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   Book Review: 
   No-Budget Filmmaking Ultra Pack
   Author: Jason Martin & Others
   Publisher: Currently self-distributed
   Pages: 104 pgs (in PDF form)
   Topic: Low-budget filmmaking  

   MSRP: $49.99 (digital version)

   Website: No Budget Filmmaking
   Expected Release: Available Now
   Review Date: September 1, 2008
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan

Final Score:

The No-Budget Filmmaking Ultra Pack is self-distributed by Jason Martin, an enthusiastic microfilmmaker. The kit –currently available only in digital version—contains PDFs of the following books: No-Budget Filmmaking Guidebook; Filmmakers… Real Life Advice; Unleash Your Creativity; How to Start Your Own Wedding Video Business; and Get Your Start in Theater, Television, and Movies. Also included in the kit (for free) is a collection of 32 filmmaking forms and contracts, as well as an unnamed “Filmmaking Software.” Let’s start examining the contents of this package, beginning with the software.

The software in question is called Celtx and was created by a group located in Newfoundland, Canada. The multi-purpose multimedia software is absolutely excellent; it is so good, in fact, that it deserves (and will get) its own separate review. Although the No Budget Filmmaking (NBF) website does not explicitly claim the software as their own, they give absolutely NO credit to or mention of Celtx as a separate entity anywhere on the website (although they took the liberty of using the screen captures that are available on Celtx’s website). It was not until I actually got the software and started checking deeper that I even realized that Celtx and NBF are not connected with each other at all. (The software installation guide that came with the NBF Kit states “No Budget Filmmaking is proud to present Celtx Filmmaking Software”. While this technically does not state ownership, it definitely suggests that NBF is responsible for [or at least connected with] the software. There are no disclaimers or statements that suggest otherwise.)

Additionally, the creators of NBF claim on their website that they “have found the most amazing Filmmaking Software around” and that they include it “as a bonus… free!” That sounded great until I found out that the software is already available from Celtx’s website (… for FREE! So, NBF is giving you software that’s not theirs and was already free… for free.

That being said, because the software is not created or owned by NBF, I cannot include it in this review as a part of the kit. So, on to the PDF books and guides.

Some of the books were easier to follow than others. Get Your Start in Theater, Television, and Movies was the most organized, followed by Unleash Your Creativity and Filmmakers… Real Life Advice. All of these had clear chapter or section headings and flowed logically from topic to topic.

However, Start Your Own Wedding Business and The No Budget Filmmaking Guidebook were very badly organized and were full of spelling and grammar errors. Neither book included a detailed Table of Contents (the Wedding book listed contents, but not page numbers). Formatting inconsistencies and the lack of clearly separated chapters made it very difficult to follow from one subject to the next.

In addition, none of the books contained pictures, drawings, diagrams, or graphics to illustrate anything the writers were explaining. I’ve reviewed countless instructional guidebooks for microfilmmakers, and all of them include some kind of visual aids: illustrations of camera angles, pictures of various equipment, photos of crewmembers performing certain tasks, etc. In a field that deals with something as technical and visual as filmmaking, graphics and visual aids are absolutely necessary.

While the collection of forms and contracts was a nice inclusion, I would’ve liked to see an overview page briefly explaining the purposes of the various forms. Although most of them are fairly self-explanatory, some beginning filmmakers might not be familiar with them.

Depth of Info
While the No-Budget Filmmaking Ultra Pack certainly covers a wide range of information, I found a good bit of it to be insufficient, unnecessary, or redundant. While the Guidebook itself isn’t bad, it’s doesn’t have nearly the amount of information or detail of other “how-to-get-started in microfilmmaking” books. To give you an idea, here’s a breakdown of the topics covered in the book: screenwriting (10 pgs); preplanning (e.g. crew, location, equipment lists, basic camera angles, etc.-10 pgs.); lighting (6); publicity (5); sound (3); and editing (1). As you can imagine, a lot of essential information for the filmmaking process is left out; it’s hard to really address the basic principles of good audio or editing techniques in a few pages, especially without pictures.

In addition, I thought that Get Your Start in Theater, Television, and Movies was completely unnecessary. Two-thirds of the book discusses acting for theater and television; the last part addresses screenwriting. While the screenwriting section has good information, it’s not enough to justify including the entire book with the kit. Real Life Advice had wonderful information in it; but about half of the material had already been covered in some form in the NBF Guidebook.

Although some people might argue that the Wedding Business book is unnecessary, I actually thought it was a nice thing to include. After all, filmmakers need to fund their projects somehow; wedding videography can be a good way to raise money, while still doing something you enjoy.

Interest Level
Due to the poor organization of the aforementioned three books, it was difficult to stay interested in the material when it was so confusing. The absence of any photos, diagrams, etc. didn’t help either. The only book that I found really engaging was Real-Life Advice; however, it was only six pages long, so the experience was rather short-lived.

I can’t really say that there’s much of anything in The No Budget Filmmaking Kit that I would find reusable.

Value vs. Cost
NBF is charging customers $49.99 for the five books/guides and the packet of 32 forms/ contracts. (Technically, although the software is included for free, it’s already free, so it doesn’t count.) For the cost of this kit, you could purchase another filmmaking guide that is much better organized and has much more in-depth information… and still have money left over. (For those of you interested in one such option, check out my review of The $30 Film School.)

Overall Comment
Although well-intentioned,
The No-Budget Filmmaking Ultra Pack is a dud. The poor organization and complete lack of visual aids confuse and deter the reader. The information included in the books is extremely generalized, with several parts being redundant or unnecessary. Similar training materials for microfilmmakers (e.g. books, DVDs, multimedia packages, etc) are easily available in better quality at a lower cost from other sources, including our online store.

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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