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This is a rare book that brings the concept of filmmaking together.

Book Review: The Lean Forward Moment – Creating Compelling Stories For Film, T.V. And The Web by Norman Hollyn

The Lean Forward Moment is not a book about filmmaking techniques, but rather a book about how to create stories using moving images regardless of the medium. Its goal is to help you do the thing that is common to film, television, animated films, shorts, commercials, and web-based media; it will help you tell better stories.

The Lean Forward Moment was written by an editor who learned how to mold stories by constantly rewriting. He has also written, directed, and acted, but feels that he has learned the most through his days as an editor. In this book he uses scenes from popular films to illustrate his points, and because this is a book that covers all of filmmaking, he has included one chapter on each of the key crafts of the art. The Lean Forward Moment is 384 pages in length and contains 13 chapters.

Chapter 1, "How we Tell Stories," is about change. In fact film is about change and writers shape their stories around change. In this chapter you will get the feel for what change is about, and how it can affect your story. Here you first learn about the "Lean Forward Moment." These are the moments of change in a story that actually move your characters. You can better focus your story by targeting these moments of change. You will also get a feel for some key elements and terminology that will be used throughout the book.

Chapter 2, "Loglines for our Films," goes on to describe one of the terms that was learned in chapter 1, the logline, or short summary of a script or screenplay. It also sets up some of the films that will be used for analysis in this book. They include "Alien", "Citizen Kane", "Coons", "Drawn by Pain", "Finding Nemo", "The Godfather," as well as others.

Chapter 3, "Writing," while it can take on many forms usually begins by a person who decides to write about one thing as opposed to another. In this chapter you will examine where ideas come from, how they can be nurtured, the use and non-use of scripts, shaping words on a page, and other things that go into good writing.

Chapter 4, "Production Design," is the art of creating the world where the characters reside. It involves the physical space that they move through and all the things that they will interact with. Here you will look at several films and how the production design impacted them.

Chapter 5, "Directing," is a vast and complex task that involves having knowledge of every craft in the creation of the project. It also requires that the person doing it is able to communicate what the film needs in order to be successful. Here you will examine the preparation, production, and post production aspects of a film.

Chapter 6, "Cinematography," is about creating the scenes that move the storyline. This is done through composition, blocking, movement, and lighting. Because on any given story, these things can come about in any number of ways, it is the cinematographer who has to use the camera in all of its forms to shape the meaning of the story in every scene.

Chapter 7, "Editing," is the task of assembling all these individual scenes into what can be termed the "Final rewrite." Whereas the writer works with an unlimited set of choices, the editor has to work with what has been shot. Here you look at editing choices in various films.

Chapter 8, "Opticals and Visual Effects," explores the use of the visual imagery that is created and/or manipulated outside the context of a traditional live action shoot. These include simple effects like "fade to black," to montages, to more complex opticals that are used in movies like "The Matrix."

Chapter 9, "Music," is one of the most powerful tools that you can use in a film to shape an audience's reactions. Sometimes it can be so powerful as to be one of the main things that the audience remembers about a film. Here you will look at how music can be used move a film.

Chapter 10, "Sound," is different than music, and many times is rarely noticed by the audience, but like music it can have a deep impact on the audience's sense of space within a film. In this chapter you will look at how the use of sound impacts an audience.

Chapter 11, "Special Exceptions to the Rule?" describes the statement that "all filmmaking is genre filmmaking," that is, it tells a story to an audience. Simply put, we want to manipulate the audience. We want to make them feel what we want them to feel. We want to get our point across. Here you will look at the genre of films.

Chapter 12, "Producing: Putting it all Together," is what production is about. At the heart of good filmmaking is the ability to make a coherent product. The producer takes all of these separate pieces and unites them into a singular project.

Chapter 13, "The Dirty Little Secret," is that you will have to read this book to find out what it is. It has to do with what the "Lean Forward Moment" and how Hollywood uses it.

I really liked The Lean Forward Moment and the focus that it has on analyzing the story. Taking this tack can really solve a lot of problems and difficulties in the making of a film, commercial, webcast, and to some degree, the writing of anything within the creative realm.

The writing style is easy to understand, and the real world examples really make the points within each chapter. Some of the films that are used to describe the author's points are a bit obscure, and may not be easily available to everyone, but I think still easy to follow.

If nothing else, I think that The Lean Forward Moment will force you to think more intelligently about the media that you watch, whether it is a film, T.V. show, or a webisode. This is a rare book that brings the concept of filmmaking together.
If you want to learn more about the craft of filmmaking and how it all comes together, the I highly recommend The Lean Forward Moment.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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