Whenever I read about filmmaking or listen to a podcast, the number one piece of advice you always hear is that you need to just go out and make a movie. You can’t be a filmmaker without making films, right? Makes sense. But how the hell do you actually make a movie?
Searching out books, documentaries, podcasts and blogs about filmmaking can shed some light on a lot of little aspects of making movies. Through the years, I’ve discovered quite a few that have helped guide me to this point where I am now only a few days away from directing my first feature.
Before you head out to set and yell “Action!” here are a few great resources to guide you through the thick and thin of it all, in no particular order whatsoever.
NO FILM SCHOOL
Sadly, they just ended their Indie Film Weekly podcast, but they still have tons of great articles on their blog and amazing insights in their old podcasts and interviews. I’ve been listening for the past year and managed to learn a lot of little tricks that helped pull Dead Dicks together.
INTO THE WOODS by John Yorke
I’m one of those people that loves reading about writing, especially when it comes to screenwriting. I’ve read all the classics by Syd Field, Dave Trottier and Blake Snyder, but my true favourite is a more recent release by John Yorke that was first published in 2015. It breaks scripts down into five acts, as opposed to most who do it with three. I found it a lot easier to see plots that way and it has helped with Dead Dicks a heck of a lot.
His blog, podcast and apps have changed a lot of how I write screenplays. I even helped Kickstart his Writer’s Emergency Pack back in the day, and still use it when I hit a wall with my stories. The Fountain markup language for screenwriting has been an amazing tool for this writer, though it may also be due to the fact that I’m also a programmer (code is life, yo!). Thankfully, he’s also helped develop Highland and Slugline, so the less code-slinging screenwriters can easily navigate their way through using Fountain.
Obviously, listening to a “Master” filmmaker discuss their approach to filmmaking is a perfect place to start for anyone wanting to learn more about the process. Though, some Masterclasses are better than others. After watching a bunch, I can say that the Spike Lee Masterclass was the most valuable in regards to his approach to independent filmmaking. If you graduate to making Hollywood blockbusters, then Ron Howard should be your guide. To be clear, I haven’t watched all of the Masterclasses so there are probably newer ones that are totally worth enrolling in.
ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FILMMAKING I LEARNED FROM THE TOXIC AVENGER: THE SHOCKING TRUE STORY OF TROMA STUDIOS by Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn
The Toxic Avenger is still in my top ten favourite movies of all time list and it will never get bumped out. When this book first came out, I was super excited to see what when into making all of that glorious trash and it did not disappoint. If you are a Troma completionist, I also suggest watching all the making-of documentaries included on the DVD/Blu-ray releases of their latest oeuvres.
GO INTO THE STORY
If you’ve heard about the Blacklist, then you’ve probably heard about Go Into the Story. If you haven’t heard of either one, click on through and start reading because they are both important for screenwriters hoping to break into the scene, especially in Hollywood.
LIVING IN OBLIVION
It may be old, and a work of fiction, but I still think it is one of the best depictions of the trials and tribulations of the independent filmmaker. Tom DiCillo started his career as a cinematographer on Jim Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation but he quickly came into his own as a director with indie hits like Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion and Box of Moonlight.
UNDER PRESSURE: MAKING THE ABYSS
Filmmaking is hard, but you will never have it as hard as the people involved with the making of The Abyss. The behind-the-scenes featurette is an amazing look at how hard James Cameron and his team worked to make The Abyss as great as it is. As a director, you will never have to suffer through eight-hours of decompression after a sixteen-hour long shoot, so how hard can it really be. 🙂
INDIE FILM HUSTLE
I listen to this podcast often, though I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the host Alex Ferrari. He often talks over the people he’s interviewing and interjects with his own stories and experience, which if you listen to the podcast enough you have already heard. But, there are many insights from his guests that make it worth tuning in to.
The people behind Indy Mogul have changed up a lot over the years, but their videos, podcasts and blog are chock full of the type of information independent filmmakers need to learn.
Ryan Connolly and his brethren have been guiding young filmmakers for years through the ins-and-outs of digital filmmaking in the modern era. Their YouTube channel should be high up on your subscription list.
LIKE BROTHERS by Mark & Jay Duplass
Mark and Jay have changed the landscape for independent filmmakers. They have been a part of so many amazing films, television shows and documentaries over the past decade and without their existence, Dead Dicks might have never happened. Read this book and watch everything they’ve created. Now!