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03/20/2008 - BOOK REVIEW: FILM SCHOOL ? How to Watch DVDs and Learn Everything About Filmmaking

"BOOK REVIEW: FILM SCHOOL - How to Watch DVDs and Learn Everything About Filmmaking"
Author: Richard Pepperman
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN-13: 978-1932907414

I have justified it many times to my friends. Why do I watch so MANY crappy Public Domain films? Well, first, they're cheap. And, second, I learn things while watching them. Things that are important if you want to actually write and/or direct film. At least that's the excuse I'm giving them.

In reality, I learn far more from crappy films than I do from good films. From good films I'm drawn into the story, into the characters, into the themes. I often don't think about the nuances of the film because I'm so involved in the story. But, heck, give me "Invasion of the Wasp Woman" and I spend most of the time ignoring the bad acting and marveling at how they got this shot or that shot. But, lately, I've been analyzing better films, classic films, peaking behind the curtain and exploring what elements were used to create the visual story.

Richard Pepperman using mostly classic films and films of all types of genres and styles dissects the films. Breaking films down into all their main elements (story, place, character) and then going one (or two or three) steps farther breaking those down into telling, structure, subplot (for story), light, setting, space (for place) and dialogue, reactions, subtext (for character) - and more.

Pepperman does a great job of showing you how these directors used all the elements at their disposal to create the stories you see. How dialogue influences character, how the sense of space comments on place, how the use of structure builds a story. And then he gives you detailed and exact places on the DVD to find what he is talking about.

If I had any fault with the book, I would have liked visual examples from the various films - he wouldn't have to do visuals for each film, but select a few - such as the sense of space in "High Noon" or the showing aspect of story in "Witness." The only other issue I have with the book is that there is an assumption that the reader knows what an "establishing shot" is or a "medium two shot" or a "POV" shot. It would have been great if some examples could have been provided in the introduction, or throughout the book, just to give the reader a frame of reference to go back to.

Still, Mr. Pepperman, using mostly classic films, breaks them apart in ways that teach the reader how films are put together on many different levels. I have always watched films and ended up analyzing them - Mr. Pepperman takes it to a whole other level. Amazing.


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