Acclaim for Sidney Lumet’s
“What Lumet is writing [is] the mystery of narrative art itself.”
– The New York Times
“Full of energy, enthusiasm and wisdom…. It’s all engrossing because [Lumet] speaks so fervently and opinionatedly about matters on which he has earned the right to opinions.”
– Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic
“The film bible from a master. It tells in meticulous detail the step-by-step process of making a movie. You feel you’re on the set. A must.”
– Quincy Jones
“Lumet has written a charming memoir conveying the joy in his craft, the great pleasure he takes in making movies… rich in the technical side of movie making even as it serves as an easily accessible introduction to how movies are made by a veteran of the craft.”
– Baltimore Sun
“Sidney is the maestro…. His book is like his films – frank, honest, pacey, and very, very smart. Anyone seriously interested in films should read it.”
– David Mamet
The Director: The Best Job in the World
The Script: Are Writers Necessary?
Style: The Most Misused Word Since Love
Actors: Can an Actor Really Be Shy?
The Camera: Your Best Friend
Art Direction and Clothes: Does Faye Dunaway Really Have the Skirt Taken in in Sixteen Different Places?
Shooting the Movie: At Last!
Rushes: The Agony and the Ecstasy
The Cutting Room: Alone at Last
The Sound of Music: The Sound of Sound
The Mix: The Only Dull Part of Moviemaking
The Answer Print: Here Comes the Baby
The Studio: Was It All for This?
I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chosen to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he’d panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed, and if he’d panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport – neither of which belonged in a period movie. Only the person who’s made the movie knows what goes into the decisions that result in any piece of work. They can be anything from budget requirements to divine inspiration.
This is a book about the work involved in making movies. Because Kurosawa’s answer stated the simple truth, most of the movies I’ll discuss in this book are pictures I directed. With those, at least, I know exactly what went into each creative decision.
There’s no right or wrong way to direct a movie. What I’m writing about is how I work. For students, take it all; take what you want and throw the rest away; or throw it all away. For a few readers, perhaps it might make up for the times a movie crew has tied you up in traffic, or shot in your neighborhood all night long. We really do know what we’re doing: It only looks as if we don’t. Serious work is going on even when it seems as if we’re just standing around. For everyone else, I’ll try to tell you as best I can how movies are made. It’s a complex technical and emotional process. It’s art. It’s commerce. It’s heartbreaking and it’s fun. It’s a great way to live.
A warning about what you won’t find in the book: There are no personal revelations other than feelings arising from the work itself – no gossip about Sean Connery or Marlon Brando. Mostly I love the people I’ve worked with in what’s necessarily an intimate process.