Monday, November 7, 2011

Learning About Independent Feature Film Production

Last week I reviewed the book From Reel To Deal, by Dov S-S Simens.  That book was an incredible source of information with tons of suggestions for reading, plus software, websites, associations, unions, guilds, organizations, business contact info and so on.  I have compiled a list of these resources from the various books I've read so far, so if you are interested in seeing it, contact me and I can email it to you. 

One of the books Simens recommended was Independent Feature Film Production by Gregory Goodell.  Like Simens book, the author assumes the filmmaker is somebody who wishes to make a film using film (rather than digital formats) to create their movie.  Both books did have small sections devoted to digital, but they weren't the main focus of the book.  But whereas Simens' approach towards filmmaking was more like from the point of view of a producer--someone who takes charge and gets the pieces in order and then gets everybody else to do their thing, Goodell's approach is more of that of someone who makes films himself.  Or at the very least likes to micromanage everything.  Simens' book is more big picture thinking.  Yes, it's good to know how everything works together.  It's good to know the basics of what the stuff is.  And he covers that.  But Goodell goes into much more detail and is far more technical.  The appendices included a sample limited partnership contract (because most filmmakers appear to try to find limited partners to finance the film), a sample budget, and a whole slew of resources--many of which are the very same ones that Simens recommended.  Goodell also had copies of various worksheets used in production scattered throughout the book, but then didn't describe how the various sheets were used, and not everything on the sheets is obvious. 

In fact, I had to keep reminding myself what different terms meant at times and double check film glossaries when I wasn't sure.  Some of his explanations are simply beyond me, because I've never seen the equipment talked about, never touched the equipment talked about, and therefore have absolutely no way to picture what the heck he's talking about, much less understand it. 

I think in these cases, hands on learning would probably be best.  Workshops at your local non-profit film center are good.  Here in Portland we have NW Film Center, which offers classes at fairly reasonable rates.  Community colleges offer classes both for credit and non-credit at reasonable rates.  But if you're continually broke like me, knowing someone who knows how to do the stuff s/he's talking about and having them be willing to show me is the best!

I'm the organizer for Stumptown Movie Makers meetup group.  Currently, we have 147 members and our group is adding new members all the time!  Our group likes to help each other make movies. We learn from each other.  So my recommendation to those out there who want to learn how to make a movie (or learn some aspect of filmmaking or sound you don't already know), is to join a nearby meetup group and start hanging out with filmmakers.  Volunteer to help out on their sets and they will be happy to share with you what they have learned.  Much of my knowledge of film making has come to me in this way.  My film degree taught me to write.  Most everything else I've learned has been hands on.

I punched in "film making" and my zip code into the meetup's search parameters and meetup gave me all sorts of choices.  As it turns out, I'm a member of just about every meetup group in the Portland area that involves film making.  Try it for your area: go to

In the absence of a local film center and if you can't any film groups to attach yourself to, there are always wonderful tutorials that you can find on the internet.  Google rocks! 

In fact, I recently discovered a website called Film Specific.  Film Specific talks about film markets and distribution and lots of other things that have to do with selling your film.  Which, of course, is usually the goal of most filmmakers, right?  Most of us would eventually like to get paid something for all of our hard work.  Film Specific has some free resources, but it is also a place that offers workshops to people that you have to pay for.  Before you pay for the workshops, I suggest checking out their free stuff and seeing if you find it helpful enough to pay for the rest.  That's a decision only you can decide. 

There are two more books I have at home on filmmaking overall, one of which is very recently published.  I'm hoping that will cover the digital realm more, since digital has really affected independent production, I believe.  After I read those, I think I'll summarize some of the basics of what I learned.  Then I'll move on to breaking down the three major aspects of filmmaking:  pre-production, production and post-production.  I'm hoping I might get a friend or two write a guest blog on the types of things they do, to, with an eye to enlightening those of us who know diddly. 

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