The Sticking Place

Mackendrick on Film

Maggie Prod-1This educational audio/visual lecture Mackendrick on Film is based on British film director Alexander Mackendrick‘s teachings on cinema, and takes as its starting point his book On Film-Making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director, a collection of writings and sketches, edited by Paul Cronin with a foreword by Martin Scorsese.

Mackendrick on Film features archival footage of Mackendrick at work in the classrooms and studios of the California Institute of the Arts where, after retiring from the film industry in 1969 (here for an article about his career as a director), he taught film-making for nearly twenty-five years. It also includes interviews with former students and colleagues, extracts from archival interviews with Mackendrick about the craft of film-making, clips from a variety of films, and a selection of Mackendrick’s student handouts, storyboards and sketches. The lecture is designed to be a self-contained introduction to film-making, where a year of film school is compressed into a weekend. Here for more details, including an extensive handout created for participants, which contains a structural breakdown of the presentation alongside writings by Mackendrick and others.

Mackendrick on Film (flyer here) has been seen at colleges and festivals worldwide, including NYU, UCLA, USC, CalArts, The New School, University of London, Tribeca Film Festival, Directors Guild of Great Britain, Binger Filmlab, Scuola Holden and the London Film School.

Film writing and directing cannot be taught, only learned, and each man or woman has to learn it through his or her own system of self-education.

Alexander Mackendrick


Alexander Mackendrick, director of The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers and Sweet Smell of Success, retired from his career as an internationally respected film director in 1969 and until his death in 1993 guided students through the disciplines he called Dramatic Construction and Film Grammar (“the narrative and visual devices that have been developed through inventive direction and performing during cinema’s short history”).

A legendary teacher of cinema, Mackendrick’s writings were designed specifically for students, and are masterful studies of the two primary tasks confronting the film director: how to structure and write the story he wants to tell, and how to use those devices particular to the medium of film in order to tell that story as effectively as possible. Devoid of obscurantism, concentrating on the practical and tangible rather than abstract concepts of cinema as “art,” they reveal that Mackendrick had the talent not only to make films, but also to articulate with clarity and insight what that process involved.

Martin Scorsese has called Mackendrick’s book “Invaluable… I can easily imagine a college without a film program building a curriculum around these writings.” Mackendrick on Film would be an integral component of such a curriculum, as students will be able to see and hear Mackendrick discuss many of the concepts he articulates in detail throughout his book.