This book took me pretty long to read, for the same reasons The Business of Graphic Design was a tough one: Because of the large amount of compressed content that it pumped in my head. To both authors, Ed Gold and Gil Bettman, the same thing applies: They are both not very well known, but amazing teachers.

Since I have no experience with the job of a director itself but want to start at some point, I went to the Montreal library. Between numerous biographies of Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen Spielberg, I found a white book which was exactly explaining that what I wanted to know. On my last journey to Los Angeles I took it with me to read it – got caught up in more important things, namely people and adventures – and forgot the book at Lorenas house. For Valentines day, she sent it back to me, and here I am, with a 13$-fee for bringing a book back two months too late, and with a broad grin of happiness that I read it.

First Time Director

by Gil Bettman


This book is pretty much the steak and broccoli for filmmaking: All you need to survive.
“First Time Director” is presented in a chronologic order, starting in the preproduction, going into the production and set management, and ending in postproduction and promotion. It covers just about anything you can imagine being necessary to know as a filmmaker. Since the book was written a while ago, the CGI part is reduced to a minimum, which could be a downside for someone who doesn’t know about compositing, rotoscoping, greenscreens and that kind of stuff. The rest of a directors life gets full coverage.

The social dynamics Gil describes with his first producer named Pedro are absolutely priceless: The written Spanish accent (“Eeeez miii money, eeeeezz miii movie!”) bears a lot of truths behind the comedic message: Don’t mess too much with the person who finances the movie – you can get fired at any point.
The relationship producer-director as well as director-cinematographer get so much attention that you could swear after a couple of pages this book would be a job psychology manual. When you read about actor management, you could swear the book is only about acting skills and performance improvement techniques; and that’s how you will feel with the rest of the content: Each subject is given meticulous attention on a very compressed space; more a factual listing than colloquial writing. Therefore, if you read Gil’s book slowly, you will definitely benefit more from it. At the end of each chapter, there is a comprehensible list with the most important points made.

The book covers these areas in great detail:
Relationships with the key players (producer, director of photography, editor, composer etc.), hiring the key people, dealing with studio bosses and financiers, camera movement, shot planning, actor handling/training, improvement and management of performances, soundediting, mixing, camera principles, editing, music and crew management.
All in all a good read that gives you an enormous insight into the world of a director and requires no prior knowledge (well, you should know how to read and what a movie is, but that’s about it). “First Time Director” is simple to understand, and still, the lessons you can learn from it are uncountable.

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