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Friday, 7 March 2014

Naked Cinema: Working with Actors by Sally Potter

Book Review Rating ♥♥♥♥

Sally Potter filmography

Feature Films
Shorts and Experimental Films

Published by Faber and Faber.

During the introduction to this book the director of films such as Orlando and The Man Who Cried, Sally Potter writes, “This book does not attempt to examine other directors’ ways of working with actors. It has no scholarly pretentions, no footnotes or references. I have limited its scope to my direct experience.”
Trying to write about the making of films either as director or actor without appearing pretentious is a difficult achievement. When film directors and actors attempt to discuss their art and the way in which they suffer for their particular slice of cultural this can, and more often than not does, come across as pretentious, pompous and earnest.

Incredibly, Sally Potter has managed to execute an unaffected, natural piece of writing on a art form that has as many detractors as it does admirers. Sally Potter the director of seven films proves her ability to write a compelling book on the world of cinema without cliché or blandness.

The first half of the book consists of Sally Potter discussing the how she has dealt with actors and how best to deal with the acting fraternity when creating a film. Part one deals with ‘preparation’: how she handles actors during auditions, rehearsals, finding the character and finding the look of the actor’s character through make-up, hair etc. Part two, ‘The Shoot’ deals primarily with how actors deal with the camera, fear of the actor and the directors, use of the monitor and how to handle divas. Part three, ‘post-production’, involves a look at the under-valued and under-appreciated work in the editing suite.

The second half of the book is interviews by Sally Potter with those actors whom she has worked with over the years: Joan Allen, Lily Cole, Julie Christie, Steve Buscemi and Judi Dench to name just a few.
There are some interesting answers to Sally Potter’s questions. When the director asks Judi Dench about her experience with directors she relates about being asked by Clint Eastwood to do a film and not meeting him until the first day of shooting, “I sat there and then just before we were about to start, I felt a hand on my shoulder. And that was Clint Eastwood.” Sally Potter is surprised that that was her first meeting with the actor-director but Ms Dench explains that she believes in being, “entirely in a director’s hands.” I found almost all the interviews of interest and it was interesting to read of each actor’s response to many of the same questions.

Sally Potter writes with an unflinching, unapologetic didactic style. As a film fan I found the book illustrative and entertaining and it is hard to believe that film ingénues and media students will not feel the same.

Number of  pages - 400

This was sent to me via Netgalley for an unbiased and honest review.

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