14 May 2010
Book Review and Giveaway: 101 Things I Learned in Film School
Neil Landau's 101 filmic tidbits are ideal for anyone interested in knowing more about the world of film. The information provided can really help a film student or a film buff learn something new or be reminded of an obvious that got lost over time (my case numerous times). However, explanations of different shots and mis-en-scene sit side by side with advice on how to develop characters and general, life philosophy type commentary. In other words, you do not have to be a film student or a film buff to enjoy this book. For example, one bit of advice says, "In fantasy stories, set the rules early, clearly, and simply." Whether you are into watching, reading, or writing, that's relevant.
While reading, I found myself marking practically every other page as a reminder to use that bit in my film class. I probably will be organizing class periods around quotes/images from the book (I'll give full credit to Landau and Frederick) in the coming semester. Or better yet, on those days where I've been slacking and don't have a lesson plan, I'll just flip the book open to a random page and go from there. For example, a random flip brings up the following:
Give your characters the anonymity test.
Each character's voice should be distinctive and idiosyncratic. When writing or reviewing a script, cover up the characters' names to see if you can tell who is speaking. If the lines are interchangeable, the characters are too similar.
Thank you Landau for not only providing me with a great lesson for my film students, but also for an in-class activity we can use! Outside of wanting to use Landau to do my job for me, I also think this is just a handy book to have around. I can see myself flipping it open from time to time to read a random tidbit or even reading a couple pages and then watching a movie to compare the lessons with reality.
One lesson I thought you guys would appreciate:
Film, novel, television, or stage?
Film is best for stories that can be told visually and that demand a satisfying resolution. Novels are most appropriate when the psychologies of characters are explored in detail, when the writer's prose style is essential to the story's aesthetic experience, and the ending is particularly ambiguous. Television series suit ideas that can be developed over time. Series involving doctors, police officers, and lawyers are common because the opportunity for new plotlines is virtually unlimited. Serialized dramas (soap operas) offer open-ended plotlines that can run for decades. Stage plays are suited to complex ideas that can be effectively dramatized via dialogue and a limited number of characters and sets.
For me, ideas like this are thought-provoking. Do I agree with Landau? What do I think distinguishes these four situations? Are ambiguous endings really better in novels than in movies? What movies have I watched that had unsatisfying resolutions? Will Jerry Bruckheimer ever stop making the same tv shows over and over again? Man am I tired of doctors and cops. And so on...
Each bit of knowledge is accompanied by artwork from Frederick which I found highly enjoyable because, well, who doesn't like pictures?
Not only do I get to tell you to read this book, I actually get to offer you a chance to win it. Grand Central Publishing has super kindly offered to provide 5 giveaway copies. If you are interested in receiving a copy, just let me know in the comments section and be sure to include your email address.
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, Non-Fiction Five,