Posts Tagged ‘Kazan on Directing’

“The subject of writing for the theater or screen defies easily formulated rules. The best rule of screen and play writing was given to me by John Howard Lawson, a onetime friend. It’s simple unity from climax. Everything should build to the climax. But all I know about script preparation urges me to make no rules, although there are some hints, tools of the trade, that have been useful for me.

One of these is ‘Have your central character in every scene.’ This is a way of ensuring unity to the work and keeping the focus sharp. Another is; ‘Look for the contradictions in every character, especially in your heroes and villains. No one should be what they first seem to be. Surprise the audience.”
Elia Kazan (Two time Oscar-winner)
Kazan on Directing
page 260

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“The ideal job of the storyteller is to involve the audience emotionally with something right off the bat, then get the chain of inevitable cause and effect rolling so that before the audience knows it, they are going through exactly what the character is going through. They feel with!! They are involved. They suffer and sigh with relief. They are actively and emotionally interested.” 
Elia Kazan
Kazan on Directing
page 23 

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Today I started reading Kazan on Directing, which is based on the notes of director Elia Kazan. Kazan who directed the classic (and Oscar-winning) On the Waterfront. Kazan has been called by Martin Scorsese as, “one of the most important figures in the history of movies. It’s that simple.”

Of course, Kazan first may inroads in the theater first where he was an actor in Clifford Odets plays, before going on to work on Broadway with Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.

He went on to be nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards, winning two and also an Honorary Oscar Award in 1999.

For the next few days I’ll be pulling quotes and sections from his book.

“The first problem of the director then is to determine what his direction is to be. And as this direction is to give organic unity to the whole production, his first job is to find a ‘center’ or ‘core’ for the work and for production. Once it is established the base decision has been made. All else devolves from this.

The director has to restate succinctly the play, its meaning and form, in his own terms; he has to reconceive it as if he had created it. What does it mean to him? What does it arouse in him? how does the manuscript affect his soul? In short, what is his relationship as an artist to this document, this manuscript?

It is not necessary that the director’s reaction match the author’s intention. Different periods have different values and meanings. And a director might want to produce a work for reasons other than the writer’s. Examples abound; the clearest is Shakespearean productions from Shakespeare’s time to ours.

Therefore, the director’s first question in approaching the script is not what the author intended, but what is his own response as an independent artist.”
Elia Kazan

Now you know why there are creative differences in theater and film productions.

Scott W. Smith

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I first became aware of Francis Ford Coppola’s prompt book for The Godfather at Scott Myers’ blog Go Into The Story. The book is several inches thick and contains Mario Puzo’s book The Godfather with note after note by Coppola as he details what parts he wants to extract and emphasize in the movie. The prompt book was the foundation for which he wrote the script.

Coppola explains that the prompt book is a tradition carried over from his theater days. (Before Coppola got a master’s in film at UCLA, he received a theater degree from Hofstra University.) Coppola also says he based his prompt book on one that Elia Kazan had done for A Streetcar Named Desire. Kazan has written several books about his life and films including  Kazan on Directing and there are many other books that gleam insights from him that I’m sure was an encouragement to Coppola during his own difficult time of getting The Godfather made.

“When I started On the Waterfront, I was what they call unbankable. Nobody would put up money for me because I had had a series of box office failures…. One of my happiest moments was when I got the Academy Award for On the Waterfront.”
Elia Kazan
Kazan: The Master Director Discusses His Films Interviews with Elia Kazan
Jeff Young

In the below video, Coppola discusses part of the process that he went through in writing the script for The Godfather;

“On page 79 of the book we have the actual shooting of the Don. Whenever I felt there was a really important part of the book that was going to be in the movie I would sit there with my ruler and really underline—so this details the shooting. My margin notes are; THE SHOOTING! GREAT DETAIL. The Don is the main character of the movie, so as in Pyscho , we are totally thrown when he is shot. How would Hitchcock design this? Hitchcock was such a master about manipulating information for the audience, usually telling you things so that you were equipped to enjoy what you were seeing —rather than withholding information, he would give you information.”
Francis Ford Coppola

Scott W. Smith

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