Although only a little over 200 pages, Sidney Lumet’s landmark Making Movies packs more knowledge and insight into a single chapter than most books about filmmaking do in their entire length. Lumet—director of 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Verdict, among many others—structures Making Movies in the most intuitive, common sense way possible: each chapter tackles the myriad aspects of a director’s job putting a film together. He begins with The Script, then The Actors, then Shooting, then Cutting, etc., right down the line until the finished film is previewed for audiences. Lumet’s writing style is totally casual, as if you and he were having a conversation over coffee and bagels at a NY cafe.
Lumet’s not a name-dropper; although he will tell you how Al Pacino nailed a difficult scene in Dog Day Afternoon only after Lumet forced him to do multiple takes, making Pacino emotionally exhausted and getting some of the best film acting the director had ever seen out of him. Lumet has complimentary things to say about Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and Sean Connery, but it’s always within the context of the chapter he’s covering at the time.
If anything, Making Movies makes you appreciate the incredible stress a film director is under at any given moment—and the thousands of critical choices he has to make in the course of planning, shooting and editing a movie. Lumet is humble about the process, readily admitting that nobody has the formula for making a good movie, and even fewer know how a movie becomes a success. Lumet seems the perfect director to pen a book like this, since he’s made many good movies, some bad ones, some commercially successful movies and several that flopped despite all his best efforts.
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in movies, whether you want to make them, write about them, or just watch them. Lumet outlines so clearly the steps involved in developing and filming a movie, pretty much anyone who picks up this book will be able to better understand what goes into the filmmaking process. I especially found the chapters on The Camera and Rushes the most illuminating. Even though the book was written in 1995 and some aspects of filmmaking have been supplanted in terms of digital technology (notably, waiting for the lab to print the previous day’s rushes to view), the essential elements of Making Movies remain as relevant today as they were twenty years ago.
A quick read, always entertaining and informative, Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies remains the most essential—and accessible—book ever written about filmmaking.
cannot agree enough. one of the greatest books on filmmaking ever.