"The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead" Book Review
Written by ZigZag
Written by Danny Draven
2010, 310 pages, Reference
Book released on January 5th, 2010
Danny Draven started out working for filmmaker Charles Band at Full Moon Pictures. Ten years of low budget horror films led him to create his own production company Darkworld Pictures and allowed him to realize a dream of shooting Ghost Month, a feature on 35mm film. During the course of this production, Draven began assembling information acquired over the years to create a “How to” guide for low-budget filmmakers. What followed is the exhaustive and comprehensive book The Filmmakers Book of the Dead, filled with detailed information that explains the procedure of creating a horror film from pre-production all the way through to release.
Draven starts his book with a series of basic concepts and definitions that may appear obvious to some, but provides a quick launching pad that establishes a common reference point to all readers. There is a brief overview of movie monsters and sub-genres, complete with viewing recommendations. He shares several anecdotes of mistakes and mishaps he has experienced within his career, and offers a detailed look at how best to avoid the pitfalls in making a movie.
After the basics, Draven jumps into pre-production and describes why it is the most important stage of a movie and how it is vital that the filmmaker plan for as many elements possible. The better prepared a director is the more likely he or she is to recover when an unseen ripple throws the plans askew. Draven spends a lot of time discussing the importance of having everything in order before the first day of filming and provides samples of how to properly schedule a production.
The “Interview Box” is a nice addition within each chapter where an established professional speaks on the relevant material. It is here that the reader will find interviews with filmmakers Charles Band, Stuart Gordon, Lloyd Kaufman, David DeCoteau and J.R. Bookwalter. While many of these names may not be instantly recognizable to the masses, followers of cult cinema will be thrilled to hear these masters of low-budget features discuss the hazards of the industry.
In addition to filmmakers, Draven recruits actors Debbie Rochon, Robert Englund and Reggie Bannister to share some of their experiences in front of the camera on micro-budget sets. Draven wisely balances the perspective by including interviews with producers, effects artists, and cinematographers that shed some additional light on the members of the low-budget production crew.
Post production is covered in the last quarter of the book and Draven lauds the efforts of the editors, visual effects and sound design teams, urging that a filmmaker never skimp on these elements. The importance of providing each department with the specifics of what you need and the time for them to do what you ask is addressed with additional interviews and sample work flow schedules.
The remainder of the book pays extremely careful attention to the elements needed for distribution, including output formats for delivery (for both standard and High Definition material) to marketing tips and how to approach a film festival.
The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead concludes with a pair of back to back interviews with director H.G. Lewis discussing the evolution of the horror genre from his time in the 1960s, followed with an interview with Fangoria magazine’s former editor, Tony Timpone, reflecting on the genre from an outside perspective and his thoughts on where the genre is headed.
In addition to all of this, the margins of the book are peppered with creative tips and production warnings as a bonus “To Do or Do Not” list. Draven supplies information ranging from camera selection to the use of CGI in smaller productions.
Many previous instructional film books provide a lot of information in a dry manner that read like textbooks but Draven wisely embraces technology and offers a companion website to the book that allows specific examples of production forms and contracts. The site also presents candid interviews and behind the scenes footage and trailers for several titles in Draven’s filmography. An access code (provided within the book) is required to view the exclusive content and is well worth checking out.
The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead is filled with tons of valuable information that will not only apply to horror fans, but to filmmakers across all genres working on a smaller budget.
Picture from Danny Draven's official site.