Spring 2006

Directors Close Up: Second Edition
(The Scarecrow Press, 341 pages, $29.95)
Moderated and Edited by Jeremy Kagan

In 1992, the Directors Guild of America began presenting yearly seminars with the directors nominated for its outstanding achievement in feature film award. Jeremy Kagan, the film and Emmy award-winning director who has moderated these events since their inception, has cherry-picked some of the most fascinating and insightful remarks from these illustrious filmmakers and shaped them into a highly informative and wildly entertaining read. This second edition of Directors Close Up contains anecdotes from 45 directors–including Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Ang Lee–that you're unlikely to find anywhere else. Speaking to an audience of their peers seems to have allowed even some normally guarded artists to speak their minds. Seasoned pros, neophytes and just plain movie fans will all find something to inspire them in this wide-ranging love letter to filmmaking. Wisely divided into chapters which break down the process into its various stages–from "The Script" to "Postproduction: Music and Sound"–rather than by individual director, one can dip into this book anywhere and quickly get absorbed. The chapter on casting is especially revealing. Here you can read about the varied techniques directors use to get audition-phobic actors to read for them. For instance, if you're James Cameron casting Titanic and the actor is Leonardo DiCaprio, you just lay it on the line and tell him, "You are gonna read or you are gonna go home." Or, if you're lucky, like Barry Levinson, who couldn't bring himself to ask Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley to read for the part of Meyer Lansky in Bugsy, the actor will save your neck and ask politely if he can come back again and read. The section on editing is equally compelling. Having trouble letting go of scenes you love? Follow Alexander Payne's advice: "You know, you trim a steak, you got to cut into the meat." Storyboards, script notes and on-set shots are an added bonus to the text. Everything combines to create humanized portraits of some larger-than-life artists.

Review written by Gloria Norris.


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