My First Movie : Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Film Paperback – 2002
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Stephen Spielberg thought that the idea behind this book was "neat". He didn't have time to make a contribution, but then he's a very busy man. Thankfully, even without the participation of the director of Duel, Stephen Lowenstein managed to assemble an impressive roster of film-makers happy to discuss their earliest efforts. Lowenstein notes that he witnessed in every interview a real enthusiasm for the subject, saying that "my hunch was that the directors enjoyed talking about films that they weren't trying to sell". The interviews manage to capture the combination of freedom and fear which seems to characterise a first film: Gary Oldman speaks for many of the contributors when he describes the making of Nil By Mouth as "like saving things from a burning building".
Each of the directors interviewed attracted widespread acclaim for their debut film, and would never again come to a project with so little baggage. Lowenstein has chosen his subjects carefully, providing a survey of a refreshingly wide range of experiences. Pedro Almodovar attended film school and made short films before writing Pepi, Luci, Bom while working for a telephone company; the Coen brothers had never been on a film set before they began shooting Blood Simple; Oliver Stone came to directing relatively late, writing a number of hits including Midnight Express before he shot Salvador at the age of 40.
It is true that My First Movie covers some ground which has been dealt with in earlier interviews, often at the time of release of the films in question--for example, we read once again of Kevin Smith financing Clerks with credit cards. However, the book provides far more depth than magazine interviews would allow, and gathers in one place a great deal of material interesting to a wide cross-section of readers, about directors as diverse as Ken Loach, Ang Lee and Steve Buscemi. Lowenstein has a knack for asking interesting questions and eliciting fascinating responses, revealing a great deal about not only the stories behind these first films, but also the personalities of their makers. --John Oates --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Each interview is different, just as each filmmaker's first moviemaking experience was different. Every interview is illuminating and serves to broaden the reader's view of filmmaking, as well as increase appreciation for the sheer hard work and endurance required to get a movie to the point of completion.
I found myself riveted by each director's account of their first movies, of the experience of getting the film to the point of being made, to the casting, to the pre-production, to the first day of filming, to editing and then trying to find a place to screen the darn thing. It was very interesting to get to know each filmmaker, the places they were in the beginning stages of their careers, and the places their films took them to.
I appreciated reading interviews with filmmakers I greatly admire (the Coen brothers), to those I am familiar with and jealous of (Kevin Smith), and especially the interviews with female filmmakers such as Allison Anders and Mira Nair (since I myself am female). Some other interviews I particularly enjoyed: P.J. Hogan ("Muriel's Wedding"), James Mangold ("Heavy"), and Ang Lee ("Pushing Hands").
If you like this book, I highly recommend "Rebel Without a Crew" by Robert Rodriguez, as it is a complete diary of the entire process of the making of his first feature film.
I got this as a Christmas present, and I hope that a sequel is in the works.
The best interviews are the first and last: the Coen brothers and James Mangold. Allison Anders comes across as very sweet and smart. Steve Buscemi's story is interesting IF you've seen Trees Lounge.
The rest of the interviews fall flat. I had no idea what Bertrand Tavernier was talking about. Or Gary Oldman. Or Mike Figgis, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach...
Save your money and read those "FamousDirector on FamousDirector" books instead.
Throughout all of the interviews, I found the same recurring theme of panic surface. I was particularly impressed with the interview with Ang Lee where he discusses his quick success out of NYU and then 7 years of drought, as well as James Mangold's rocket to stardom taken down by his snide remarks to Katzenberg.
This book is probably more properly titled "Self Help" book for anyone that wants to make a movie, as you realize that the directors featured in this book are really no different from anyone else. In a few cases (I'll refrain from telling you), I actually found myself saying, "Why WOULD anyone have ever let this person direct a film." Thus, the reader will be comforted to know that if he or she keeps pushing, eventually they will get their project made.
Overall, the book is a wonderfully delightful read. My recommendation is to read a chapter a day, and then watch the director's movie... this will maximize the pleasure and reading experience.
For movie lovers or anyone who is interested in film making this book is worth checking out
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