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"Filmmaking for Dummies" is one of many in the popular "For Dummies" series. Most people who go into book shops or libraries will have come across the series - you can't miss it. With its trademark black and yellow design, the series covers just about every subject you could imagine, and it's growing all the time.
The "For Dummies" series began ins 1991 with the publication
of "DOS For Dummies" and the series now covers a massive range of subjects - they started off mostly computer-related, but you can now find a "For Dummies" for just about everything. The "For Dummies" series aims to provide "Explanations in plain English", and it succeeds very well.
Filmmaking for the Terrified
"Filmmaking for Dummies", written by Bryan Michael Stoller, is designed for anyone who is interested in filmmaking professionally, in any capacity. It covers every aspect of the filmmaking process, from coming up with the ideas to distributing your finished film, so you could be reading this book if you want to be a screenwriter, a lighting technician, or even a marketing manager for a production company.
Bryan Michael Stoller is (I quote) "an international-award-winning filmmaker, who has produced, written and directed over 80 productions". Who better to write a book like this? I personally had never heard the name Bryan Michael Stoller, and when looking him up, I have never seen any of his work - not exactly Steven Spielberg - but nevertheless, he appears to know his stuff.
Just like the rest of the "For Dummies" series, "Filmmaking" is split into sections, which are clearly indexed in the contents, along with the sub-sections of each, which means that if you're looking for something very specific, you can probably find it very quickly and easily.
The book is written in a very logical order, making it a book that you can either skip to specific sections of, or read from cover to cover, depending on how much of the information you need.
There are six "parts" to this book. Each of the 'Parts' are then broken down into chapters in order to make them even easier to follow. I won't list each individual chapter, because there are too many, but I will go through each of the parts and what they cover, so you can judge if this is the book for you.
The first part begins with the basics - genres of film, and coming up with a story or idea. Obviously the book isn't magical, and can't produce a world-famous screenwriter from an illiterate person, but it does do a good job of giving you somewhere to begin when trying to think of ideas.
This section also talks you through the basic principles of filmmaking - what exactly are all of the steps I need to follow when making my film in order to give it the best chance of being successful? As part one is only the introduction, it only introduces the reader to the principles and logic, and references very well the book's other chapters for further detail on many of the issues raised. To give you an example, part one mentions "Scheduling your film shoot" in half a page - this covers the fact that you will need to create a schedule and the reasons you need to, but does not tell you the details of how to schedule, instead it simply directs the reader to chapter four.
Part one covers much of the filmmaking process, from beginning to end, in basic terms. In many places, it directs the reader to another chapter if they want to find out more. The last chapter of part one begins to talk about coming up with a good story - which is where any filmmaker will need to begin, unless they have a script to use from elsewhere, that is.
Part two covers the next steps in the filmmaking process:
Scheduling and budgeting; financing (Can't make a film without money); locations - the importance of choosing the right ones is helpful in the locations section, however, this book is targeted towards the American market, and much of what is said is irrelevant to the UK filmmaker, because they go into US regulations; Crew - which goes through all of the crewing jobs that will be needed on a shoot, and a description of exactly what that crew member does; Casting actors and Storyboarding.
The scheduling information is excellent in this section, almost akin to taking a course at a college or university. It gives examples of the industry forms you would have to complete when breaking down your script, examples of how to fill them in, and also helps the reader to make distinctions between commonly confused terms, such as props and set dressing.
Part three begins to explore the world of the film set - the equipment needed and the techniques used.
First off, there is a look at the different types of camera available, as well as a look at the different types of film stock, and what each is best used for. There are sections on camera lenses (there are lots of different types, and which one you choose could change the atmosphere of your film entirely), colour filters, lighting, sound and directing your actors.
Part four looks at what happens after the film shoot - the post-production phase.
There are tips on effective editing, the differences between linear and non-linear editing, a section on the different editing software available for the PC, creating special effects (both on the computer, and in 'real-life' with prosthetics etc), and creating credits.
Part five looks at everything that comes after the film is a finished product. This covers distribution (including using a distribution company), entering film festivals.
Although this comes once your film has theoretically been made and distributed, part six is possibly a part that you should read earlier on in your actual filmmaking process. This is called "The part of tens", and it is literally Ten Ways to...whatever. This gives tips on finding actors, getting publicity and avoiding errors. In addition, it gives a top ten list of magazines and newspapers for filmmakers, but as these are American, they're not entirely relevant to British filmmakers unless you can get a copy imported.
Filmmaking for Dummies is an excellent all-round book, jam-packed with easy to understand, well-written information.
In addition to the well separated chapters, each section includes handy icons designed to bring attention to particularly helpful bits of information. These include TIP, REMEMBER, WARNING, JARGON ALERT and CINEMA SECRET - Just look out for the icons (they are all listed at the front of the book so you know what to look out for).
The only thing about Filmmaking for Dummies that could be seen as a negative factor, is the fact that it is an American book, which makes odd bits of information irrelevant to a UK market (though not much), and it means that you will have to look up any prices it gives for yourself, as of course, they are in US dollars.
Overall, Filmmaking for Dummies is without doubt a useful book for anyone interested in filmmaking, and is written in a straightforward manner suitable for everyone.
My copy of Filmmaking for Dummies was bought in Waterstones for only £13.95 (it is quite a large book), and it can be found on Amazon for £8.37, or cheaper if you go for a second hand copy - great value for money.