Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet 
Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies is the kind of book you can’t just leaf through. You read every word and you do it on one reading, just like the director says he always used to read the scripts – because “a script can have a very different feeling if reading it is interrupted”. And then you come back to read entire passages to be able to take it all in.

I don’t like the word “review”. I don’t review books and films. I think you have to have a certain amount of arrogance in you to be able to do that. I don’t have it. I don’t analize movies. I talk about them. And sometimes, quite often even, I do it passionately. Because I love films. So if you like movies just a little bit, if it is just one film that you’ve ever liked, all I can say is that you should read this book.

Here are just a few movie-defining things that stayed with me after reading it:

It’s all in the preparation. Do mountains of preparation kill spontaneity? Absolutely not. It’s just the opposite. When you know what you are doing, you feel much freer to improvise.

Directors take risks. The critics and the audiences don’t.

Dialogue is like anything else in movies. It can be a crutch or, when used well, it can enhance, deepen, and reveal.

A movie is constantly being rewritten, through the various contributions of the director and the actors, the music, sound, camera, decor, and editing.

Producers and studio executives hate movies.

Theatre actors are in awe of movie stars and movie stars are in awe of theatre actors.

Good work comes from passion.

And passionate people (from director and screenwriter, to actors, cameramen and set designers) can cry on the set when they failed as well as when they did something great.

The reality of the movie insider has nothing to do with the reality of an audience watching a movie for the first time.

There are no small decisions in moviemaking.

Clothes are important.

Pictures are not made in the cutting room, which is the cliché about editing, but they can be ruined there.

There is no way critics can know how well or poorly a film was edited. Only three people know how good or bad the editing was: the editor, the director, and the cameraman.

Sometimes an image is so meaningful that it encompasses everything the movie is about.

A movie plays better when you add the music. The music must say something that nothing else in the picture is saying. But when you can’t find a musical score that adds to the movie, don’t use one. There was no score used in Dog Day Afternoon, The Hill, or Network.

Commercial success has no relationship to a good or a bad picture.

The amount of attention paid to movies is directly related to pictures of quality. It’s the movies that are works of art that create this interest, even if they’re not on the ten-highest-grosses list too often.

Directing is the best job in the world.

photo by me

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