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06/16/2008 - BOOK REVIEW: SETTING UP YOUR SHOTS ? Great Camera Moves Every Filmmaker Should Know

"BOOK REVIEW: SETTING UP YOUR SHOTS - Great Camera Moves Every Filmmaker Should Know"
Author: Jeremy Vineyard
Illustrated By: Jose Cruz
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 0-941188-74-4

For those of you who read and/or follow these reviews - you know that I am in the process of making my own "no-budget" independent film. A book like this is like manna from heaven.
Jeremy Vineyard (with illustrations by Jose Cruz) does an amazing job of figuring out and printing up nearly every single camera shot you could think of. And, trust me, I've thought of a lot of them. Especially as I prep my film.
But wait, Matt, aren't you a screenwriter? Would this book be good for a screenwriter? Frankly, yes. Or should I say: YES!
One of the hardest things to teach a screenwriter is to look at their film visually. If you've even thought of thinking about possibly thinking of being a screenwriter - you should watch films and dissect those films. From camera angles, to actor's positioning, to scene structure to "how the heck did they do that?!" special effects. Sadly most first time screenwriters don't think visually when they writer - they don't comprehend how the shot should look - how the final film should look.
I know what you're thinking: "I've been told to not put in camera moves or certain camera angles - that's up to the director to decide." It may very well be up to the director to decide - but you STILL have to look at your film visually. You have to "shoot" the film in your head when you are writing it. Having an understanding of the various shots will help you do just that. This book is an excellent resource.
My only issues with the book, and they are minor, is that I would have liked the author to include whole scenes from movies to show how the scenes link together into a cohesive whole. Take, say, one of the boxing matches in "Raging Bull" and break it down. Low angle, high angle, close-up, focus pull, back to a two shot, etc. It's one thing to say that a certain shot (such as a whip pan) is used in the film "Stagecoach" but then what of the shots following it and preceding it?
The only other issue I would bring up (and this might very well be insane) is to put the time-code on certain shots (not EVERY shot but a select few). Something along the lines of: "There is an extreme close-up in the film "Silence of the Lambs" at 1:47:32 into the film." Or: "Note the whip-pan in "Stagecoach" at 1:18:49. Followed by tracking shot at 1:22:16." A little more detail like that, I think, would have raised the book to a whole new level of film geekdom (and I mean that in a good way).
Jeremy Vineyard, with wonderful illustrations by Jose Cruz, simplifies complicated shots and takes you beyond amateur filmmaking into the real of professional filmmaking. Before you shoot anything, heck, before you WRITE anything - read this book.


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