Great book – The Wizard of MGM: Memoirs of A. Arnold Gillespie

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Terrible cover, great book – The memoirs of A. Arnold Gillespie

I recently finished reading through this brilliant look at mattes and miniatures. Don’t be put of by the cover, this book is an excellent memoir from MGM’s head of effects during Hollywood’s golden age. The manuscript, that Gillespie penned in the sixties, has only recently been published, and so it does suffer from slightly below par photographic illustrations, but this is amply compensated for by their quantity, coverage and the privileges of the authors extensive access.

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Miniature effects scene from Thirty Second Over Tokyo

Penned decades before the pre-digital era, the focus of the book is made up of practical and optical effects, mostly by miniatures and matte paintings. The language verges a little towards lines that sound like they came out of Mad Men at times, but not too much. Gillespie can definitely tell a good story, loves a tangent, and goes into he kind of in-depth details that will make Cinefex jealous.

Fascinating and brilliant, can’t recommend it enough!

Available from Amazon

* I borrowed this shot from one of the best miniatures resources on the web, the blog of Kiwi, NZ Pete (can’t find his real name) – Matte Shot – a tribute to Golden Era special fx

All You Need is Kill

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Edge of Tomorrow” is a pretty disappointing title for a story that is basically Groundhog Day combined with a war against nano-bot aliens. “Live. Die. Repeat” would have been far better, but I suspect the focus groups and committees got to it first. Nevertheless, its a film I would like to see, and hope that it lives up to the promise of the book.

Incidentally, the book on which the film is based is “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and I heartily recommend that you try and read it before June 6, as it’s rather good!

Damn Good Advice by George Lois

120 points of “good advice” comprised from the anecdotes and philosophies of George Lois make up Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent!) published by Phaidon. Some of the advice will already be familiar e.g. Item 37
“...Always do three things when you present a Big Idea:
1. Tell them what they are going to see.
2. Show it to them.
3. Tell them, dramatically what they just saw.

There are plenty of others that aren’t familiar, but should ring true to anyone involved in a creative industry. A particular favourite of mine was 25. Reject Group Grope. Basically, keep decision making down to single people or groups of two or three. Any more and you get creative paralysis, or “analysis paralysis” as George Lois calls it – see number 26!

By 92. We find in no uncertain terms that George Lois resents being referred to as the “Original Mad Man”.

“The more I think about Mad Men, the more I take the show to be a personal insult. So f**k you Mad Men – you phony, “Grey Flannel Suit”, male chauvinist, no-talent, WASP, white-shirted, racist, anti-Semitic, Republican SOBs!”

Myself, I really like Mad Men, but I see Lois’ point. However, I suspect that I am not alone in having picked up this book because of Mad Men – I wasn’t aware of Lois beforehand. Maybe, and not too belatedly, this is Mad Men giving something back to him.

Worth reading!

FilmCraft: Production Design: FilmCraft Series #5

A new book on production FilmCraft: Production Design: FilmCraft Ser… by Fionnuala Halligan is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Given the scarcity of books on this subject, this one will be a welcome addition to the library. The last book to feature a collection of production designers went out of print a number of years ago and now sells for inflated sums in the second hand market.