Book Excerpt: This is How You Make a Movie by Tim Grierson | Features

A fascinating read for movie buffs who want to understand what goes on behind the camera, and above all an essential read for students and beginners in the industry.

With sections on acting, directing, lighting and camera, writing and editing, this book includes all the technical help you need to get your movie career off the ground.

Plastic Images

Infusing inanimate objects with emotional or symbolic meaning – because, sometimes, a cigar is most certainly not just a cigar 

Almost every movie uses props, which can range from weapons to artifacts to musical instruments to fantastical creations. But some props are more important to a story than others. Here, we’ll examine what I’ll call “plastic images,” which are objects that represent a film’s theme or emotional underpinning.

The most famous plastic image in all of cinema is probably in Citizen Kane. That entire film is devoted to understanding precisely why Charles Foster Kane whispered “Rosebud” before his death.  What was “Rosebud”? Why did it matter so much to him? When we learn that Rosebud was his sled, we stop seeing it as just a childhood toy – it’s suddenly infused with profound meaning.

The movies have all sorts of plastic images. Unlocking their narrative import goes a long way towards understanding a film’s underlying message.

A Symbol of Hope 

“Bicycle Thieves”


Screenplay: Cesare Zavattini; director: Vittorio De Sica; actors: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola

In Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 classic, Lamberto Maggiorani plays Antonio, who has landed a menial job that requires him using a bicycle. Unfortunately, Antonio’s family is poor, so they sell some items to buy back his bike from a pawnshop. Bicycle Thieves is the story of what happens after Antonio’s bicycle then gets stolen, which involves him and his adoring son (Enzo Staiola) traveling across Rome trying to apprehend the thief.

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