Best Seat in the House: An Assistant Director Behind the Scenes of Feature Films

BearManor. Sept. 2022. 299p. ISBN 9781629339894. pap. $29. FILM
His isn’t a name most movie buffs recognize, but with 46 movies and a television series to his credit, McGiffert has had a long, productive career in one of the most essential jobs in filmmaking: assistant director (AD). Between 1973 and 2004, his credits have included Absence of Malice, Tootsie, Witness, The Firm, King Kong, and the Back to the Future trilogy. What does an AD do? McGiffert explains in this memoir/insider’s guide to the film industry. He talks about scheduling shoots, determining how many extras are needed and when, and running most of the on-set activity so that the director is free to concentrate on the overall contours of the movie. Before digital film took over in the 2000s, he was also responsible for processing and shipping the daily takes for the director’s viewing to determine what worked and what needed to be reshot. On set, he’s the hub of communications. McGiffert’s aim in this charming book is modest: to tell stories and talk about people. But what people! Sydney Pollack, Miloš Forman, Paul Newman, Willie Nelson, Natalie Wood, and Dustin Hoffman populate his anecdotes, among others. This book is great fun. And who doesn’t want a peek into the exciting world of filmmaking?
VERDICT This unpretentious memoir about filmmaking will appeal to anyone in love with the big screen.
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