The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook *****
Chris Jones, Genevieve Jolliffe
Described on the back cover by Film Review as ‘the indispensable guide for first-time filmmakers,’ the third edition of this weighty tome (and it does weigh a ton) is the best yet. Fully revised and updated, the book benefits enormously from the fact that it’s been authored by two actual filmmakers, whose wealth of experience produces some valuable tips. This is further augmented by interviews with150 industry experts, among them writers, directors, gaffers, sound recordists, composers and producers (including such respected names as Nik Powell). With advice on lighting, editing and even product placement, the book will be as essential as film in a camera for first timers.
How to start small, but make it big behind the camera...
THE GUERILLA FILMMAKERS HANDBOOK 3RD EDITION
By Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe.
Certain to leap off the shelves of student shops everywhere, The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook is well deserving of its standing atop the world of filmmaking dos and don'ts. The first edition felt like a secret spell book that could be slipped into a tripod bag and used to conjure smart movies on the cheap and quick. Buoyed by its prior success, the latest edition is highly evolved: less 'Guerrilla' and more 'Complete'.
And it's grown into quite a beast - now 800 pages and a million words, the handbook (that's a pretty large hand) probably weighs more than the digital camera you've been planning on using to
shoot your own private Blair Witch Project. Everything you could possibly need to know is here, from script to screening, with consistently impressive access to a slate of notable industry
With this, budding indie kids are instantly armed with the know-how on which film stock to use (if any), which festivals to enter and which agents to call - and everything else in between. If you're loath to splash out on a filmmaking course, this could just be the solution. And the CD full of script software and insider documentation is a killer finishing touch.
Possessed by a desire to make commercial movies, twentysomething filmmakers Chris Jones and Genevieve Joliffe dropped out of film school to take their chances in the perilous world of low-budget
features. Two movies later and the couple have pooled their mistakes, knowledge and experiences into this nifty guide to the pleasures and perils of shoestring cinema.
Pitching itself squarely at committed wannabe helmers rather than the general reader, the book is divided into three distinct sections. The first is a series of Q&A interviews with key industry pros that details each stage of the filmmaking process from financing to distribution via production: while occasionally the techno talk and legalese is a tad dry, the info it provides, be it negotiating the quagmire of copyright law or what to do if your lead actor dies, is comprehensive and invaluable.
More entertaining by far is the chapter concerning the adventures of Jones and Joliffe making movies, which fleshes out not only the messy reality of "going indie" - perpetual blagging, constant rejection, virtual bankruptcy - but also the dedicated minutes required to get a project finished and sold. Moreover, anecdotes such as working with Harrison Ford's younger brother Terence, the duo's wrongful arrest for fraudulent behaviour, or shooting White Angel, a serial killer drama, unwittingly in Fred West's locale make diverting if somewhat cautionary tales.
With most "How to make a movie" guides coming from the US, that this provides a British perspective is particularly refreshing - the final "tool kit" section includes a useful collection of contacts and necessary documents. As attends the low budget milieu, the book does lack glossy production values but makes up for it by employing an accessible layout laced with a plethora of light-hearted advice - "Get a rich father" - and handy hints: add 50 fictitious names to the end credits to create extra kudos. Overall, then, a revelatory read which will inform and inspire in equal measure.
It was just coincidence that landed Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe in the cells. The pair of young British film-makers just happened to have shot their second feature, White Angel, 100 yards
from the home of Fred West a year before the serial killer was arrested, and somehow the police thought that the replica guns and other props used in the film were real. And it was while they
were in the cells that they decided they had a story to tell.
The book, The Guerrilla Film-Makers Handbook, is much more than just an account of their misadventures film-making (although the story of the first film, which starred Harrison Ford's unknown brother Terence, sounds irresistibly like the plot of Bowfinger). It's also in an undisputed position as the indispensable guide for first-time film-makers, and the good news is that Continuum have just published a fully updated and revised second edition.
Most similar guides to low-budget film-making in the UK begin with the of finding cameraman and so forth, but Jones and Jolliffe take the reader through the process from even earlier steps. It's first section deals with the importance of solicitors, accountants, insurance and bank managers long before it even begins to deal with the nitty-gritty of hiring cameras and lights. It then moves through the making of the film, from production to post-production to sales, and gives a series of case studies from the likes of Matthew Vaughn (Lock Stock), Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch) and Justin Kerrigan (Human Traffic).
Perhaps even more useful yet is what Jones and Jolliffe call their tool kit, which is packed with legal forms such as agreements for the cast and crew and useful documents with titles like '21 points to look for in the sales agent/distribution agreement'. And there's also a huge number of hot tips and directories and a CD Rom with a screenplay formatter and legal contracts. Weighing in at a hefty 640 pages, the book should be any new film-makers first port of call. Perhaps even more useful yet is what Jones and Jolliffe call their tool kit, which is packed with legal forms such as agreements for the cast and crew and useful documents with titles like '21 points to look for in the sales agent/distribution agreement'. And there's also a huge number of hot tips and directories and a CD Rom with a screenplay formatter and legal contracts. Weighing in at a hefty 640 pages, the book should be any new film-makers first port of call.
"As a producer", co-author Jolliffe insists, "you need to understand the whole process of film-making, from conception to completion, so that you can spot someone attempting to pull the wool over your eyes". We asked the questions producers ought to know the answers to. In practice we found that not only did producers not know the answers, they didn't even know the question in the first place!"
"Film-making is not very difficult", adds Jones "it's more hard work than anything, and we wanted to show people just how to make a low-budget film without a entangling them in all sorts of technical and legal nonsense. If you have a copy of The Guerrilla Film-Makers Handbook, loads of energy and a little cash, you can make a feature film."
No doubt there are plenty of readers to whom that sounds a pretty attractive proposition. The books priced at £19.99 - but its writers claim that they will save you thousands of pounds. Let's leave the final word to Daniel Myrick, director of The Blair Witch Project, who knows a bit about budget film-making. He says that it's "absolutely indispensable" and concludes that "it should be within arm's reach throughout the entire film-making process."