Making The Magic Happen by Peter D. Marshall (book review).

‘Making The Magic Happen’ has nothing to do with conjuring but as the sub-title of Peter D. Marshall’s book proclaims, ‘The Art And Craft Of Film Direction’. In many ways, this book feels like a supplement to the previous book, ‘Producer To Producer’, this month as Marshall explores the film making organisation process as a whole. Added to this, he sub-divides and explains the type of person as well. His description of the five types of director with the topping on the cake that a director doesn’t need any experience and the film will still get made. When you consider that the director is often the least experienced person on the set, it’s the skill of the crew that gets the work done so you should always listen to what they have to say before making a decision.

There is information also that should be considered by prose writers, too, in regards the level of story conflict, so people across the mediums can learn a lot from this book. If you think your storywriting skills are missing something then you will certainly find something out about how to deal with the emotional conflict and stop your characters acting too logically. This even extends to plotting. Marshall demonstrates the Joseph Campbell hero journey plot that George Lucas used and it was a comfortable success for him. When you consider it’s also the basis for practically all fantasy stories, I couldn’t help think that it was too much like a safety blanket now.

As this is supposed to be a film book, the script analysis develops more on the loglines. For those who don’t remember, the logline is the briefest line synopsis of the plot you can get. You should make it a game for practice and see if people can identify films by this technique.

Moving back into directing, you get lessons in how characters can be represented by colour and which gives a subliminal to the viewer. Marshall also points out that this isn’t universal so bear that in mind when you know your film is going to be shown world-wide. You’ll never look at black or white at funerals the same way again.

Actors aren’t forgotten neither with a few lessons in how to provide them with the necessary guidance for the scale of emotion for a scene. I would have thought the casting chapters should have gone before this, especially as Marshall explains how you whittle the numbers down to finding the best actor or actress for a part. The information here should also help you as a thespian to nail the scenes better, especially but not necessarily sitting down to do it.

As always with these books, the directing aspect is also a good learning ground for comicbook artists who use the same technique to getting the best from a scene and should be studied by you if that is your direction.

For such a small book, there is so much information that I was surprised how much I recalled by briefly scanning a page I wanted to give further attention above. As such, this makes this book a useful learning tool for the creative even if they aren’t into directing a film.

GF Willmetts

April 2017

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 142 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $26.95 (US), £22.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-265-8)

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