But What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: Lessons from a Life Behind the Camera

But What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: Lessons from a Life Behind the Camera

by Ken Kwapis


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For over three decades, director Ken Kwapis has charted a career full of exceptional movies and television, from seminal shows like The Office to beloved films like He’s Just Not That Into You.

He is among the most respected directors in show business, but getting there wasn’t easy. He struggled just like everyone else. With each triumph came the occasional faceplant. Using his background and inside knowledge, But What I Really Want To Do is Direct tackles Hollywood myths through Ken’s highly entertaining experiences. It’s a rollercoaster ride fueled by brawls with the top brass, clashes over budgets, and the passion that makes it all worthwhile.

This humorous and refreshingly personal memoir is filled with inspiring instruction, behind-the-scenes hilarity, and unabashed joy. It’s a celebration of the director’s craft, and what it takes to succeed in show business on your own terms.

"Ken Kwapis always brought out the best in the actors on The Office. Whenever Ken was directing, I always felt safe to go out on a limb and take chances, knowing he had my back. Every aspiring director should read this book. (I can think of several 'professional' directors that should read it too!)" -Jenna Fischer

"A vital, magnificent manifesto on the art and craft of directing, written with emotional, instinctual and intellectual depth by one of America's most beloved film and television directors" -Amber Tamblyn

"In the years that I was fortunate to work with Ken on Malcolm in the Middle, he had an uncanny ability to guide actors right to the heart of a scene and reveal its truths. He admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, he’ll make mistakes, and at times he’ll struggle, but as he says in the book, 'It’s the struggle to get it right that makes us human.'" -Bryan Cranston

"Good luck finding a more kind, passionate, and talented director alive than Ken. Seriously, good luck." -Tig Notaro

“'Action!' is what most directors bark out to begin a scene. But Ken Kwapis starts by gently intoning the words 'Go ahead…' That simple suggestion assures everyone they’re in smart, capable, humble hands. That’s how you’ll feel reading this book. And so, if you’re anxious to discover how a top director always brings humor, honesty, and humanity to his work, all I can tell you is…Go ahead." -Larry Wilmore

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250260123
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/06/2020
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 65,313
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

KEN KWAPIS is an award-winning director who has moved easily between the worlds of feature filmmaking and television directing. He has directed eleven feature films and helped launch seven television series, including NBC's The Office.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Beyond Success and Failure in Hollywood 4

Cruising for Epiphanies 16

How to Take a Meeting 25

Memories of Bird 34

Breaking It Down: A Director's Checklist 48

HAL's Ready for His Close-Up 72

He Directed, She Directed 80

Being Proactive on Your Own Set 93

Garry Shandling's House of Mirrors 104

The Shot List Challenge 115

Been There, Dreamt That 126

What Makes Sammy Climb? 138

Playable Notes 149

Walking with Bernie 165

The Objective Correlative, or What Would Lubitsch Do? 179

Opening the Office 194

Escape from Video Village 207

Who Are You? 215

The Note Behind the Note 226

Trapped at Work 236

Designing a Fluid Master 247

Recognizing Yourself 260

Totally Unreleasable 271

Too Clever by Half 285

Fear of Music 299

They Need Your Blood 310

Tenacity 321

Humans Were Involved 335

Acknowledgments 339

Index 341

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