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in Filmmaking
on Mar 29, 2009

William Grimes in the New York Times reports that Steven Bach, former U.A. studio executive and author of Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate has died of cancer at the age of 70. As an exec he was associated with such films as Annie Hall, Cutter and Bone, and True Confessions, but he is perhaps best remembered for Final Cut. Says critic David Thomson in the Times obit: “It is the best book ever written about the making of a movie. It gives you an understanding of the battles, the egos, and how a film like that could come about. It’s all the more remarkable because he’s one of the stooges in the story: he let it happen, and he admits that.”

I’ll second Thomson’s recommendation. It is the best book about studio moviemaking that I’ve read, possibly because failures are more illuminating than successes, but also because the wrenching experience of making Heaven’s Gate cast the egos, emotions and machinations of its participants in a kind of bas-relief that Bach able captures in his writing. Even though the age of this kind of cinematic folly is largely over, I think because of its insights into the logic of production decisionmaking this book is a worthy read for anyone making studio movies.

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