Category Archives: Book Review

[BOOK REVIEW] Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age – by Dan Attias

Directing Great Television: Inside TV’s New Golden Age – by Dan Attias  – Review by Paul Laight

The opening quotes of praise from a myriad of industry colleagues will make my little review pale into insignificance, as there is no doubt that Dan Attias is a director of some repute, expertise, and experience. Here is an Emmy-nominated director who has worked on an incredible list of amazing television shows such as: Miami Vice, Beauty and the Beast, Wolf, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Sopranos, The Wire, House, Homeland, Witness (Peter Weir), Northern Exposure, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, The Americans, The Killing, The Boys, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Friday Night Lights, etc.

With such a breath of experience Dan Attias therefore offers much to those seeking insight into the world of directing high quality TV. Moreover, it will also give priceless advice to those seeking a career in directing for all forms of creative media. It is structured and presented eloquently in a language that doesn’t blind the reader with techno-speak either.

The author began as an actor before moving into directing. In fact he states that the best training he had for directing was being an actor. Dan Attias moved from in front of the camera to behind it as assistant director for Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola before directing the feature film Silver Bullet (1985). After which he moved into directing episodic television. 

Throughout the book, the author shares his wealth of experiences, highs, lows, and scars got from directing many great TV shows of recent years. Dan Attias does not glamorise the industry but illustrates that the craft of television production is all about the hard work and harder knocks. He advises honing one’s craft through being prepared, with collaboration also being vital. It’s a fast-paced endeavour where choices can often go wrong. But learning from those mistakes builds one’s directorial nous. Preparation is invaluable. Even if episodic television does not always allow it. The director will often arrive late to the party as it were with the showrunners, writers, actors, and pre-production crew having worked months developing a project.



I was seriously inspired by many of Dan Attias’ informative anecdotes. Having worked in both drama and comedy it is clear he is not just a point-and-shoot director. One senses a burning desire on his part to tell stories an imaginative, creative, and emotionally interesting style. Moreover, the book provides key insight into the rehearsal process, positioning actors, use of lenses, shifting points-of-view within scenes, framing, background mise-en-scene and of course lighting. For Attias, above all else, engaging with the environment is imperative as, “Each scene is staging a journey.”

As well as the technical knowledge delivered, the author continually promotes the idea that coordinating positively with showrunners and writers is integral when creating the best work. That does not mean there won’t be disagreements or having to overcome material which appears dramatically unpromising. It is the director’s job to be creative and collaborative while breathing new life into well-known characters within long running shows. 

The final chapters share excellent scene breakdowns from the author’s experience of working on three different TV shows, Snowfall, Manhattan, and Good Girls Revolt. Here he delivers a fine perspective of a director’s vision, using the camera and stylistic choices to tell the story, both following and breaking the rules. If you’re breaking the rules you may face conflict from certain crew members, but it is all about staying confident in one’s vision for the storytelling. Overall, Attias’ honesty in overcoming difficult creative moments is to be admired.

Some may think that television was always the lesser cousin, locked in the artistic attic when compared to the noble art of cinema. No more though as programmes such as Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos, Homeland, Breaking Bad, and many more have proved. Such classic television finds the writing, cinematography, acting and increased production values, elevating their status to the cinematic. The old-school image of a 1970’s TV director shouting at a bank of monitors giving orders to the beleaguered floor manager and cast in a studio is now gone. Dan Attias and his book are testament to that.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png


Buy the book from here:

Publication from https://mwp.com/product/directing-great-television-inside-tvs-new-golden-age/  

Michael Wiese Productions (MWP) was launched in San Francisco in 1976 primarily to produce films. Today, the company is known worldwide having published some 200 books. Some of the bestsellers have been translated into 18 languages, are used in over 700 film courses, in the Hollywood studios and by emerging filmmakers.

Paul Laight is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and blogger. In 2005, he formed Fix Films and has written and produced many shorts and other promos. Many of his films have been screened all over the world at various film festivals.

Paul is currently working on feature and short film scripts for future productions. His work can be found here: 

https://www.youtube.com/c/FixFilmsLtd 

https://thecinemafix.com/

[Book Review] Psychology For Screenwriters: Building Conflict In Your Script (2nd Edition) – William Indick

Psychology For Screenwriters: Building Conflict In Your Script (2nd Edition) by William Indick

Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.  Ingmar Bergman



William Indick’s excellent book takes us from the dream like world of the cinema to the pages of great psychoanalytical theorists, combining Freud with screenwriting in a most intelligent and approachable way. But his is not a how-to manual for writers, instead an immersive experience mixing theoretical, practical, and thoughtful processes in regard to writing your next film.

If psychology and screenwriting are two sides of the same coin then this book is most definitely for screenwriters and filmmakers with an interest in psychoanalytic theory that enables them to explore archetypes, plot development, structure, and character building from the inside out. Moreover, the author provides an excellent framework with which to weave psychoanalytic theories into one’s writing. But not in a cookie-cutter style. This book is smarter than that.

