Thursday, 2 October 2008

Mamet on directing film

Short but good Bloomberg interview with David Mamet (Night Talk, July 2006)

On of my favourite writers on film directing is film director David Mamet. He's not my favourite film director, but his short, insightful and peppery book On Directing Film is a very good read and, along the way, argues for the 'objectivity' of film directing; it's a kind of self-help guide cum film-school-degree-zero.

Here are some of the key snippets from that book on what Mamet thinks that film directors (should) do:

‘The main questions a director must answer are:

  • “where do I put the camera?”and “what do I tell the actors?; and a subsequent question, “what’s the scene about?”'
  • (On Directing Film, p. 1)
  • ‘The work of the director is the work of constructing the shot list from the script.
  • The work on the set is nothing. All you have to do on set is stay awake, follow your plans, help the actors be simple, and keep your sense of humour. The film is directed in the making of the shot list.
  • The work on the set is simply to record what has been chosen to be recorded. It is the plan that makes the movie.’
  • (On Directing Film, p. 5)
  • ‘It is always up to you to decide whether you are going to tell the story through a juxtaposition of shots or whether you are not.
  • It’s not always up to you to decide whether or not that process is going to be interesting.
  • Any real technique is going to be based on things within your control. Anything that is not based on things within your control is not a real technique.'
  • (On Directing Film, p. 103)

Mamet has also made a film about filmmaking: the wonderful State and Main (USA, 2000). Here's the trailer:

Posted on YouTube (link HERE) by lidiablogspot on May 8, 2008

[See also Matt Zoller Seitz, 'From the short stack: David Mamet on the Steadicam', on the great The House Next Door blog]

1 comment:

Len Esten said...

Mamet boils things down to their essence and doesn't leave room for people to act like spoiled brats and debutantes... no wonder he's controversial.

Ok, you've pushed me over the edge, I'm gonna go get "On Directing Film" this week.