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Complications Ensue:
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Friday, November 17, 2006

After Crafty TV Writing, my editors asked me what the next book might be, and the logical answer seemed to be Crafty Directing. Not that I know how to direct craftily, but it would have been fun to interview directors who do. Most directing books, I've noticed, are either basic primers (how not to cross the "line") or books of chatty anecdotes by major directors. Sidney Lumet's book is about the only one that gives away trade secrets, and he doesn't give many of those.

Now John Badham has written a book full of this exact kind of tradecraft. (Fortunately for me, John told me he was going to do it a couple years ago; but the book is even better than I'd hoped.) It's called I'll Be in My Trailer: Creative Wars Between Actors and Directors, and it is as full of director tradecraft as you might hope, coming from the very crafty director of Saturday Night Fever, Stakeout, WarGames and The Jack Bull. Badham hasn't stopped at his own knowledge; he's interviewed fellow directors like Mark Rydell and Richard Donner, and quoted from interviews with other directors.

The tradecraft I'm talking about includes things like shooting closeups first if you're dealing with a scene that might wear out your actor emotionally (generally you shoot the master first, closeups last); the two points of view about rehearsals; what it means when an actor says, "I want to talk to you about my costume; and how not to waste your casting sessions looking important.

Okay, there's still some room for Crafty Directing because this book only focuses on dealing with actors. I'd love to hear what Badham and his colleagues have to say about the more subtle uses of different lenses, when to shoot at a location and when a studio, six day shoots vs. five day shoots, and other technical and production questions. But that really does deserve another book.

If you want to direct, or if you're even simply a writer who wants to appreciate all that a director has to deal with, buy this book.

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I don't know too many directors. But I really enjoy chatting with two very successful ones from time to time. Jon Cassar (24) is a super nice guy. You just wanna give him a big hug when he walks into the room. While he and I engage in more personal chatter (I'm trying to convince him to launch a blog or a MySpace page), another director, Greg Beeman (Heroes) really enjoys discussing the technical aspects of directing. You can read his blog at which is sprinkled with candid behind-the-scenes pics of cast and crew, and interviews with the stars of Heroes. Another really nice guy. I hope to meet him someday.

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 1:05 PM  

Thanks for the alert re: John Badham's book.
I crewed on "Jack Bull" and will, even this far down the road, thoroughly enjoy some retrograde clarification vis-a-vis the, uhm, personal dynamics flying around that particular set...

And, while we're on the topic of expressing gratitude: "Complications Ensue" is one of my few guaranteed daily reads. Your blog rocks! Many thanks for providing an educational and entertaining glimpse into the sometimes altogether-baffling mechanics of a sceenwriter's life.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:02 AM  

The real reason the John Badham book is better than expected is because it was REALLY written by Craig Modderno, who did most of the heavy lifting. Craig's a terrific writer, currently filing stories for the NY TIMES.

By Blogger By Ken Levine, at 2:57 AM  

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