Master Of The Cinematic Universe by John Bucher & Jeremy Casper (book review)

March 23, 2016 | By | Reply More

I’ve said in the past that there are some film books that can benefit across the mediums and John Bucher & Jeremy Casper’s ‘Master Of The Cinematic Universe’ certainly qualifies at that. Although its written as a means to show certain ‘coded’ formulas needed to pay attention to when writing a script and indeed the practice tests they offer, the information it provides is useful for any storyteller. I should point out that their intention is to cover things mostly for short films – including those on the Net, documentaries, news items and even adverts. Don’t be deceived by the small page count as you’re less likely to be caught up in wading through too much wordage. It’s also written in a way that means you can dig into the chapter you need, there are some 23 of them, for any particular information you want.


One of the common themes that is used is bringing things up close and personal by using examples of people to tell events. Already being aware of this, I know the mechanics but I suspect it will open your eyes to a lot of things journalists also do in presenting a real life story to make you connect to events. A lot of it depends on the speed to do something and reduce the waffle when time is precious. They also demonstrate the techniques used by crowdfunding video samples to entice you to contribute money to their causes. Even more surprising is how few people you really need to get a decent sum.

When it comes to adverts, I think they’re being a little too optimistic saying it would take 5 seconds to jump away from an advert. I can do that in a fifth of that time. However, if you’re doing a mini-film, you need to have caught your viewing public’s attention in a minute before they jump away. It’s no wonder a lot of modern adverts have turned into little stories to keep your attention, although they do need a balance so you remember…now what was it, oh yes, the product.

The end of the book deals with the variety of promos and such used on the Net. If you’re going to do a sketch then it shouldn’t exceed 7 minutes because then it becomes a sit-com. The lesson of instructional films is also to get right to the chase and explain. I’ve seen many of these dawdle at the beginning could learn from this. I think to some extent, there’s also a lesson to be learnt in how much info a viewer can absorb at once or forgetting it can be re-run again and again. If you do want to make a short 5 minute story, do it in two acts which is going to baffle some people but they explain it as set-up and pay-off and should be read.

In their conclusion, the authors do say rules are made to be broken and I would add you need to be able to apply them first before looking at their weaknesses. This book will lead you on a lot of the things you need to know and also as a starting point to things you need to learn more about. What makes it doubly effective is that it can also be used in prose, although not so restricted by length. Then again, that shouldn’t be surprising because said information is also needed for preparing the script.

GF Willmetts

March 2016

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 116 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), £10.51 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-241-2)

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Category: MEDIA

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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