When we started MFM, one of the first books we reviewed was the 1st Edition of Troy Laniers & Clay Nichols Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts. Five years later, we have the pleasure of reviewing the updated version of it!
Before I get into my breakdown of all the things this book does, I would like to say that the name is a misnomer. Since we've opened our doors, we've helped tens of thousands of filmmakers make better films and the advice that's contained in this book is advice that is excellent for any new filmmaker, regardless of age. As such, if you're looking for something to give to your teen who likes film, than this a great purchase. (It goes without saying that if you're a teen who's into film, that this is also a great purchase for yourself!) However, if you're an adult who's thinking about filmmaking, ignore the title and just pick this up from the local bookstore. While all the things that teens have readily at their disposal is not available to us as adults (like a central building that contains all of our friends and mentors), we do have some things that teens don't (like an income!) ,which sort of makes things even!
With that said, let's give the overview and then look at its different areas.
Essentially, Lanier and Nichols have broken down the filmmaking process for beginning filmmakers into a very accessible step-by-step process that walks them through writing a script in three weeks, shooting the film in three days, editing it in four to six weeks, and submitting the finished film to festivals and online distribution, as well as all the in-between steps.
This is a very simple to understand book. As I mentioned in the intro, although the writers have clearly geared it to make sense to teens, the commentary is easy to understand for adults, as well. It clearly explains all the steps you need to make a good film without confusion.
Despite the thinness of this book, it's packed full of really good information, from how many people you need on your tech crew, to how to do a script reading, to things to consider in production, to what you can do for soundtracks, to where you can distribute things online. If every filmmaker who reads our magazine read and followed this book before making their first short film, the cumulative quality of short films in America would triple, at least!
The writers use the same rule for writing this book that they encourage their readers to hold to in writing their scripts: remove everything that's not necessary! As such, the book is tersely written, so that it never drags on or grows boring. It manages to cover the things it needs without fat or bloat, which is quite impressive!
This will definitely be one you'll want to reuse repeatedly. Even though I've been making films for over thirteen years, I found things in this book that reminded me of what I don't do as well as I should and some ideas that I hadn't really considered before.
$20.95 is a great price for all the information that's packed into this little book. The only issue I have with the price is that it's a bit awkward. A nice $19.95 price point puts it under $20, which is a powerful draw to consumers. Whether they change the price or not, it's well worth every penny!
When Kari Ann Morgan reviewed the first edition of this book in 2005, it got a 9.5. After the improvements that have been made in this issue and the relevance of the information, I feel it deserves a perfect 10! An excellent book from Lanier & Nichols! (Of course, I would encourage them to make an adult companion piece, as, despite my encouragement, there are simply some adult filmmakers that will overlook this book due to the age reference in the title and some of the vernacular in the book itself.)