The Guerilla Film Makers Hollywood Handbook*****
By Genevieve Jolliffe, Chris Jones Continuum, £30 p/b
WITH ITS mantra of 'Get a camera, get some stock, go shoot a movie,' this all-encompassing manual offers a series of down to earth pointers on how to make a movie and, more importantly, get it shown. Written by the makers of Urban Ghost Story, who have experienced all the pitfalls first hand, the book features interviews with over 150 industry insiders, each of whom proffers advice on their chosen field, among them John O'Brien (on the spec script market), Eric Alan Edwards (on cinematography) and Bob Berney (on marketing). In fact no stone has been left un-turned in this astonishingly thorough course, which poses every question imaginable, then answers them in as much depth as possible. Even if you don't intend making a movie, this is a fascinating read - and if you do, you couldn't ask for a better primer.
Get a camera. Get some stock in. Shoot a MOVIE.”
What’s brilliant about this new US-based version of the low budget film makers’ guide is that it really gives you the feeling that it could be that easy - and then explains (over the following phone-book 720 pages) exactly how hard it is to turn your Scorsese daydreams into celluloid reality.
Should you go to film school first, or listen to Quentin Tarantino and spend the money on your first feature instead? Can you really finance a film on credit cards? (Yes, but you might sabotage your credit rating for life if you blow it all on a non-Blair-Witch-sized flop that no one wants to release.) Should you go for a calling card short or throw your all into a full length indie masterpiece?
With case studies from Donnie Darko, Thirteen, The Good Girl and the Project Greenlight series, over 150 insider interviews covering everything from what a producer actually does to which lens you should use, and a look at the all important business side, this is as inspiring as it is informative. And it’s pretty funny.
British indie filmmakers Genevieve Jolliffe and Chris Jones have assembled an impressive array of information in their 720-page tome, but the format in which they present it is almost as
intriguing as the knowledge itself. While there are chapters for every conceivable aspect of motion picture making (from insurance and completion bonds to negative cutting and distribution), each
section is built around an interview with a professional specializing in that field. Not only does the reader have all the facts handy in convenient box outs, but someone who makes a living at
the very work described is on hand to explain what they do in terms a layman can understand, while placing their work in the context of overall production. Over 150 such industry insiders
illuminate the book's chapters, offering helpful advice to those with limited budgets and encouragement to those with the guts to pursue this difficult career.
The book is copiously illustrated with photos and illustrations of the tools, techniques, and principles of filmmaking, and the writers have an added ace up their sleeve. Since they've actually made a few films, they can use images from their own work to illustrate their text.
Speaking of their work, the final portion of the book is devoted to proving that movie making can be done with a limited budget and a lot of imagination. One chapter details the story of Living Spirit Productions, the production company run by Jolliffe and Jones, and its movies, starting with White Angel and finishing with Urban Ghost Story. Following their own story, the writers recount, via interviews, the stories of other indie filmmakers like Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen; pictured middle, with co-writer/star Nikki Reed), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), and Keith Gordon (The Singing Detective; pictured below, with star Robert Downey Jr.). Overall, nine success stories are offered to inspire the filmmaking spirit, and every story has something to teach.
So how does this all relate to screenwriting? Leaving aside a few chapters that deal specifically with the craft of screenwriting, this book presents an excellent overview of every aspect of pre-production, production, and post-production. The insights presented are enough to grasp key concepts without getting bogged down with irrelevant minutiae.
Like the best-selling pregnancy guide What to Expect When You're Expecting, this book fills in a writer on all the things that happen to a movie between the word processor and the silver screen. For more detailed information on a production company's various departments, logistics, and administrivia, consult Jones' solo volume, The Guerilla Film Makers Movie Blueprint.
Though its emphasis rests with the nuts and bolts of making movies, The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook serves as an excellent reference for every screenwriter, whether you're sitting in your office puzzling over faxes from the production company or just procrastinating by watching your favorite DVD again and wondering what exactly happens during color timing. An unusual structure combines with an onslaught of information to create one of the most useful volumes on the filmmaking process that a screenwriter can have on his or her shelf.