While many of the theories are complex, the author writes with clarity and expertise. The useful bullet-pointed summaries at the end of each chapter crystallize the concepts with aplomb. Further, the various chapters also delivers ideas from a whole host of great minds of psychoanalytic and structuralist theory such as Carl Jung, Erik Erikson, and Joseph Campbell. There were also theorists I was not too familiar with such as Alfred Adler, Rollo May, and Maureen Murdock. By utilising his expansive knowledge and examples from many classic Hollywood films the author places you into the heart of the character’s mind and motivations.

What I found most fascinating was the book provides an invaluable framework to build your characters with. I certainly could see myself applying various ideas from Freud and Jung within my writing. Indeed, I was certainly drawn to Rollo May’s theories about existential anxiety driving and increasing the complexity of my characters. One could argue though, the author overuses references to Hollywood cinema. I would really have found it intriguing how certain psychoanalytical theories may relate to cinema from, e.g.  Japan, Spain, and France. Furthermore, psychological analysis of a particular director’s work such as Ingmar Bergman could also have proved so interesting.

In conclusion, to many an experienced writer the screenwriting theories, terms and structures covered are instantly recognisable, yet William Indick freshens up the study field with psychoanalytical language, breathing life into the saturated library of scriptwriting releases. Finally, each chapter succinctly bullet-points how a writer may utilise the theories within their work as the book concludes with three brilliant essays relating said theories to the Western, Fantasy and Sci-fi genres. One could even say this book is a dream to work with.


Psychology For Screenwriters: Building Conflict In Your Script (2nd Edition) is available here.

Publication date is January 2023 from https://mwp.com/

Michael Wiese Productions (MWP) was launched in San Francisco in 1976 primarily to produce films. Today, the company is known worldwide having published some 200 books. Some of the bestsellers have been translated into 18 languages, are used in over 700 film courses, in the Hollywood studios and by emerging filmmakers.

[Book Review] HOLLYWOOD GAME PLAN – Carole M. Kirschner

[Book Review] Hollywood Game Plan – Carole M. Kirschner

The sniping words of despotic Hollywood executive, Buddy Ackerman, in the scathing film satire Swimming With Sharks (1994), echoed around my mind.

“Because there are no story-book romances, no fairy-tale endings. So before you run out and change the world, ask yourself, ‘What do you really want?’”

It’s a vital life question. What is it you really want? If you’re drawn to the dream factory, to Hollywood, that celebrated capital of mythmaking and stardust where do you start? Well, Carole M. Kirshner’s Hollywood Game Plan is definitely for you. In a fabled town where apparently nobody knows anything, I have to say I knew so much more after reading this.



Who is Carole M. Kirshner I hear you ask? Because, like me, you may be dubious of such Hollywood guides which offer to demystify the process of getting ahead in the film and television industry. Never fear as the author has walked the walk and talked the talk in Hollywood, grafting her way up to a senior-level Hollywood executive for CBS and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

Yet, Hollywood Game Plan is not the work of a jaded burnt-out hack. Rather, it’s a dynamic and positive journey structured from start to finish to help you achieve the goal of getting a job in Hollywood. If that is what you really want then read on.

One of the book’s major strengths is a well-designed spine that teaches the reader the basics, getting us prepared for the long Hollywood road trip ahead, training our brains for obstacles that may come our way, and not filling one’s mind with dreamy possibilities. There is hard graft ahead through research, networking, pitching, phone calls, interviews, more networking, staying positive, facing rejection, and having a never-say-die attitude. As the author states finding a full-time job in Hollywood is a full-time job in itself.

The writing throughout is punchy and unpretentious. There is real honesty that leaps from the words on the page. Moreover, I was especially impressed by the goal-oriented aim of the book. If you’re like me and enjoy hitting targets then Carole M. Kirshner’s chapter exercises really build what she calls that “Los Angeles Armour.”



Indeed, how to write a killer C.V., perfect a covering letter, find a mentor, write, and pitch your own personal history, and even how long to wait before you follow up on a hot lead are just a suggestion of the priceless advice in this book. It will most definitely get you ahead of the competition during the Darwinist task of moving up the Hollywood food chain.

Because it is survival of the fittest in Hollywood. You’ve got to work to earn your lucky break. There’s rarely such a thing as overnight success. As well as the target-based exercises there are many testimonials from professionals within Hollywood, including those who have taken Carole M. Kirshner’s Hollywood Game Plan course. These and the informative appendices at the back of the book provide an invaluable set of tools for the journey ahead.

So, in conclusion, ask yourself what you really want? If it’s a job in Hollywood and you’re out of shark repellent, barbed spears, and a protective underwater cage, you could do worse than arm yourself with Carole M. Kirshner’s enlightening book, Hollywood Game Plan.

Get your copy here.

Mark: 8.5 out of 11