On Story: Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films

Univ. of Texas. Oct. 2016. 224p. ed. by Barbara Morgan & . illus. ISBN 9781477310908. pap. $19.95. FILM
Here's an odd book—sort of a Festschrift (indeed, that's precisely what it is, from the Austin Film Festival), with a one-and-a-half-page "foreword" from the omnipresent James Franco, in which a number of Hollywood figures discuss their art and craft, dedicated to four deceased members of the profession, including Stewart Stern (the best screenwriter in the book, and he's not really in the book). What follows is a series of transcripts of roundtable discussions with such figures as Paul Feig, Ron Howard, John Milius, Shane Black, Paul Thomas Anderson, and others—all the usual suspects. The subtitle gives the book's slant away—"Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films," but a better subhead might be "Professional Screenwriters and Filmmakers Talk About How To Make Conventional Hollywood Movies." Readers will learn, if they didn't already know, about all the conventional studio battles, story arcs, nuggets of business wisdom, hard-luck stories, and tales of triumph—but not much more.
VERDICT If you'd like to spend some time listening to how a group of mainstream professionals navigate the treacherous waters of Tinseltown, this is the book for you. Those interested in learning about more adventurous forms of cinematic expression are advised to look elsewhere.
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