and more.
  • Caleb Deschanel (US) – Known for his work on “The Passion of the Christ”, “The Patriot”, “National Treasure”, “The Right Stuff”
  • Raoul Coutard (France) – Known for his work on “Breathless”, “Jules and Jim”, “Pierrot le Fou”, “Z” and more.
  • Vittorio Storaro (Italy) – Known for his work on “Apocalypse Now”, “The Last Emperor”, “Last Tango in Paris”, “Dick Tracy” and more.
  • Chris Menges (UK/US) – Known for his work on “The Reader”, “Notes on a Scandal”, “The Killing Fields”, “The Mission” and more.
  • Dion Beebe (Australia/US) – Known for his work on “Collateral”, “Chicago”, “Equilibrium”, “Green Lantern” and more.
  • Jack Cardiff (UK) – Known for his work on “Rambo”, “The African Queen”, “The Red Shoes”, “Conan the Destroyer” and more.
  • Owen Roizman (US) – Known for his work on “Network”, “The French Connection”, “Tootsie”, “The Exorcist” and more.
  • Barry Ackroyd (UK) – Known for his work on “The Hurt Locker”, “United 93”, “Green Zone”, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” and more.
  • Ellen Kuras (US) – Known for her work on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Blow”, “Be Kind Rewind”, “Coffee and Cigarettes” and more.
  • Sven Nykvist (Sweden) – Known for his work on “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Chaplin”, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and more.
  • Peter Suschitzky (UK) – Known for his work on “Star Trek: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”, “A History of Violence”, “Eastern Promises”, “Mars Attacks!” and more.
  • Seamus McGarvey (Ireland/US) – Known for his work on “Atonement”, “Along Came Polly”, “High Fidelity”, “The Hours” and more.
  • Javier Aguirresarobe (Spain) – Known for his work on “Twilight: New Moon”, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, “The Others” and more.
  • Matthew Libatique (US) – Known for his work on “Black Swan”, “Iron Man”, “Iron Man 2”, “Requiem for a Dream” and more.
  • Freddie Young (UK) – Known for his work on “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Ryan’s Daughter”, “You Only Live Twice” and more.

“FilmCraft: Cinematography” by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson is a book that shows how each of these cinematographers have their own approach to cinema and working on their projects.  Featuring their various philosophies, personalities and the differences of these cinematographers but also as the writers wanted to clear up misconceptions about their craft, the types of lenses used and how each of these individuals came from different backgrounds.

But most importantly, while these cinematographers have communicated with many viewers around the world through images, through this book, it gives these individuals a chance to communicate through their own words.

There have been numerous books that have featured interviews with a variety of cinematographers, from those who worked during the golden years of cinema to those who worked in many films within the last century.  And while the directors are typically the people who are most vocal and mostly covered in many books on cinema, the major cinematographers is one thing you don’t usually find many books of.

There have been wonderful books such as David Ellis’ “Conversations with Cinematographers”, Peter Prescott Tonguette’s “Orson Welles Remembered: Interviews with his Actors, Cinematographers and Magicians” and Dennis Schaefer’s “Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers”…but unlike the directors, there really is not many books that focus on a collection of interviews with these cinematographers unless you have tapped into the Criterion Collection or Masters of Cinema collection Blu-ray or DVD’s which contain special features with interviews with these cinematographers for a particular film.

But I have to say that “FilmCraft: Cinematography” by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson is a wonderful addition to anyone who are upcoming cinematographers or even a curious cineaste.

But before I get into the good, let me talk about any negative aspects…trust me, there are not that many.  Interviews and articles on a collective are typically subjective and when it comes to cinema, especially if you watch cinema worldwide, one thing that you want to see is a good representation of interviewees from around the world.  There is a good representation of cinematographers from the UK, France, Italy, Australia, Ireland, Spain, etc.  But aside from Christopher Doyle, who has worked on many Asian cinema with director Wong Kar-wai, it would have been nice to see Asian cinematographers featured.

It would have been wonderful to have a Russian, Indian, Chinese, Swedish and other wonderful cinematographers featured.  But that is probably my own “trying to find a negative when there aren’t really any” with this book.

But I’m sure a lot of cinema fans probably would want more French, Italian, America, British cinematographers featured from the past and present and I suppose that it would definitely make the possibility of “FilmCraft: Cinematography vol. 2” a good idea.

Which leads me to the good news and that “FilmCraft: Cinematography” is wonderful resource featuring interviews and article spotlights with a variety of cinematographers.  In fact, it’s a wonderful book and the selections of cinematographers is fantastic!

This book features names that shocked even me, that they got the opportunity to interview them for this book.  For example, James Wong Howe.  For anyone who has watched classic cinema such as William Powell and Myrna Loy’s “The Thin Man”, James Cagney’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis’ “Sweet Smell of Success”…I don’t know how many times I have watched these films and felt inspired seeing someone of Asian descent working in the film industry in classic Hollywood.

And of course, along with Howe…you have to include Nouvelle Vague’s Raoul Coutard who is known for working on Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut’s memorable French New Wave films.  So, it’s great to see Howe, Coutard and a few others have received the “Legacy”spotlight in this book.

I was definitely in glee when I read the interview with Christopher Doyle.  I can easily remember watching “Chungking Express” and watching the scene while Cop 663 (played by Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is standing in his area and Doyle employs the quick movements on this static character.  It was a scene that I would remember and he repeats another memorable scene over a decade later in “Hero” with vibrant colors and amazing camerawork.  Wong Kar-wai films are beautiful and thanks to the creative freedom that Christopher Doyle has with Kar-wai, these two have made fantastic films together and you get to read  about Doyle and his thoughts of working on various films.  It’s a wonderful chapter!

And of course, the book doesn’t focus on fantastic cinematographers from decades past, you also have cinematographers who have worked on modern films such as Barry Ackroyd who talks about working on “United 93”, “Land and Freedom”, “The Hurt Locker”.  You have Javier Aguirresarobe who worked with Woody Allen on “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” discussing his films, Matthew Libatique who worked on “Black Swan” and the recent “Iron Man” films.  And many more!

I can continue to gush about this book about why I loved it but if I had to sum it all up about what I loved about this book into one word, it would be “opportunity”.  The writers giving the opportunity to learn about these filmmakers through their book and these cinematographers for giving readers the opportunity to know more about their approach to their craft and their work on various films.

The fact is that unless you spend a lot of money on Blu-ray or DVD’s which you can hope has an audio commentary track or interview with a cinematographer, it really is awesome when you come across a book written by writers who are passionate about cinema and really went out to gather considerable names for their book. And when it comes to interview books with cinematographers, let’s just say that it ranks in my top two!  And I can only hope that Goodridge & Grierson continues this book with a vol. 2 in the near future.

Overall, “FilmCraft: Cinematography” by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson is one of the best books out there when it comes to featuring famous cinematographers worldwide within the last century.  The interviews are absolutely priceless, the book is well-written. and the potential of a continuing series of this book featuring more cinematographers worldwide would be wonderful.

If you are a film student, an observer of cinematography or just a cineaste who are passionate about the films and the people responsible on camera, make no doubt about it… “FilmCraft: Cinematography” is highly recommended! Logo - 225x79