Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies is, obviously, by the director of a bunch of great movies—12 Angry Men, Network, a whole bunch of other things. And so here Lumet is providing a kind of explanation and demystification of what a director’s job is, and what “making movies” consists of in a real-world sense.
Lumet is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a great storyteller. And so even as he’s explaining a lot of prosaic, workday things, he’s doing it with little anecdotes that set a kind of atmosphere and tone, and keep it from ever getting dry. But if, like me, you’re the sort of person who always loves to read about process stuff, and see the ostensibly-boring “how this thing is created” details, this wasn’t going to be dry in the first place. Lumet manages to hit just about the perfect level of abstraction in his writing, talking about big-picture philosophy and goals and the mechanics of how those play out in practice, without getting too lofty or too in-the-weeds.
The book was published in 1996, so the specifics of the moviemaking process that Lumet explains here are almost certainly dated—there’s a long section about the fine details of chemical printing that won’t be relevant in the era of digital cameras—but it hardly matters. This is how Sidney Lumet made movies, and that’s interesting enough in its own right. Recommended.