Masterclass – Screen Giants

Some time in the depths of last winter, I booked myself on to a weekend film appreciation course presented by The Guardian: Screen Giants – the lives and movies of 10 great film-makers with Danny Leigh.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but at least I figured I’d have a nice weekend away and hopefully learn a few things at the same time. It turned out to be a terrific couple of days, thanks to the presenters, organisers, and fellow attendees.

The event was held in the Guardian’s offices near Kings Cross station, and I’m a little jealous of the people who get to work there as it’s a fabulous building.  There were around 50 people attending, some London-based and others like myself who were making a weekend of it, with a range of filmic interests and knowledge, who were able to contribute to the discussions.  There were also some people who preferred to say little and listen more, so that if you were more reticent, it was perfectly OK to be so.

10 (and a half) film makers were chosen for discussion, with the majority being presented by Danny Leigh (Guardian film writer and co-host of BBC’s Film 2013), and with contributions from Xan Brooks and Peter Bradshaw (both of the Guardian) and Catherine Bray (  Most of the Screen Giants were directors, but time was also made for cinematographers, screen writers, actors and editors, and covered almost 100 years of cinema.

The film makers discussed were:

  • Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • Terrence Malick
  • Buster Keaton (this was the half – a shortened slot!)
  • Douglas Sirk
  • Thelma Schoonmaker (Editor)
  • David Lynch
  • James Wong Howe (Cinematographer)
  • Nora Ephron (Screen writer)
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Michael Haneke
  • Elizabeth Taylor

I knew somethings about some of them, and nothing at all about others, so for me it was an excellent mix, and I came away with a long list of films added to my watchlist.

The biggest thanks and credit need to go to main presenter Danny Leigh.  Not only were his content choices for the course highly pertinent and interesting, but the presentations and discussions were perfectly pitched; Danny engaged the audience in a professional yet friendly manner, sharing his wide-ranging knowledge of film with us, allowing the discussion to flow where appropriate, and moving us on where necessary. His delivery made the course the success it was.

If the content were different next time, I would not hesitate to sign up for another, and totally recommend it to anyone considering giving it a go.

Here’s my favourite clip from a film I hadn’t seen or even heard of before the course – I thought it was wonderful!


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