"How To Make Movies" Book Review
Written by Kevin J. Lindenmuth
2013, 259 pages, Reference
Book released on February 22nd, 2013
Author Kevin J. Lindenmuth is back with How to Make Movies, an all-new guide to independent filmmaking in which two dozen low-budget directors are asked about their experiences in the field. This book asks the tough questions about making movies with very little money and without studio assistance. The answers are thoughtful, sincere and quite welcome to anyone looking for advice without a sugar coating. The topics are wide-ranging and the knowledge shared is invaluable, but some of the viewpoints can be discouraging to aspiring filmmakers.
With his first two books, Making Movies on Your Own (1998) and The Independent Film Experience (2002), Lindenmuth gathered information that would directly apply to anyone attempting a career in the world of low-budget cinema. Ten years later, he returns to the topic and finds the terrain has changed drastically in ways working both for and against the director. With these publications comes an opportunity to learn from the mistakes and accomplishments of others and hopefully avoid the pitfalls they have encountered.
How To Make Movies features interviews with a number of directors including Rolfe Kanefsky (There’s Nothing Out There), Maurice Devereaux (End of the Line), Donald Farmer (Savage Vengeance), Chris LaMartina (Grave Mistakes), Brett Kelly (Attack of the Giant Leeches), Richard W. Haynes (Splatter University), Jim Mickle (Stake Land), Damon Packard (Reflections of Evil), and Ivan Zuccon (The Shunned House) to name just a few. Everyone is asked a set of specific questions and the answers are gathered together and separated by chapter. It is interesting to see how each filmmaker has a unique approach to the material.
Topics of discussion include citing sources of inspiration, the importance of a good script and how to work within the budget. Getting into the actual aspects of production, the author asks for anecdotes relating to cast and crew, working with special effects and the basic question of how long does it take to make a low-budget feature. There are comparisons to the current state of micro-budget filmmaking as opposed to when the directors started their careers and things take a solemn turn when everyone is asked if it is still possible to make a living in this field without a day job.
Everyone provides answers that are insightful, the strongest material coming from veterans Kanefsky and Farmer. When asked about distribution, Kanefsky takes the time to share the pros and cons he has run into from each company. The directors I listed above offer the best advice with the exception of Packard, who comes off either evasive of unaware of the correct answer. LaMartina’s enthusiasm for the work he is doing is infectious, while others like Devereaux leave the reader frustrated because the guy does great work, but just needs to catch a break. Low-budget tales of woe are collected like badges of honor and the guys interviewed share stories that will undoubtedly surprise readers. Donald Farmer, for example, talks about the day an actress arrived on location and discovered a corpse in the parking lot!
In addition to the roster of directors providing advice, the author invites various representatives of the field to contribute their thoughts on specific aspects of production including actor David C. Hayes (Bloody Bloody Bible Camp) and musician Barry D. Waddell (Seasons of the Wolf). Independent director Tim Ritter (Truth or Dare) offers an essay on the challenges of self distribution. Kevin J. Lindenmuth is himself a low-budget filmmaker (Addicted to Murder) and introduces each chapter with his own insights and contributes a nice essay on the nightmare he encountered of working with a terribly inept producer. There is also a nice forward contributed by filmmaker Eric Red (Body Parts).
Today’s aspiring filmmakers have more options at their disposal than ever. With advances in technology pushing down prices on equipment and film schools popping up across the country, just about anyone who wants to make a movie can. There are countless books dedicated to production - including the fantastic FilmCraft series from Focal Press - but very few cater directly to the low-budget or micro-budget community. Anyone seriously considering a career in film production needs to check out Lindenmuth’s books and take notes.