(Michael Wiese Productions, 240 pages, $26.95)
By John Badham
John Badham is a director who knows a thing or two about life in the trenches. In his latest book he culls from his nearly 40-year history in the industry, referencing such features as WarGames, Stakeout, and Saturday Night Fever to provide invaluable first-hand insight for vets and novices alike in three key areas: how to work with difficult actors, techniques for preparing and executing action sequences, and how to analyze and deconstruct problematic scenes.
Badham’s work philosophy is based on the rule of mutual respect, and it is that fundamental idea that binds together this comprehensive resource guide to common mistakes directors tend to make on set. He calls on a host of DGA luminaries, including Guild president Paris Barclay and past presidents Taylor Hackford and Michael Apted, as well as legendary members John Rich and Gil Cates, to weigh in on the discussion.
On Directing is a clean, concise compendium that is part instruction manual, part therapy session, and part inspirational memoir. Divided into three main sections—the five mistakes of mistrust between actor and director; strategies and techniques for action sequences; and an indispensable “director’s checklist” for developing the architecture of a scene. Throughout, Badham’s point-by-point analyses are erudite and fluid, but always accessible.
Badham’s preferred method of instruction is how not to do something, and in pulling from his own experiences there are plenty of lessons to go around. In his section on how to approach the always delicate issue of giving notes to actors, he stresses the importance of keeping such instruction private, and caps it off with anecdotes from actors themselves. He never loses sight of the fact that the art of filmmaking is a collaborative effort.
Informative, intimate, and deeply insightful, On Directing is an important reference tool that has the rare luxury of being about, written for, and dedicated to directors.
Review written by Carley Johnson