Posts tagged behind-the-scenes
I’m not the target audience for Mark Salisbury’s book Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. That’s because I never saw the 1970s soap that inspired Tim Burton’s film “Dark Shadows,” and I didn’t find the movie particularly entertaining. I thought it was better than Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but not one of his all-time best. However, I am a sucker for coffee table books, especially ones about movies, which is why I decided to check out Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. I knew it would be a quick, easy read with lots of big glossy photos and fascinating behind the scenes stories. And it didn’t disappoint!
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion features a foreword by Johnny Depp, the movie’s lead actor and frequent Burton collaborator, as well as an introduction by Burton himself. Neither of these statements are very long, although Depp’s foreword is especially entertaining. Even if it was ghostwritten, the section captures his unique voice perfectly with statements like “The character of Barnabas Collins possessed a sense of elegance that bewitched me.”
Following these opening statements is a section on the history of how the project came to be, which annoyingly repeats some of the same sentiments expressed in Depp and Burton’s intros. After that, the book delves into original material again, taking a logical approach to organizing itself: Chapter 1 (Cast), Chapter 2 (The Sets), Chapter 3 (Costume, Hair & Makeup, Prosthetics), Chapter 4 (Cinematography, Stunts, Special Effects), and Chapter 5 (Visual Effects, Editing, Scoring).
Each chapter contains a pleasing mixture of behind the scenes photos, concept art, and anecdotes from the cast and crew. Frustratingly though, captions are not placed next to images. Instead there is a single page in the back which has them, forcing you to flip back if you want to know who or what is featured on a specific page. The most hilarious interview snippets come from Depp of course, who is the only person in the book who requires censoring. He drops an f-bomb, which is politely altered so as not to offend readers.
My favorite discoveries mainly involved how the filmmakers created the costumes, sets, and effects for this supernatural flick. I loved hearing about how movie magic was used to create this quirky world. Although it was also intriguing to learn that Michelle Pfeiffer who plays the Collins family matriarch, was a huge fan of the “Dark Shadows” television show and practically begged Burton for a role in the movie.
Perhaps the most bittersweet part of Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion, is its afterword by the late producer Richard D. Zanuck, to whom the book is dedicated. Zanuck had an extremely long and successful career working on many iconic films, so it’s surprising to hear him describe this cast and his crew as one of his all-time favorites. I wonder how much of his statements were derived from truth, and whether he was putting on a kind face for publicity’s sake. Unfortunately we’ll never get the chance to ask him.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the film “Dark Shadows” I still dug Mark Salisbury’s book, so if you’re a huge fan of Burton, Depp, the movie, or the television show, you’ll probably have just as much fun with this book.
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
A small shelf or coffee table simply won’t do if you want to own Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard by Matt Taylor. Whatever you prefer, you’re gonna need a bigger one to hold this book. The behemoth behind the scenes volume is so meaty Jaws himself would have trouble sinking his teeth all the way into it.
The first reason he would struggle is the book’s size (11.9″ x 10.5″) and weight (4.67 lbs). At almost 5 pounds, it’s one heavy duty book! Secondly, there are over 300 sprawling pages with the most comprehensive making of account you’ll find available about Steven Spielberg’s famous film. Memories from Martha’s Vineyard delves deeper than any DVD commentary or behind the scenes documentary could possibly go, sharing hours of interviews and a wealth of amateur and professional photos depicting the people, places, and props that brought the movie to life.
Starting with the location scouting that led filmmakers to the New England island of Martha’s Vineyard, this book intricately documents the movie’s entire production process from start to finish. There’s an unexpected but brief foreword by Steven Spielberg as well as interviews with production designer Joe Alves, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, and casting director Shari Rhodes. Although the real stars of Memories from Martha’s Vineyard are the island’s working-class natives who got acting roles in “Jaws,” helped construct the sets, and assisted the crew with day-to-day affairs.
Because he’s a resident of the area, Taylor is able to give you a true insider’s glimpse into the quirks of these unique New Englanders and the subtleties of their culture. His familiarity with the location is a big reason why he got such great candid remarks for this book. People there clearly trust him to do the subject justice.
Perhaps the most fascinating element that Taylor explores about his native island is the complexity of its politics. For instance, using several angles, he vividly recounts a frustrating tiff between local leaders and the film crew about a building being constructed as a set. Protective politicians almost caused production to grind to a complete halt because the temporary structure was not in keeping with rigorous zoning regulations. Thankfully due to finesse and assistance from the right stakeholders, everything was eventually resolved.
Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard is truly a fantastic read for anyone rabidly obsessed with Steven Spielberg’s epic movie, and for film buffs in general. This gorgeous book has enough cool photos and fascinating anecdotes to keep you occupied for hours.
Its only real detriment is its massive size and weight, which makes it incredibly difficult to read for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s too heavy to hold in your hands for long and it’s not something you can read laying down in bed. It’s a shame that it doesn’t lend itself to being explored cover to cover because the content absolutely makes you want to do that. So you’ll just have to ration your reading, taking just a few pages at a time, because there’s no way the publisher Titan Books could make it any smaller without sacrificing the quality of this volume.
Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard is available now in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Life is almost always more interesting in the movies than it is in reality. That’s because Hollywood uses artistic license to entertain us, by embellishing the truth and engaging us with concepts just plausible enough to be real. No place is this truer than in the spy film genre, which is filled with globe-trotting action heroes like James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Ethan Hunt. These characters incite epic car chases, gunfights, and explosions wherever they go, relying on elaborate gadgets in order to accomplish their respective missions. Their films are hardly realistic, but not entirely far-fetched either.
Anticipating its blu-ray release on April 17th, I watched Ethan Hunt’s fourth big screen outing “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” which features enough quality popcorn action sequences and slick spy equipment to keep fans of the genre appeased. In “Ghost Protocol,” Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team, are forced to go rogue in order to clear their name, after they are implicated in a bombing of the Kremlin. Meanwhile, they must also stop the real culprit from instigating global nuclear conflict.
When I watched espionage movies like this one, I used to wonder what parts actually reflect a spy’s experience. However recently I was lucky enough to satisfy that curiosity, by traveling to the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, where I took part in a full afternoon of behind-the-scenes espionage activities. My exciting journey helped me uncover which elements in “Ghost Protocol” are actually influenced by fact, and which ones are simply the products of movie magic.