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Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley
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Harry Potter Film Wizardry (2010)

by Brian Sibley

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Review from library copy.

Fun to look through, but probably not a great pick for cirulating collection. ( )
  kcarrigan | Aug 26, 2013 |
This book describes the making of all the Harry Potter films, except the last one which hadn’t been released yet when the book was published. I’ve found it interesting not only from the standpoint of a HP fan, but also as a window into the modern movie-making process in general (at least, if they have a huge budget).

One of the things that struck me when reading this book was how much actors are apparently expected to put up with. For instance, in the third film there’s a scene where Harry’s Aunt Marge is floating away and his Uncle Vernon tries to anchor her and ends up lifted in the air too, with her eager-to-help dog latching on to his leg. When I watched this scene I was sure most of it was done via computer animation. But it turned out that Pam Ferris who played Aunt Marge was actually wearing a huge body suit, and as Richard Griffiths who played Uncle Vernon explains, “I was tethered to Aunt Marge, and we were lifted 30-40 feet in the air… and Ripper the dog was just hanging on with his teeth – to my ankle! And, boy, were they strong teeth! And as we got higher in the air, I was thinking, ‘I just want to die now!’” In another example of a rather cavalier treatment of actors, in the fourth film, there’s a scene where Harry steals an artificial egg from a dragon and falls down the castle roof in the process. Once again, when I was watching this, I was dead sure I was watching a computer-generated sequence. But as Daniel Radcliffe recalls, “Some of the stunts were a bit scary. I was on a wire, and I fell, I think, 40 feet very, very fast. That was terrifying… it was really scary!” OK, so he was on a wire. Was there no chance at all that something would snap or slip? Or that he would hit the side of the castle while hanging from this wire? It seems to me from reading this book that filmmakers sometimes forget that what they are doing is entertainment, make-belief, and just because a character was bitten by a dog or fell from the roof doesn’t mean that the same should happen to the actor.

Another thing that surprised me was how much time, effort and money gets spent on props for minute and/or unnecessary scenes – props that the film audience doesn’t get to see in any amount of detail anyway. For instance, for the first film “the props department minted a small fortune in Galleons, Sickles and Knuts.” Well, in any film, when a character walks into a store and buys something, do you ever notice what kind of coins he pays with? Similarly, for the second film “the graphic arts and props department joined forces to create the complete works of Gilderoy Lockhart.” I’ve recently watched this film again on DVD, and the scene where Lockhart gives Harry the stack of his books is shot from the side, so that even the cover of the top book isn’t visible. It could have been a stack of any hardcover books. Or take the one-third-sized model of the Weasleys’ home, The Burrow, which required six months of painstaking effort to make, just so that it could burn down in six minutes. Was it absolutely necessary to have this scene of the burning house which was later rebuilt by Mr. Weasley? Couldn’t they simply return home to find it in ruins or some few still burning rafters? And what about a one-third model of Draco Malfoy created so that Hagrid could lift him and take him to school after Draco gets injured by a hippogriff, without it becoming obvious that Hagrid is not of half-giant size? Well, couldn’t Malfoy’s friends manage to get him to the hospital wing, as he was pretending to swoon? (But at least Tom Felton was lucky that the hippogriff was played by a model and computer animation, and so he didn’t have to get injured for real.) I could really go on and on. The one other artwork I can’t refrain from mentioning are the individual wands with all sorts of embellishments created for various characters. In the books, all wands are supposed to look like simple wooden sticks. The woods differ, the lengths differ slightly, and the magical cores differ; none of this would be obvious in a film. What’s impressive about a wand is what it, or rather its owner can do with it, not how it looks like. My favorite is definitely Bellatrix’s crooked wand made to resemble a claw – because if she’d had a straight wand, we’d never have noticed that she’s “crooked,” apparently. Wands are meant to aim, and aim accurately in a nick of time, and obviously a bent wand would be a lot harder to aim, except at an object sitting still right in front of one, and would put its owner at a severe disadvantage. So what sane wandmaker would make a bent wand?

If all this makes it sound like I didn’t appreciate the art that went into the creation of the Harry Potter films, that’s absolutely not the case. I loved all the Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, Burrow and Privet Drive sets, all the magical creatures, and all the props that are actually seen and make sense, from the Horcruxes to Rita Skeeter’s fancy green quill. And I was happy to learn (from an article in Entertainment Weekly) that after the completion of the last film, the sets and props are to be set up in a Potter museum due to open in 2012.

The book itself is very informative and beautifully done, with lots of fabulous photographs. All the important settings get a spread, and all the actors get a page or two, except for the actors who played Tom Riddle in the second and sixth films, who don’t even get a mention! This unexplainable omission is the only reason why I gave the book 4 rather than 5 stars. ( )
  Ella_Jill | Jul 27, 2011 |
Exellent Book, A must buy for all Potter fans- I ecpessially like the pull-out 'ephemera' like the Hogwarts letter, Maurder's map, etc. ( )
  decat | Jul 5, 2011 |
This is not the only movie companion guide written by Brian Sibley. He is also the author of a companion guide for The Lord of the Rings. And I can see why Warner Brothers would have wanted to hire him for the job. Sibley has written a fully comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the Harry Potter films. Harry Potter: Film Wizardry gives an insider view of the amount of work that has taken place at Leavesden Studios (where the majority of scenes in the movies have been filmed) over the years by thousands of crew members. I really felt that I got a full appreciation of the scale of the movies, the attention to detail, and what goes into making the sets, creatures, and props. How Stuart Craig, the production designer for all of the movies, has never received an Oscar for his work in the movies is beyond me. I can't even begin to list the interesting tidbits I learned in this book. There are simply too many of them! Of special note are the interludes by producer David Heyman, the man responsible for bringing J.K. Rowling's books to the big screen and doing so respectfully, as a true fan of the books himself. Harry Potter: Film Wizardry is a must read for any Harry Potter super fan! ( )
  AyleeArgh | Jun 12, 2011 |
A book detailing the past ten years of the Harry Potter films. This is an informational book that covers the actors and how they auditioned for the parts as the beloved Harry, Ron, and Hermione as well as all the other great actors. Its a behind the scenes glimpse of book to movie as J.K. Rowling conversed with the directors to help capture her stories on the big screen.

Fun book that has the letter for Harry from Hogwarts and the Marauder's Map. Filled with a great deal of information which makes this book a hard one to put down. ( )
  runner_roader | May 18, 2011 |
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Book description
Immerse yourself in the world of the spectacular Harry Potter film series, and learn why Yule Ball ice sculptures never melt, where Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts are really "minted", how to get a Hippogriff to work with actors the inspirations behind Hogwarts castle, and why Dementors move the way they do. Written and designed in collaboration with the cast and crew that brought J.K. Rowling's celebrated novels to the silver screen, Harry Potter: Film Wizardry delivers and enchanting interactive experience, transporting readers to the wizarding world by sharing film-making secrets, unpublished photography and artwork, and exclusive stories from the stars. Full of removable facsimile reproductions of props and paper ephemera from the movies, this collectible volume offers a privileged look at the Harry Potter films and the talented group of Muggles that has made true movie magic.
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A guide to the Harry Potter films offers an inside look at everything it took to bring J.K. Rowling's novels to life and includes interviews with the films' stars, behind-the-scenes stories, photos of props and sets, and extra removable items.

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