Hollywood vet ‘Directing’ at MWP


“Thrive on the set!” is the goal, film director hopefuls! In the fourth of a series, we turn our attention to Michael Wiese Productions of Studio City, California, a premier publisher since 1976 of trade books that cover various aspects of motion picture development, production, and distribution. The imprint’s founder, Michael Wiese, is a native of Urbana and contributes to the company from his home in Cornwall, England. Over the next few months, we will share with you reviews of choice titles from their catalog to demonstrate the breadth of subject matter.

We are grateful to have guest writers on board to split the reviews with your humble editor. Our next title is the second edition of John Badham on Directing, a brand-new release this month from MWP. “Sharing insightful stories about such experiences as directing Goldie Hawn in BIRD ON A WIRE and working with Kurt Sutter on an episode of THE SHIELD,” explains reviewer Andrew J. Rausch, “Badham more than establishes himself as a knowledgeable expert with more than enough experience.” We’d hope for nothing less from an award-winning film and television director with dozens of credits and a Yale degree! Visit this Wikipedia article for the rundown on Rausch, a Kansas-based pop culture journalist and web editor at Diabolique magazine with more than 30 books and numerous published articles under his belt. Learn exemplary lessons from John Badham on Directing at the MWP website or purchase it through Amazon, while you can enjoy this slightly older interview with the filmmaker from the Los Angeles Times on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of WARGAMES and the first edition of On Directing.

Condensed versions of the set will be collected in a MWP feature that we are planning for an upcoming issue of C-U Confidential. Please keep an eye out for our next entry in the series!

~ Jason Pankoke


John Badham on Directing: Notes from the Set of ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ ‘War Games’ and More, 2nd edition
By John Badham

Michael Wiese Productions
Paperback, 304 pages, $28.95 SRP

Just as there is no book that can, alone, teach you how to become a great writer, there is no book that can, alone, teach you to become a great filmmaker. That includes this volume. But, if a person were to go out and learn hands-on by actually working and directing some short films, this book would be an invaluable assistance to that.

John Badham, a director known for such high-profile films as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, WARGAMES, and SHORT CIRCUIT, has been directing professionally since 1971. He is a man who knows what he’s talking about. He’s not some film school teacher who’s merely directed three or four student films no one’s ever seen. When a director of Badham’s caliber who possesses his credentials speaks, a would-be filmmaker would do well to pay attention.

Sharing insightful stories about such experiences as directing Goldie Hawn in BIRD ON A WIRE and working with Kurt Sutter on an episode of THE SHIELD, Badham more than establishes himself as a knowledgeable expert with more than enough experience. If Badham’s experiences alone aren’t enough for you, he also has shared thoughts and experiences from a score of notable directors such as Jodie Foster, Taylor Hackford, and the late John Frankenheimer and Sydney Pollack. For instance, Oliver Stone observes, “In my experience, actors will give you a good performance only if you force them to look into themselves and get out of their comfort zone.” Then there’s the great William Friedkin discussing the importance of, and the lack of respect given to, action sequences.

Would-be directors will learn everything here, from how to collaborate with actors to help them feel comfortable and give the best performances they can to exploring character motivations and what a director can do to clarify those. The veteran director also discusses important and often overlooked aspects of directing, such as planning for efficiency in a way that keeps costs and man hours down as well as working with a crew to get maximum effort and enthusiasm out of them. Badham touches on how to guide child actors and the importance of maintaining character POV through camerawork, two of the many finer points of a director’s responsibilities. He even spends a good amount of time going over the particular needs of episodic television, a new section added to this second edition.

John Badham on Directing is accessible, too. This is perhaps the single most impressive element of the book. Badham didn’t go for an overly-academic textbook writing style, but instead cuts right to the chase in the clearest way possible. He also does this without assuming what the reader does or does not already know; he provides a little background as well as definitions of each aspect of the director’s job, masterfully doing this in a way that educates the filmmaking novice without boring the more knowledgeable reader. In addition, he also includes a 10-point summary at the end of each chapter.

If you are a would-be filmmaker yourself or simply want to learn more about the craft and the considerations behind a director’s decisions, this book is heartily recommended. John Badham on Directing makes for a valuable addition to any film reference library. It’s not just a quality book on film directing, it’s the essential book on film directing. $28.95 may be a hefty price for a paperback, but it is well worth it to anyone who really wants to learn about the craft.

~ Andrew J. Rausch



Review © 2020 Andrew J. Rausch. Used with permission.
CUBlog edits © 2020 Jason Pankoke

Graphics: courtesy Michael Wiese Productions
Thank you to Ken Lee of MWP for his assistance and kind words!


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