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   Book Review
   Digital Filmmaking 101, 2nd Edition
   Author: Dale Newton and John Gaspard
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Pages: 291 pgs.
   Topic: DIY low-budget filmmaking

   MSRP: $26.95

   Special Pricing:  Click Here
   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Expected Release: Available Now
   Review Date: April 1, 2007
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan

Final Score:

So, you’ve written a screenplay and want to take it to the next level? You have to get equipment, put together a cast and crew, find locations, feed people, get props and costumes, organize all the necessary legal papers, shoot the film, edit the film, fix the audio, print and distribute copies… all this and more… for just $8,000.

Believe it or not, this is not an impossible task. (Okay, so you wouldn't be reading this magazine at all if you believed it was impossible, but just follow along.) After an extremely popular first edition release a few years ago, John Gaspard and Dale Newton return with the 2nd edition of Digital Filmmaking 101, taking you through the entire process of making a full-length feature for $8K. Beginning with script organization, they explain how to make a budget for your project, raise money, cover the “business” end of things, organize preproduction, shoot effectively and efficiently, editing, and finally, distribution.

I was asked if this book is like <link> The $30 Film School, <link> which I reviewed last year. While they are similar, Digital Filmmaking 101 is just what the title suggests: a 101-level “Intro to Microfilmmaking” class (rather than an entire course, which is more of what $30 FS is.)

Digital Filmmaking 101 is the book you read before you make your first film; it doesn’t go into technical detail about cameras, lights, or audio (operating on the assumption that you know these things already). Rather, it is an overview of what you will encounter when bringing your 90-minute screenplay to life for $8,000.

It is very well organized, and Gaspard and Newton’s instructional guidance is interspersed with insightful and humorous anecdotes. The only place it gets a bit heavy is when they’re discussing the business/legal aspect of moviemaking, but that topic is a dense one by its very nature. Knowing that, the authors do their best to lighten the subject and do an excellent job of breaking it down and explaining how it all fits together.

Depth of Information
Although it does not go into nearly as much technical detail as $30 FS, Digital Filmmaking is a treasure trove of valuable information, especially in the chapter on budgeting. At 41 pages, it is by far the longest chapter in the book, and is full of ways to make the most of your money. From food, costumes, and set design to props and equipment, this chapter details many different ways to obtain what you need for your film for the cheapest amount possible.

Another feature that I really appreciated was the detailed appendices in the back of the book. It includes (among other things): sample call sheets, release forms, shot log, and press kit information, an extensive list of valuable microfilmmaking resources, and my personal favorite: a sample menu for feeding a cast and crew for two weekends. (If food is purchased wisely and prepared at home, you can make a weekend’s worth of food—six meals and a snack—for 20 people for just $125!)

Interest Level
You have to have a sense of humor (and usually a sick one, at that), as well as a bit of insanity to make ultra-low-budget films. And the authors (admittedly) have both in abundance. This helps to make the book a very enjoyable read; I often found myself laughing out loud in several places, especially when, during one production, a cast member (who also happened to be an exotic dancer) was supposed to go to the director’s house for a dress rehearsal… and accidentally went to his neighbor’s house instead! As Gaspard noted, “We didn’t need to arrange for any other costumes for this performer, and the resulting neighborhood gossip could be considered the first step in a word-of-mouth publicity campaign” (38). Such anecdotes, as well as the authors’ quirky sense of humor, make this an interesting read.

This book does have a somewhat limited reusability factor; it is, after all, an introductory “101-level” guide to digital filmmaking. This book is more geared toward beginning filmmakers, and once you’ve gotten several projects under your belt, you probably won’t have much need of it, as you’ve (hopefully) become more experienced. However, when you reach the point where you no longer need it, this is the perfect book to pass on to a budding filmmaker eager to get his/her start.

Value vs. Cost
Personally, I prefer to see instructional filmmaking guides (especially for low-budget filmmakers) around the $25 mark. However, this book is not priced so high that I’d advise against getting it. In fact, I’d say that for someone looking to get started making microcinema films, this is a must-have book. The amount of money you will save from the information learned will more than make up for what you spent to buy it. And even though you find that you won’t need the book as you grow as a filmmaker, it is definitely worth purchasing when you’re starting out.

Overall Comment
This book is written for aspiring filmmakers who have the technical knowledge of filming a low-budget movie, but want to know how to actually make the movie as well as what to expect in the process. Because this is more of an introductory guide, filmmakers who already have several productions under their belt won’t get very much out of it. Also, filmmakers looking for detailed technical information won’t find it here. Rather, this is the perfect book for those who are just beginning their venture into the world of digital microcinema filmmaking. It is easy to understand, very enjoyable to read, and will be a valuable asset in learning how to bring your stories to life on screen.

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           
A powerhouse in management, Kari Ann Morgan successfully produced a feature length film before coming to work at Microfilmmaker as Assistant Editor. In addition to writing for the magazine, she's been successfully working with various distributors to get microfilmmakers the chance for theatrical distribution.

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