Kelley Baker, a self proclaimed Angry Filmmaker, recounts his exploits as the true Independent Filmmaker. This portrait of a seasoned and very jaded working filmmaker covers the ups and downs of low/no budget filmmaking from script to film festivals. Baker writes of his experience on his own early short films (That Really Obscure Object of Desire, Stolen Toyota, etc.) and his latter features (Kicking Bird, The Gas Café, and Birddog) as well as his involvement as the sound designer on the Gus Van Sant films Finding Forester, Good Will Hunting and My Own Private Idaho.
This book is Kelley Baker’s declaration, on no uncertain terms, to reclaim and specify the definition “Independent Filmmaker”. He pulls no punches calling out both Hollywood and very specific directors for being creatively bankrupt. The author then presents his philosophy on the physical process of filmmaking with tips and advice that could only come from someone who has been there and had scars and debt to prove it. That being said, he does not hold anything back, he tells the whole story, warts and all.
This book is very easy to read. The style is relatable and straight to the point. He writes like most people speak in the film industry, in descriptive four- letter words. This did not bother me one bit (I actually found it endearing) but, if you are easily offended steer clear of this one at all cost. He also defines a few film terms that readers may not know to prevent them from being taken advantage of, which is helpful.
Unfortunately the depth of information is not as vast as I would expect from a book claiming to be a guide. Although it does cover screenwriting, budgeting, equipment, onset etiquette and post production, it does not go deep enough into any of these subjects in a comprehensive way. Although there are many helpful tips, the reason I would not consider this a guide to filmmaking is because it deals more with what not to do than with what to do. (Of course, considering this is a survival guide, the argument could be posed that surviving is sort of about what NOT to do to stay alive. However, most survivalists would contend that the greater half of survival is about what TO do to stay alive.) One area I feel was covered fairly well was the section on audio. Mr. Baker is obviously very knowledgeable in that regard and it shows. As I understand, this is just the first book in a series of filmmaking guides. I wish the book had been more specific to one task or phase of production. Like The Angry Filmmakers Guide to Extreme No-Budget Post Production or The Angry Filmmakers Guide to Extreme No-Budget Casting. This sort of specific focus would make each volume’s title make sense in the series and people could pick and choose easily.
Always lively and never polite, the author tells his stories in a way that left me curious to hear the endings. His writing is at times entertaining but may come off as a little snarky, which can get tedious after page 200. This brings me to another point. The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide is more of a commentary of Kelley Baker’s thoughts on the concepts and pitfalls of filmmaking than a how-to instructional guide to making a no-budget film. There seems to be more opinion than fact injected to the pages of this book. I feel that the book may have received a higher overall score if it were called The Angry Filmmaker: Thoughts, Stories and Tips on How He Survived Extreme No-Budget filmmaking.
While an interesting first read, I doubt that I will revisit this material as a whole in any meaningful way. The Guide could be looked at as a glossary or overview of the filmmaking process. Again if the book had been more specific, I think that I would be far more apt to pick it up again.
At $16.95, I wouldn’t feel ripped off by purchasing this book, but unless you are going to reread it, the price is a little steep. Now, I will say one thing. If you like to hustle or get things at little or no cost, then this is the book for you. There are tips and ideas on how to get almost anything for free. Now while I understand his point of view on this subject, be very careful, as I have seen many friendships go bad because of this sort of thing. No one wants to feel taken or scammed. If they do, that is a bridge that you burned and word of mouth goes a long, long way.
I love movies. Yes, I know that can be a dirty word, but I love them. Not just films or cinema, but movies. I love both Seven Samurai and Back to the Future. My favorite thing in the whole world is to sit in a darkened theater and escape for two hours and take a journey with characters I have never met before. It is a beautiful thing. The connection between a movie and the viewer is unlike any other art form. Film has the power to uplift and inspire, to scare and thrill and ultimately make the audience think. While I found The Angry Filmmaker’s Guide an interesting read, I found it had an undeniable agenda. His message: Hollywood is bad. Case in point, every few pages there was an Angry Filmmaker’s Note which was Mr. Baker leveling criticism at the Hollywood machine or even a particular director. He would then talk in passing about how George Lucas is full of it or Frances Coppola goes way over schedule and budget. What’s the point? Professional jealousy? Maybe, I don’t know. I feel like this is a ‘hardcore punk‘ thing, like if you actually have a record that makes it to the stores you are a sell out. I never got that. Everyone wants to do what they love and get paid for it. Is there a ceiling to success? I hope not. I’ve been hearing this sort of thing for years. I guess I’m just not that hardcore. When I went to film school, all of a sudden, it was cool to hate Quentin Tarantino. Was it the money or the fame? I will never know. And then I thought about it. Does everything I see released by a studio have no artistic credibility? No. I realize that what is important is making films that mean something and that’s what counts. It doesn’t matter if the budget is $200 or $200 million, the emotional impact you have on the audience is what is important. I and Mr. Baker have something in common: I too stepped away from the studio system to make my own films. I was fed up with working on bad reality TV and commercials. So, while I can appreciate the anger, I’m going to stay positive.