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in Filmmaking
on Mar 6, 2007

I want to bump producer Ted Hope’s response to the “Recommended Reading” post, below, to the main blog because he expanded upon the concept of the list by naming three non-film books (and one other non-obvious selection) that challenge us to think about cinema and image-making in new ways.

Here’s what Ted wrote:

When I think of the books that meant the most to me during my initial forays into film production, four you don’t yet have listed there really stand out. All the books listed are about the doing, not the thought process beforehand, which to me, still remains the most critical. Ultimately, filmmaking is about how one sees the world, isn’t it? Or rather, how what we see of the world, interpret, is then in turn seen and interpreted by others. The books that I think we need are about that, at least in my opinion.

First and foremost was John Waters’ Shock Value. At age 16 or 17, I needed it’s “everything is permitted” and “art dwells in unlikely places” celebratory cries to help recognize that although I hated everything mainstream media was creating, there might really be a place and an audience for something a little bit different. Now with the indie scene so fully co-opted and no real alternative screen gaining ground, it seems quite relevant again.

The other three all posses a remarkable power to regularly change the way I see the world, to provide that feeling of “recognition” — to know again:

Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida
John Berger’s Ways Of Seeing
George Bataille’s Story Of The Eye

Barthes captured the immediate experience of what looking at film really was in such a way that it helped me accept that this is what I wanted to do with both my life and my labor, why I loved watching, and why I loved participating in the process.

Berger pointed to the responsibility inherent and often ignored in the process, what often was really being said, and how much harder I had think about the choices I made — a discipline that I still need to remind myself of and totally enjoy.

Finally, Bataille showed the power of words, imagery, and story as it rallies up against society, culture, and history, all the meanwhile embodied and embolden by a great sense of fun and mischief. Although almost 90 years old, it still feels fresher than most things I get to read today.

The last three books all clock in at less than 150 pages each and two of them come complete with pictures. Read of the course of a day, along with the already cited and equally short and dense Notes On Cinematography, and aided by several cups of espresso and a soundtrack of The Clash, Bowie, Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, and Neil Young, any filmmaker can not help but see the need to consistently change, regularly produce, and sometimes just not give a fuck what other people think.

And I still think that’s better than what anyone can find in any film school, sad to say.

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