There is a universal assumption, albeit falsehood, that a film can only look cinematic if backed by a large budget. In his Master Shots books, Christopher Kenworthy exposes the inaccuracy of this bogus pool of thought – the cinematic look, in reality, doesn’t have to be a costly enterprise.
Kenworthy is back in business with another literary gem; Master Shots Volume 2. Following the same structure as the previous hit, Volume 2 is jam-packed with juicy gobbets of cinematography wisdom. Whilst the original Master Shots provides an extensive list of basic, building-block camera techniques for any filmmaking novice, Volume 2 expands on this by offering 100 distinctive ways of shooting an epic dialogue scene.
Volume 2 begins with a succinct guide on how to effectively use the book. It is not an academic read – the book, by definition, is a practical, hands-on manual for filmmakers at any level. Fortunately, the reader is not required to diligently study each page in order to understand the content. Here lies the beauty of the book. It is designed like a pick a mix; the reader can dip in and out rather than reading the chapters successively. And the best bit? The reader has the autonomy to decide which bits are relevant to them.
Throughout the book, Kenworthy acknowledges that a carefully considered dialogue scene is an essential prerequisite for any successful shoot. He presents a variety of practical camera techniques to help vivify dialogue scenes, whilst preserving their emotion and tension. This book is a filmmaker’s first aid kit; it will resuscitate any dying dialogue-heavy scene and rejuvenate it with some desperately needed pizazz.
The format mirrors that of the original Master Shots, establishing a slick continuity between both books; the description of each technique is closely followed by a step-by-step photographic tutorial. Kenworthy reiterates that the book is not just for filmmakers with a big budget – the techniques can be employed using the most basic equipment. Alas, the cheers from impoverished filmmakers can be heard for miles!
Although the book’s techniques are designed to cover the essentials, they are not the be-all-end-all. Kenworthy wants us to be our own pioneers; he celebrates the old, but encourages innovation. In a final comment, he leaves us with a lasting bit of genius;
‘Take the shots from this book, adapt them, mix them, invent your own and use them in your films. When you make them your own and invent new ways of using them, you become the real director.’
When the original Master Shots was first published, it was an instantaneous bestseller. No doubt, Volume 2 will follow the same triumphant path.