I promised Professor Robert Gerst a review of his book, Make Film History: Rewrite, Reshoot, Recut the World’s Most Greatest Films. I was unable to complete the review before getting the offer to write Chronicles of Old San Francisco and going on hiatus so here it is. Since I continue to have other writing demands and book editing duties and have been traveling, I don’t know when I’ll return to blogging so enjoy this current entry and those neatly categorized on the right from the past.
A fellow author with publisher Michael Wiese Productions, Gerst chairs the Liberal Arts Dept. at U of Mass College of Art and Design and uses the book as a teaching tool. So too can you teach yourself by reading it and doing the exercises.
First off, the cover of the book grabbed me. It’s an exercise in lighting and storytelling unto itself. And it contains an Easter egg of sorts in the form of an orange dot announcing that this landscape- shaped book includes an interactive website – Gerst’s – www.makefilmhistory.com.
Becoming a Problem Solver
“I’m a problem solver” people say. “We’re all problem solvers,” I say. Editors solve picture, sound, continuity, and story problems primarily as well as many other problems.
Make Film History presents the real problems film directors have faced over the evolution of moviemaking. Then it challenges you, the reader, to create your own films sparked by the solutions to these problems which naturally include editing. Each chapter focuses on a different well-known director’s dilemma, from Eadweard Muybridge – who transformed still frames to moving pictures – through Spike Jonze’s who grappled with person and role in Being John Malkovich.
The book’s screen shots along with movie scenes (available at the website), demonstrate the challenges which include shooting, editing, montage, music, sound, and aspect ratio along with each director’s solutions. Together, these comprise the bedrock of filmmaking technique. Following in the tradition of famous painters learning from imitating others, Gerst then provides two short exercises; the first tells you how to re-create the technique; the second urges you to make your own film based on the technique. Editing exercises include jump cuts, reinventing montage, keeping continuity, and chroma keying.
“Read it. Learn it. Do it.” This is what the website and the book Make Film History exhort readers to do and what it solidly delivers.