Big Picture: Lessons from a Life in Filmmaking / Edition 1

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Film production veteran Tom Reilly has worked on the sets of critically praised films and commercial blockbusters for more than three decades—including seventeen years alongside director Woody Allen. In The Big Picture, he explores the art and the craft of filmmaking from the vantage point of someone actually running the movie set. Using examples unlike any of those in other books on film, Reilly exposes not only the power and the personalities, but the secrets of the pros. He shares the insights he gleaned while working with more than sixty Oscar-winning professionals—from Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Vanessa Redgrave to Sydney Pollack, Sven Nykvist, and Barbra Streisand.

In these fifty entertaining, illuminating short essays, Reilly invites you to join him on the film set. What is it like to shoot a love scene? How do you do a full body burn? What is it like to film in the Everglades or in a morgue? What is blocking or matching, and how long should a script be? How do you decide when to build a set? Why is the color palette so critical? Is night shooting worth the suffering?

The Big Picture delivers the surprising answers to these and other fascinating questions about what it takes to make a feature film, offering a glimpse into what it’s like when the lights are bright, the camera is rolling, and the moviemakers are calling the shots.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Full of wisdom, insight, and practical filmmaking experience. It’s really what goes on day to day in the trenches. Where was this book when I was starting out?”—Woody Allen

“This is the best book on the nuts and bolts—and art—of filmmaking I’ve read. Tom Reilly is a consummate pro. His insightful, practical instruction and explanation will rivet anyone who cares about movies and wants to know how sometimes mundane but often astonishingly difficult work on the set ends up as magic on the screen. Reilly’s vivid behind-the-camera descriptions of great directors and cinematographers at work will enlighten and entertain you. If this were a movie, I’d say: See it twice.”

—Eric Lax, author of Conversations with Woody Allen

Publishers Weekly

After working on more than 40 films as an assistant director and associate producer, Reilly has written a valuable guide that film students and novice filmmakers will find illuminating and insightful. In 50 short essays Reilly analyzes the problems that often surface on movie sets, and offers solutions. He walks the reader through techniques he has observed over the years while working on films with Alfonso Cuarón, Sydney Pollack, Woody Allen and other top directors. The approach is not a routine rehashing of Hollywood anecdotes but a crash course covering specific situations and working methods: "Woody may not plan the day's shots until he is on the set on any given day, but he absolutely considers the abutting scenes and how they were, or will be, shot." Reilly opens with film set slang and jargon ("martini" = last shot of the day) and then moves on to cover everything from schedules, blocking actor movements, camera angles and master shots to variables in sunlight and the color palette: "Before you settle on that dress you think possibly might be raspberry pink, consider what color the walls will be painted on the set where the dress will be worn." Every page is packed with such practical tips and insider information, and Reilly caps off his fascinating facts and figures with a glossary of film terms. Minus padding or wasted words, this is a book that could well become a bible and standard reference text for aspiring filmmakers. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Filmmaking has a lexicon and culture uniquely its own, but there is a divide between the academic theoretical semantics of film and idiomatic on-set language. Making a film and dealing with the happenstance elements each day brings are far different from the controlled and convenient environs of hypothetically conceived mental exercises. A veteran of over 40 films, Reilly earned his chops on the set and here delivers sage advice with the patient tone of a mentor. He uses real movies and contexts to exemplify real solutions (or creative compromises) to real problems; this could also be viewed as a primer in applied analytical thinking. The organization of the book into 50 short chapters framed by a particular concept or professional insight proves more effective than the boldface, italics, color coding, or other presentational devices used in similar titles to keep the reader's interest and aid memory retention. Reilly offers brief and concise career lessons that are never reduced to blurbs. This should be considered a valuable supplement to textbook instruction. Highly recommended.
—Ben Malczewski

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312380380
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/12/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 5.82 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

TOM REILLY is a member of the Directors Guild of America and has worked in the motion picture industry for the past thirty years. Veteran of more than forty films, Reilly worked with Woody Allen on classics such as Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets Over Broadway, Hannah and Her Sisters, Purple Rose of Cairo, and Zelig. He has also been assistant director on other major motion pictures such as Big, The Prince of Tides, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Pick-up Artist, Sabrina, and Great Expectations. He is married, has three children, and lives in Westchester County, New York.

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