"Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, 5th Edition" Book Review

Written by Robert Gold

Published by Focal Press

Written by Michael Rabiger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier
2013, 517 pages, Reference
Book released on January 22nd, 2013


Directing a film can be one of the most challenging jobs someone attempts and the number of those who have tried and failed is staggering. With advances in technology, the costs of making a movie have dropped to such attainable levels that now anyone can do so. The problem with giving away the keys to the proverbial kingdom is that not everyone should make something just because they can. Not everyone is an accomplished storyteller. Many people willingly blunder into this field without taking the time to first do their homework.

I have worked in film production for two decades and have zero interest in directing a feature film. I prefer working in the capacity that enables the director to do their job with as few stressors possible. The challenge is hard enough when someone approaches it in a professional manner, and it is painfully uncomfortable to watch if the one calling the shots clearly has no idea what he or she is doing…and everyone on set can see it. The worst thing someone can do when directing a project is to come to work unprepared and waste time and money. The crew is working to realize the director’s vision and when there is no leadership, it can make for a really long day.

In 2003, author Michael Rabiger’s Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics offered a straightforward look at the directing process in a manner previously seldom seen. A wealth of information was delivered in a variety of clear and concise applications utilizing a comprehensive hands-on approach balancing standard descriptive text with clarifying charts and diagrams. Over the following decade, the guide has been revised and amended with thoughtful revisions and updates to address changes in technology.

Now, ten years after the initial volume, Rabiger returns with this fifth edition that should not be missed. Joined by fellow filmmaker Mick Hurbis-Cherrier, together they offer an even more exhaustive look at the numerous roles a director holds on and off set. Where this book excels is in its ability to inform without reading like a traditional textbook. Here the authors kick away the cobwebs and keep things moving for both first-time filmmakers and seasoned professionals alike. The information flows with the voice of experience and readers can avoid many unnecessary blunders by picking up this book.

The material is presented across an eight-part structure that breaks everything down into an easy to follow step-by-step guide from preproduction to post. This book thoughtfully addresses everything from basic screen grammar to the unparalleled importance of planning ahead. It offers detailed coverage for every step of the process from script development to casting, plus a thorough look at the budgeting process and tips for working with people on both sides of the camera. Additional information can be found on the book’s companion website including production forms, teaching notes, questionnaires and checklists.

This latest edition has been fully revised and streamlined on a chapter by chapter basis. The films analyzed have been updated to include both classic and contemporary examples. The discussions of aesthetics, style and collaboration have been expanded. The comparative advantages of working with either digital or film based content also receives greater contemplation. While there is not a single source that holds all of the answers to becoming a successful filmmaker, this is a good place to start. Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics should be required reading in film schools everywhere and I cannot stress its helpfulness enough.


Overall: Grade

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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