Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen by Steven D. Katz, 4/5
This book offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the film director’s craft, laying out the many tools, visualisation strategies, camera angles, movements and stagings that are available to the person intent on transferring a story from script to film. The book format is obviously not ideal for the topic and it is up to the reader to imagine how a shot might flow between the still images that are provided, but the author is a clear communicator and most of the concepts are not difficult to understand.
Why I read it: I came across it while browsing through books at the thrift store and thought it looked interesting.
Between them, these two books cover 200 camera shots, providing descriptions, diagrams and screen captures from famous movies. Kenworthy’s efficient and unpretentious style makes these books uniquely informative. He explains the hows and whys behind camera techniques in plain language, revealing some very interesting cinematographic nuances that I would never have noticed or guessed on my own.
For example, in Master Shots Chapter 6.4 Kenworthy points out that “keeping the camera in place creates the sensation of the character walking into the new scene; if you dolly backward, the actor doesn’t feel like he’s moving into the scene so much as passing through.” Or, during a chase scene, he suggests using a long lens to make the goal appear nearer, whilst also more unattainable since the hero makes less apparent progress towards it during the shot (26). These are just two examples of the kind of fascinating insight provided by these excellent books. Reading them has made me a better movie-watcher and if I ever need to make a film, I will read them again in order to be a better movie-maker.
Two things must accompany the reading of this book, besides an appreciation of the more technical side of films: immediate access to imdb.com and an empty list entitled “Films to watch.” For me, this was a good introduction to many iconic directors with whom I am regretfully unfamiliar and a fascinating glimpse into how others watch, enjoy and are influenced by a variety of films. An example of the book’s power… after reading the interview about Citizen Kane, I am inspired to re-watch the movie (despite hating it the last three times I saw it). The only thing I didn’t like was the inevitable inclusion of spoilers for many of the movies.