Archive for the ‘Principles’ Category

The Bible, Revised

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

In some fields, there’s that one book which, without it, your collection would be hopelessly incomplete. In my opinion, every kitchen needs a copy of The Joy of Cooking, a library’s not a library if it doesn’t have the Oxford English Dictionary, and filmmakers… well, I would argue that all of us need a copy of The Filmmaker’s Handbook by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus. At least that was true a few years ago.

First released in 1984, The Filmmaker’s Handbook was one of the first, and best, books to cover almost all technical aspects of the filmmaking process. Its presentation of technical concepts was accessible to beginners; its depth of detail meant experienced filmmakers could return to it again and again, always sure to learn new things.

For years, the Handbook didn’t need an update. Film technology had gone largely unchanged for decades. An f-stop’s an f-stop, right? Then, in 1999, the Handbook was updated to include developments in digital video. A necessary nod to the present, no doubt, but also an invitation to obsolescence.

The 2nd edition was first published in March 1999 — one month before the unveiling of Final Cut Pro 1.0. Things have changed. Radically. Needless to say, the Handbook‘s been long overdue for another update.

So when I say that the new edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook was released yesterday, well, if you’re sentimental about books like I am, maybe you’ll agree that this is a cause for celebration.

In many ways, though, it’s a bittersweet celebration. At this point, I don’t expect The Filmmaker’s Handbook to present any especially new information, exactly. The internet keeps me up-to-date on this stuff far better than any book can now. And, like so much of the technology it will no doubt discuss, I suspect that much of the information found in this 3rd Edition will be out of date within a year or two. If not sooner.

Yet, even when discussing evolving technologies, books have their place. Books demand (or at least request) more attention than digitally-presented information does. That’s a good thing, especially when you’re trying to learn something. You can also carry a book to a remote location where you might never have the internet access that would allow you to google for a solution that might crop up on set. But most importantly, a book lets you dog ear its corners, mark up key passages, and write in the margins. At least, that’s what I plan to do with my new edition as soon as it arrives on my doorstep.

And besides, a lot of what this new 3rd edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook will have to say has never gone out of style and won’t for a long, long time. After all, an f-stop’s still an f-stop.

No Budget Film School

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Back in January, I participated in a conversation on DIY filmmaking with Workbook Project founder Lance Weiler (Head Trauma) and Mark Stolaroff (producer and founder of the No Budget Film School). I enjoyed the discussion and certainly learned a few things myself.

Mark recently notified me that his No Budget Film School is holding a two-day immersion workshop entitled, “The Art & Science of No-Budget Filmmaking” in Los Angeles next weekend (8/25 & 8/26), so I thought I’d pass the word along.

I haven’t attended one of these workshops myself, so I can’t directly endorse it. I will say, though, that the list of confirmed Guest Speakers — which includes Peter Broderick (President, Paradigm Consulting; former President, Next Wave Films), Craig Zobel (Director, Great World Of Sound – 2007 Sundance), and Ti West (Director, The Roost; Trigger Man) looks promising.

And it’s not terribly expensive as far as these things go. The two-day workshop is $275 in advance; $200 if you’re a college student with ID. When you consider that all paid attendees of the workshop receive Axium Scheduling and Axium Budgeting software for free (reportedly a $400 value) it might end up being a pretty good bargain.

If you’re in L.A. and you’re debating whether or not to go, you might give that conference between Lance, Mark, and me a listen. If you like what Mark has to say, check out the workshop.

Hooray for Nollywood!

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Intrepid reader Ben Hartman alerted me to a fine, if all too short, article in Wired about the third largest film industry in the world. Where is that, you ask? Nigeria.

The article is really a tease — and an effective one at that — for two recent US-produced documentaries, Welcome to Nollywood and This is Nollywood.

Until I can get my hands on those documentaries, and some actual Nollywood movies, here are some articles that I enjoyed reading today as I educated myself about the Nigerian film industry.

Cinema of Nigeria page on Wikipedia.

Welcome to Nollywood. An extensive article from The Guardian.

Nollywood drought at Fespaco. BBC article discusses allegations of snoobery at Africa’s most prestigious film festival towards Nollywood pix.

Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood. NYT article from 2002(!).

The Nollywood Phenomenom. Article found on the World Intellectual Property Association website (WIPO’s website tells me that it is a “specialized agency of the United Nations”).

Open Thread: Superstitions

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

I’m back from Knoxville, where I just spent the last month prepping and then shooting a new project. I’m way too close to things to say much about it — what it is, how it went, and so on — right now. As it gets closer to completion I will talk more about it, no doubt.

Aside from not having any distance on the thing, the fact is that I’m just generally reluctant to talk about works-in-progress. This probably seems like an odd trait for a “film blogger” to have. If so, hey, guilty as charged. That fact remains that the only thing I like less than talking about a film I’ve just shot (but not edited) is a film I’m in the process of writing. I don’t have a problem talking about the project with collaborators — that would be counter-productive (and very frustrating for others, I’m sure). Mainly, it’s just a reluctance for me to attempt to define a creative project for others before it has defined itself to me.

The reluctance is also based in superstition. It seems like every time I say something semi-definitively about a film I’m making (especially during production) I’m eating my words within minutes. (A recent example: “I’m glad we’ve now decided which camera we’re renting and we can move onto other things!”)

On the flip side, I have certain rituals that I need to do before writing a project. And there are lucky objects: a brand of pens, old t-shirts, baseball caps.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of artists (filmmakers, writers, choreographers, etc.) that I’ve known are superstitious people — practically as superstitious as baseball players. The cinematographer of a couple of films I made always wore the same t-shirt on the first day of filming. It was a promotional film from a successfuly 90s indie comedy (which shall remain nameless). He loathed the film, actually, but he wore the t-shirt because he figured it would remind him that no matter what, we could make something better.

But enough about me. What about you? Drop a comment if you have superstitions when writing, prepping, filming, or finishing a project — or if you know a good story about someone that does.

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

This is, I think, the longest delay between posts at Self-Reliant Film. Between the events at Virgina Tech and the preparation for a project of mine, well, what can I say? My attention has been elsewhere. Anyway, it’s good to get back to the blog. Thanks, again, to all of you that privately emailed or publicly commented with words of support.

On an unrelated(?) note, I just remembered that today marks the 15th anniversary of the “premiere” of my first film, a film called “Pure”, which I made with a Super-8 film camera graciously loaned by Chris Cagle. The film screened for about twenty people in the living room of my friend Wade Guyton, who lived in the house next door to Chris.

I remember that the evening ended with various people singing along to the Xanadu soundtrack. Yesterday, my friend Alan sent me a link to this. Plus ça change, plus c’est la méme chose.