Exploring Movie Construction and Production
Posted: July 11, 2017 | Updated: May 9, 2019
Author: John Reich, SUNY Genesee Community College
Exploring Movie Construction and Production contains eight chapters of the major areas of film construction and production. The discussion covers theme, genre, narrative structure, character portrayal, story, plot, directing style, cinematography, and editing. Important terminology is defined and types of analysis are discussed and demonstrated. An extended example of how a movie description reflects the setting, narrative structure, or directing style is used throughout the book to illustrate building blocks of each theme. This approach to film instruction and analysis has proved beneficial to increasing students’ learning, while enhancing the creativity and critical thinking of the student.
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Exploring Movie Construction and Production by John Reich, SUNY Genesee Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
2.8 / 5
Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary
The index is serviceable, but much of the content of this text is not academically sourced, there is scant mention of the film industry in the teens, and the focus is entirely on Hollywood film factory product for the first chapter. The documentary genre is dismissed with a mere 3 sentences, and definitions of terms (eg, "theme" are simplistic and often....incorrect. ) For example, on page 7, the writer says, "The theme is why people go to the movies. It is not because of the characters, stoy, plot, cinematography, or genre." Which is patently untrue.
Comprehensiveness Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased
There is little content beyond the dense text, and the two youtube video links are not optimal.
Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement
The content in most chapters is *not* up to date; for example, the "Suggested Viewing" films at the end of the first chapter features no films more recent than 1965, despite the fact that the chapter purports to synopsize thematic trends from the 1920's to the 21st century. It would certainly be possible to update the text, but much subsidiary information and a firm editor would be required.
Relevance Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used
It is clear that the author has good intentions, and tries to empathise with typical college students, but quoting from only one student, "Dominic C" extensively at beginning, and opining about the stress-inducing qualities of being an editor do not clearly communicate much about film production and construction. Important milestones like the MPPC are only mentioned in passing, without providing examples/details of ifs ramifications. And, extending a Wikipedia entry (!!), the author is simply wrong about the fantasy genre "stay[ing] away from scientific and macabre story aspects.." What about Guillermo del Toro? The Harry Potter series? Not to mention the odd assertion that horror films often "take place in a historical area...."
In addition, not only is the dense and often turgid text wearisome to wade through, but the "assignments" provided to the students are so detailed and particular to a scenario established in chapter one, that it would be difficult for a student to complete them.
Clarity Rating: 1 out of 5
Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework
Framework, yes. Terminology? Doesn't distinguish between shots and angles, for example. A glossary of standard film terms would have been helpful
Consistency Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
Oh dear. Yes, it's divided into small units which could be assigned at different points, but there *are* enormous blocks of text throughout, and, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, the "assignments" section depends on a shaky premise established in chapter one, so it couldn't be reorganised or realigned without disrupting the reader.
Modularity Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion
In a word, no. Rambling explanations without sufficient supporting examples, tautological statements, flat out errors about genre and terminology (film noir *is* a genre. And story and plot *are not* 2 different things!)
Organization Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader
Interface is fine, but there is little interface other than with text. Some of the screenshots are blurry, though.
Interface Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text contains no grammatical errors
Not that I could find. Stylistic and factual errors, yes.
Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds
There was some coverage of women's issues, but little about ethnicity, national origin, race, or disability. It would have been useful, for example, to speak of how each of the 8 Hollywood studios chose to appeal to a different audience, and chose actors and screenplays to reflect that audience. Or perhaps have covered films not directed by mainstream directors. Nothing offensive, though.
Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?
Sadly, I do not recommend this book. Its author is clearly passionate about his topic, but it is poorly researched (Wikipedia? Dictionary.com? A volunteer librarian for the Internet Public Library?), awkwardly expressed: "Staying with the letter 'C," let's move on to Crime," weakly supported (2 video links, a few screenshots, a couple of diagrams and a recommendation to visit openculture.com, which is *not* the best site on which to watch feature films. Criterion comes to mind.
I continue to hope that an open text covering basic film analysis will become available and would be happy to work with someone to create such a book, as current film texts are prohibitively expensive for most students.