Friday, November 17, 2023

Tom Hanks, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece (Albert A. Knopf, 2023)

Until I read this book, while I’m a fan of movies, I hadn’t thought about the movie business much. On a regular basis, new movies appear fully formed and ready for consumption at our local theater or through our favorite streaming service. Two hours (give or take) of entertainment emerge from a black box called the “industry” in, for better or worse, final form. I’d heard the dark allusions to funky accounting relating to measuring the profitability of the product, but had no real idea as to how it is manufactured.

Turns out that each film is the product of entrepreneurism on steroids. Conceiving the idea for the story, evaluating the market for the product, arranging financing, and assembling a team to realize the filmmaker’s vision are steps any entrepreneur will readily recognize and can likely translate to their own business opportunities.

In this, his first novel, “America’s favorite actor”—that’s right, just google that phrase and see whose photograph pops up—takes us on a ride through what he repeatedly calls “the Business of Show” or, alternatively, the “Cardboard Carnival.” The story, which involves the making of a superhero movie of the type one frequently encounters these days, is less entertaining as a work of fiction than as a fictionalized instructional deep dive into the filmmaking process.

Consider the chapter headings, in the order in which they appear: “Backstory,” “Source Material,” “Development Hell,” “Prep,” “Casting,” “The Shoot,” and “Post.” Hanks has clearly been through this process a time or two, and, lucky for us, he has followed the admonition usually attributed to Mark Twain to “write what you know.” Anyone interested in how a film comes together will enjoy this book—if not for the story line, then for the abundant telling details Hanks summons up to tell the story.

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