Special Feature: The FilmCraft Series

Unlike other art forms, cinema is a collaborative process more than any other. It involves directors, editors, writers, artists, costumes designers to name but a few different cogs, each of whom contribute their own element to a production. When we go to the cinema, from the latest arthouse release to the new Hollywood blockbuster, we are witnessing months – sometimes years – of dedication to bring a team’s unique artistic vision to life. The recently published FilmCraft Series from Ilex Press, edited by former Screen International editor Mike Goodridge, celebrates these separate fields in a lavish collection, drawing together the finest creative talent working today.

London film critic Fionnuala Halligan has edited the Production Design volume, interviewing 16 of the finest in the field, ranging from Cedric Gibbons (who has worked on over 1500 films in all) to The Hobbit’s Grant Major. The interviews are full of flavour containing anecdotes of time spent working on well-known films such as Hugo (2011), the Harry Potter franchise and independent titles such as Sleepless Town (1998), directed by Lee Chi Ngai. Whilst the majority of the focus is on western cinema there is a careful inclusion of world cinema, including the youngest production designer in the book, Yohei Taneda, best known in the West for his stunning design in Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). Each of these personable interviews is supplemented with boxed texts discussing individual titles alongside accompanying images and quotes.

Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who most recently co-curated the tremendous V&A exhibition Hollywood Costume, edits Costume Design. She’s perhaps the perfect choice for an equally attractive text that lauds the work of designers such as Patricia Field, who worked on 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, to home grown designer Shirley Russell – wife to the late director Ken Russell. Landis conveys her passion with pathos, stressing the importance of perhaps the most underrated art form contributing to cinema.

Series editor Goodridge takes the reins for the Directing volume. As stated in the text, “the buck stops with the director”, who will be blamed when a film succeeds and damned when it doesn’t. Aside from critical woes, the director is responsible for keeping all the contributing elements in check, using them as tools to hone the unique vision they bring to each film. Goodridge should be praised for the diversity of talent selected, which ranges from what he describes as “darlings of the arthouse circuit,” to more mainstream directors. He is also careful to include a wide range of nationalities, such as Mexican horror director Guillermo del Toro and China’s Zhang Yimou. Also included are supplementary legacies of John Ford, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean-Luc Goddard.

The greatest strength of the FilmCraft Series is the encouragement it will provide its audience, not only to think about the multitude of arts that go in to making a film, but also to challenge and inspire readers to get involved in the industry. In this sense the texts are tremendously successful. They enthuse and amaze the onlooker, taking pleasure in the art form whilst, at the same time, imparting knowledge direct from the industry. These texts are not film criticism seeking to dissect each aspect of film production, but primers whose direct accounts demonstrate the individual journeys of those working today in all aspects of film.

For more info on the FilmCraft series and to purchase online, visit ilex-press.com.

Joe Walsh