Last fall, A24 made its foray into publishing with a collection of coffee-table books based on some of its most iconic films, including Ex Machina, The Witch, and Moonlight.
Each book contains the film’s entire script and handpicked, full-colored frames with the director’s annotations. There’s also a mix of ancillary content unique to each book, including woodcuts and production sketches from The Witch, or a foreword by Frank Ocean and Academy Awards acceptance speeches in Moonlight.
“At a moment when art and entertainment feel more ephemeral than ever, when your favorite films vanish unceremoniously from the streaming sites and college DVD collections gather dust on the shelves, A24 Books are designed to be collected and displayed,” the company said in a statement.
A24 Books recently added Ari Aster’s familial thriller Hereditary to the collection with a foreword from Parasite auteur Bong Joon-ho.
Fast Company got an exclusive excerpt from the book in which Aster describes his meticulous process for creating shot lists. Read it below and check out A24 Books here:
I started writing interminable shot lists before it occurred to me to draw storyboards. Happily, these resulted in semi-coherent “movies,” so I committed to this method and haven’t deviated since. The crew typically finds these shot lists to be largely incomprehensible, so it’s become a tradition to go scene-by-scene through the entire document with my cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski and my production designer (in this case, the wonderful Grace Yun) during pre-production.
This takes many weeks, usually months, as I struggle to illustrate what I’m pretty sure I meant by my shot descriptions (which vary in clarity, depending on the states in which they were written) by sketching out the proposed blocking of actors and camera positions on whiteboards—football game plans, I imagine, though I wouldn’t know. This is especially necessary when the budget is tight and elaborate sets must be built. (It’s better to know which set walls need to be removable before you build, and why invest thought, resources, and time into a corner of a room that ultimately won’t be on screen?) The obvious argument against all this is: What if you want to play around and improvise on set, encourage spontaneity, and allow for the possibility of finding something better “on the day”? I’ve heard it all.
Sometimes I’m confused by these shot lists, forgetting what I meant by a sloppily worded sentence—often wondering whether I meant “left” when I wrote “right,” or whether I’m just reading it wrong now. I often spend twenty minutes agonizing over how to describe a shot that could have easily been drawn in twenty seconds. Even the self-deprecating tone of this intro isn’t to be trusted, as I clearly have enough of my ego invested in this method to allow/encourage the publication of a process that I pretend to devalue.
Anyway, here’s a cautionary example.