Monday, October 31, 2011

Learning About Filmmaking

Since this is my first post on the art of making films, I decided to approach this as if I were a beginning filmmaker.  What if I knew next to nothing? What books would I look at?

I decided to check out some all-encompassing books and found a few that looked promising.  The first book I read is Digital Filmmaking 101 by Dale Newton and John Gaspard.  This book takes a look at micro-budget filmmaking, insisting you can make a feature film for $8000.  The writers assume that you will be using a digital camcorder to shoot your film.  They base the book on their experiences putting three feature films out into the world all on tiny budgets, yet they figured out ways to make their films look like they had budgets of much much more.

The authors tell you how to make a movie from writing the script through distribution.

The book is copyright 2001, so I found a lot of their information outdated, especially the section on using the internet as a means of distribution for your film.  If you follow their advice here, you could potentially be shooting yourself in the foot.

However, the core principles they espouse still hold true.  A do it yourself attitude and being handy with tools can make all the difference.  You can make much of your own camera gear, special effects, etc.
I do wish, however, that the authors had given more diagrams and pictures when they described how they built a lot of their stuff.  I am a very visual and hands on learner and I was having trouble trying to decipher the how-tos.

The second book I checked out this week has been a veritable treasure trove.  The copyright date on this is 2003, and so some of the information may be dated.  But the author gives plenty of information to start with so that you can pursue the answers for yourself.  The book, From Reel to Deal, is written by Dov S-S Simens, a Hollywood producer and filmmaker.  

Where has this book been my whole life?  Like Chris Guillebeau in his Art of Non-Conformity book, Dov advises against wasting your time in film school.  He lays out at the end of every chapter tons of resources--books, guilds, associations, people, software, websites and so on--that he says you can learn from instead.  Granted, these resources are all 8 years old and there may be newer sources of information.  But they are certainly a good start!

He says you can spend $2000-$3000 and six months and you will learn what you need to know about filmmaking if you use the resources he points out.  Or, you can spend four years and $70,00-100,000 at a film school.  I know that back in 2007 when I looked into the Art Institute of Portland and their filmmaking degree, it was going to take me three years (since I had prior schooling) and about $75,000.  Ouch.  I opted for Portland State, instead.  Wish I had read Dov’s book back then!

Dov tackles what it means to be a producer, a director, how to do budgeting, digital versus 35mm film and more.  His take on digital is where his book is a little outdated, I think.  He talks about no budget vs micro budget vs ultra low budget vs low budget and what are the best ways for beginning filmmakers to break into the business.  He is no nonsense, no beating around the bush, and I love how he breaks down scriptwriting into a series of “uh-oh’s”, “oh shit’s” and “oh my God’s”.

From Reel to Deal is awesome!  I found some resources I didn’t know existed here in my own home town.  And I was pleased to see I already owned several of the books Dov has recommended to people to read.  (Now I just have to get around to reading them!)  I will be making a new list of stuff to read and check out for the up-coming months.  This book is like a study guide for filmmaking.

Special thanks to Bill Adams for buying me a copy!

Lastly, I would like to point out helpful website I discovered recently by signing up for Twitter.  I was looking up filmmaking people to follow when I found the link to it.  The first is called NoFilmSchool.  It has lots of handy tutorials on everything from independent careers to financing via crowd funding sites, information on different kinds of cameras,  and all sorts of other stuff.  Subscribing is very easy, but it is a little difficult to navigate to find articles on topics you wish to research.

That's enough for this week.  Tune in next week--I'll be checking out some books that Dov Simens recommended and trying to share some more resources found on the web.