Top of Sidebar
Mission Statement
Do It Yourself Tips and Tricks
Books, Equipment, Software, and Training Reviews
Film Critiques
Community Section
Savings and Links
Bottom of Sidebar
Back to the Home Page
   Training Review
   Fast, Cheap, & Under Control
   Author: John Gaspard
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Format: Instructional Book (281 pgs.)
   Topic: Lessons from Low-budget Indie Films

   MSRP: $24.95
   For Special Price: Click Here

   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Release Dates: July 1, 2006
   Review Date: March 15, 2006
   Reviewed By: Jeremy Hanke

Final Score:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it… This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience."

Opening with this often partially-quoted statement from George Santayana in his 1905 book, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, John Gaspard explains how often this concept can apply to new filmmakers that do not learn from the mistakes and successes of the past. Gaspard brings up the fact that every new generation of Indy filmmakers tends to rediscover things that have already been discovered by filmmakers in the past, which impedes their momentum in taking the movement forward. (Don't forget from our past discussions of the avant garde movement, that the basis for independent filmmaking is to be ahead of the pack, not behind it!)

As Gaspard succinctly puts it: "I'm all for artistic expression and singularity of vision. I just don't see the need for every generation of filmmakers to re-invent the wheel when the previous generations did a fine job on the wheel and came up with the pulley and lever in the bargain."

Gaspard became inspired to write this book by a comment from Ron Howard in the DVD commentary of his first film, Grand Theft Auto--a low-budget film produced by Roger Corman. Howard commented that every film he's worked on since GTA has required him to put into practice tricks that he learned in that one film. Gaspard realized that if a director like Howard had learned so much in his first film, which had a terribly low budget, how many more gems could be scattered throughout the other low budget films made in the last century.

He ended up finding quite a few (nearly forty, actually) which he has pulled together in this book and refined through conducting interviews, reading interviews, and watching DVD commentaries with all these fascinating filmmakers and the films that started them off.

In the end, Gaspard has helped create a classic work of filmmaking literature that reminds filmmakers everywhere to learn from the past and forge new roads into the future.

This book is very simple to understand-though, for some reason, he quits doing a bullet point overviews of folks after an initial chapter on Roger Corman. Nonetheless, the rest of the book keeps up a very easy to undstand style that he ties together with very easy to associate subject headers. And, for those of you who really want to be able to draw upon the knowledge in the book, he uses a film-comparative, alphabetized lessons redux as the final chapter. All of these facts make this book simple to comprehend.

Depth of Information
The depth of information in Fast, Cheap, & Under Control is varied. Sometimes it seems to be turning up a number of new truths every few pages, whereas, at other times, there seems to be lots of restatement of two basic truths: low-budget gives you more control and you've just got to go out and make your films. While some of the repetitiveness may seem to be redundant at first, it ceases to be so when you consider it as a chorus of filmmakers from the past and the present. The reason certain things keep being repeated is because they are true and they have been discovered by all the people who have become successful in every edge of the avant garde and independent world.

If there's one type of information this book tries to arm its readers with it's how to, as Robert Rodriguez puts it, "be scary." John Gaspard goes on to clarify Rodriguez comment with the statement: "If you can do it yourself-literally everything on a movie yourself-then you don't need Hollywood. And when you don't need someone, it gives you a tremendous amount of negotiating power over them when they need you." In an independent world in which many filmmakers crave Hollywood's acceptance much like an overeager high school freshman craves the acceptance of the seniors, this is advice that should be remembered by all of us.

As Henry Jaglom (Director of Someone to Love) points out in this book, "You can be friendly with [Hollywood] but you can't be of it, because if you're of it, you're buried by it and they don't want you anymore." Which is precisely why Stephen Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, and Robert Rodriguez so quickly returned to their home territories, rather than trying to co-exist so near the bureaucracy of Southern California.

One slight downside with the depth of information found in this book was the fact that five of the films Gaspard brings up range from difficult to impossible to rent, especially at most local rental chains. As to national chains, The Last Broadcast wasn't available through Netflix but was available through Blockbuster. I could not locate the next three--Patti Rocks, David Holzman's Diary, and Someone to Love--for rental on Netflix or Blockbuster. (Now, you can find these four films available for purchase, largely on used VHS, on Ebay and Amazon, but most of us would like to rent a film before we buy it.) As to the fifth and final movie, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, it is not in any form of distribution that can be found, precluding it from both rental and purchase. (However, according to the author, this is supposed to be released on DVD later this year, so that will hopefully change shortly.) It would be nice if a company would re-release all of these films on new-edition DVDs so that they could be more readily enjoyed.

Interest Level
Cut into segments that pertain to specific films, Fast, Cheap, & Under Control keeps you interested throughout, even if you are unfamiliar with the specific movie that is being talked about. And because Mr. Gaspard specifically wrote the book to be non-linear, the book is easy to skip around in, if you ever come to a spot that isn't holding your attention.

I personally burned through the book in two sittings because I simply found it so interesting to immerse myself in the continuum of filmmakers from the fifties to the present. There is something about realizing what legends have walked the same paths we are currently walking that is utterly fascinating and compelling.

Because of the way in which this book is broken up by film, it is extremely easy to find comments that you would want to share with other filmmakers or your crew. Because it reminds you that you are not alone in the continuum of filmmaking, it is a book you will return to many times in your career.

Value vs. Cost
I found this an immensely reassuring book that also provided helpful tips. While it wasn't quite as packed with tips as I was hoping, it provided enough meat that it is well worth owning. At the price of $25, it's an excellent investment because it will encourage you to continue becoming a better filmmaker and refining your craft because of your limitations, rather than in spite of them.

Overall Comment
While some of the information Gaspard has collected may be stuff you already know, there is enough that is new and fascinating for it to be a necessary book for any filmmaker. More than anything else, it reminds current no-budget filmmakers that they are not alone and encourages new comers to make the leap and tell their stories! More than anything, it encourages all of us to just go out and do what we love to do, without sweating the small stuff!

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           

JeremyHankePicture The director of two feature length films and half a dozen short films, Jeremy Hanke founded Microfilmmaker Magazine to help all no-budget filmmakers make better films. His first book on low-budget special effects techniques, GreenScreen Made Easy, (which he co-wrote with Michele Yamazaki) was released by MWP to very favorable reviews. He's curently working on the sci-fi film franchise, World of Depleted through Depleted: Day 419 and the feature film, Depleted.

Mission | Tips & Tricks | Equipment & Software Reviews | Film Critiques
Groups & Community | Links & Savings
| Home

Contact Us Search Submit Films for Critique