"FilmCraft: Producing" Book Review
Written by Geoffrey Macnab and Sharon Swart
2013, 191 pages, Reference
Released on January 17th, 2013
FilmCraft is a continuing series from Focal Press that deconstructs the art of cinema by studying it from the inside. Each volume in the collection focuses on a different aspect of film production by gathering interviews with master craftsmen, who are able to relay a lifetime of experience in a series of intimate and informal conversations. The series provides a global perspective as the interviews are not strictly limited to American filmmakers.
In this latest installment, FilmCraft: Producing, authors Geoffrey Macnab and Sharon Swart present fifteen in-depth interviews with such notables as Edward R. Pressman (Conan the Barbarian), Lauren Shuler Donner (X-Men), Bill Kong (Hero), Jon Landau (Titanic), Jan Chapman (The Piano), Lorenzo di Bonaventura (The Matrix) and many others, providing a unique look into the approach each takes when producing a feature film.
The first question many people ask is “What does a producer do?” and there is not an easy answer. The role sometimes starts as early in the process as finding and championing a great but overlooked screenplay and continues on through raising funds and writing a budget, and possibly to overseeing daily production. The producer is both the ringleader of the circus and the confidence man able to separate the investors from their money. If a director is generally described with the analogy of being the captain of the ship or the guiding light, then the producer provisions that ship and makes sure every necessity is made available. The producer must work tirelessly to facilitate the needs of the production and be able to say “No” to anyone, including the director if necessary.
FilmCraft: Producing is an oversized paperback book filled with rich and colorful photographs matching the other entries in the series. The layout maximizes the space and offers sidebar information relating to a specific movie or precise moment in a film to illustrate a point. Upon first glance each volume could be mistaken for a coffee table book were it not for the wealth of technical information found inside.
A very nice addition to the series comes in the form of the “Legacy” section that devotes attention to many of the leaders of the industry who have since passed away, and their inclusion within these pages provides an opportunity to respect their contributions as well as gain an understanding of how influential their work has been to the film community. Highlights include the works of Dino De Laurentiis (King Kong 1976), David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind) and Erich Pommer (Metropolis).
FilmCraft: Producing is highly recommended reading for anyone who enjoys movies and has an interest in learning more about the process. There is nothing here that feels like a textbook, but the insight provided within can be held up against any film school lecture and benefits from offering the views of more than a dozen teachers.
It is unfair to criticize this collection for not being larger, but it did leave me wanting more. With luck a second volume will be commissioned for key crew positions such as directors and producers that will invite additional interview subjects. Ideal ones would include Roger Corman, Jerry Bruckheimer, Kathleen Kennedy and Gale Anne Hurd just to name a few. Until then, take my advice and pick this book up, now!