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   Training Review
   The $30 Film School
   Author: Michael W. Dean
   Publisher: Thomson Course Technology
   Format: Instructional Book (516 pgs.)
   Topic: Do-it-yourself low-budget moviemaking

   MSRP: $30.00
   For Special Price: Click Here

   Release Dates: March 15, 2006

   Review Date: April 15, 2006

   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan

Final Score:

Almost all microfilmmakers make their movies, not because they merely want to, but because they have to; it's in their blood, it's in their mind, begging to be let out. They will spend their savings, go into debt, or work crappy jobs to make their dreams a visual reality. For these people, it's not about them; it's about their art. If you are a person who wants to make movies, not for the money or the glory, but because it's your passion, The $30 Film School will be your "bible." Michael W. Dean has written the definitive book on micro-filmmaking and has done it with all of the passion and attention to detail that it deserves.

Like many guides to filmmaking (no-budget or big-budget), this book starts out with the basic writing process and guides you through the various steps of pre-production, production, and post. Dean takes it completely from the DIY (do-it-yourself) point of view: if you want to make a movie, you're the one who's going to have to make it happen. You have to raise the money; you have to find a crew to help shoot it; you have to direct, organize, shoot, edit, and finish the project. However, unlike most filmmaking guides, this one focuses specifically on the needs of the no-budget filmmaker. There are no expectations of having expensive equipment or paying lots of money for accommodations, craft services, etc. The only expectation is to do as good quality a job as you can with the money and friends you have.

This book is extremely easy to read. I read through all 500-some pages in a few days because it was so engaging. Dean shares his anecdotes, struggles, ideas, tips, and technical know-how in a way that makes you want to keep reading.

While the style is laid-back and conversational, it is also very informative. Video/audio editing and DVD authoring is covered in excellent detail, although he only covers one video editing program--Premiere Pro--in this edition of the book. The reason this is of note is because, in the first edition of the book, Dean explained the process of video editing in three different editing systems: Discreet's Cinestream, Sony Vegas, and Adobe Premiere. This past diversity was a nice feature, because different people have different software, and it gave the reader a basic idea of the process in each system. I don't think anything would have been lost by carrying this information over into the second edition. In the audio section, he retained the comparative nature found in the past edition by describing how to do audio editing using both ACID and SoundForge. (Though I'm not sure why he doesn't examine Audition, Adobe's audio editing program, considering he focuses on Adobe's Premiere Pro in the video section).

Additionally, Dean gives great in-depth information about the legal side of things. Having worked lots of temp jobs in the legal/clerical field and having successfully negotiated several of his own contracts, he knows what he's talking about. He talks about understanding contracts, what to look for and what to avoid, and how to get the word out about your film. The information he shares is both practical and informative.

Depth of Information
The amount of information this book covers is vast. Everything you'd need to know about how to make your own no-budget movie is here. Beginning with how to flesh out a good, working story, Dean progresses through to how to raise funding for your production, then how to find equipment, materials, and a cast and crew. He then guides you through the actual process of production--including lighting, shooting and directing-to the post-production steps of audio/video editing and DVD authoring. He concludes with how to distribute your new film, do publicity, negotiate contracts, etc. If you've ever wanted to know about how to start making your own films, this is the ultimate one-stop learning guide.

Interest Level
You might think that a 500 page book about the movie making process would be tedious, but it isn't. I found myself picking up this book and reading it as casual reading whenever I had the time. There are many places where I found myself laughing out loud or reading various parts to my husband. It is an excellent balance of lighthearted humor and valuable information.

Not only will this be a book that you will read again and again until the cover falls off, but it's one that you will be recommending to any of your friends that are or want to be making their own low-budget movies. (Note that I didn't say that you'd be lending it to your friends; make them buy it, because, if you lend it to them, they won't ever give it back!)

Value vs. Cost
If you seriously want to get into true movie-making (not old Hollywood movie-making; I'm talking about making movies because you need to, even if you never make a dime), this is the book for you. The $30 you spend on this book is small compared to the invaluable information it provides. It is written by a microfilmmaker for microfilmmakers. It speaks to their dreams, passions, and artistic vision. You'll get way more than your money's worth, I guarantee it.

Overall Comment
What more can I say about The $30 Film School? I mean, for a 500-page book, a mere two-page review doesn't seem adequate. But there's not much more I can say, other than this: of all of the books I've read for this site (and believe me, there have been some great ones), this is the only one that I felt was written just for us as microfilmmakers. Michael Dean knows what it's like to have to do everything by yourself for a project; he knows what it's like to struggle as a filmmaker; he knows what's really important and what's not in making a no-budget project; he understands the struggles and successes of a microfilmmaker. And because of this, I think that every micro-filmmaker should read this book.

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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