If you are at all interested in filmmaking, whether you just appreciate it or want to participate in it, you should read Adventures In The Screen Trade by William Goldman.
Goldman is the screenwriter behind such movies as Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men. He’s also got a laid back, conversational style of prose writing that is both informative and very funny. He gives in depth analyses of how to construct a solid screenplay and gives advice on how to deal with people in Hollywood.
Those are the helpful portions of the book. The parts that read more like memoirs are both interesting and hilarious. He gives firsthand accounts of the weirdness he’s endured over the years working in movies, such as an unnamed female star who wouldn’t come out of her trailer because she accidentally murdered her poodle with a giant pork chop, and a producer that bought the rights to a book only because he wanted an excuse to visit New Zealand.
There are some problems with the book. The first being that it is pretty outdated. It was published in 1982 and hasn’t been updated since. Hollywood has changed a great deal since then, but the main principles of how to deal with crazy people remain intact. Goldman also has a proclivity to gush about certain stars in particular (Robert Redford especially), mostly because they worked together on many projects. It gives a somewhat isolated feel to the story, as if all of Hollywood is exactly like Goldman’s circle of friends/partners.
Even with these problems, it is very apparent that Mr. Goldman had a lot of fun working in the picture business. That comes accross very strong and his helpful advice and funny anecdotes make me even more determined to get into the filmmaking business. If you feel like I do, go ahead and pick up the book.