At first, this post might seem a little. . . ephemeral. But I have a point here.
Firstly, I just changed my name from “The Insider” to “Palindrome.” This is because now The Producer and I are both “insiders” – and it feels a little tacky for me to hold on to the title. Also, I actually respond to “Palindrome” in real life, so it might work out better in the long run.
Secondly, I have just finished Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style). You might be shouting, “But Palindrome, why are you reviewing a fashion book in a film blog?” Well, because it’s made me think about the importance of style in the film world. One of the privileges of working in a “creative” field is getting to wear jeans and sneakers to the office, and only break out the fancy if you win an Oscar. However, I met with a freelancer today whose hair was perfect, her jewelry matched her bag, her sweater was tied neatly. . . she looked great, even though she mostly works from home. What struck me was this: Being “creative” is only half of what we do. The other half is asking people for money, for permits, for a few hours of their time (or a few weeks). If you’re running around asking people to trust you to coordinate a shoot, it doesn’t hurt to show you can coordinate an outfit.
That said, I highly recommend Tim Gunn’s book – cheesy and carnation pink as it is – because it’s not about dressing like the mannequin at Ann Taylor (or Armani), it’s about dressing appropriately for whatever activity you’re engaged in. If that’s filming alligators, then for god sakes wear hiking boots (and maybe shin guards). If that’s pitching to the Discovery Channel, you might want a blazer. Even Michael Moore wears a tux sometimes…
In an effort to gather inspiration for my next project, I’ve been reading Fast, Cheap, and Under Control: Lessons from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time by John Gaspard. In the book, he examines 33 independent films, ranging from the well-known (The Blair Witch Project, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, sex, lies, and videotape) to the more obscure (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One). From interviews with the directors, Gaspard collates 69 rules for low-budget film production, some of them overlapping, others contradictory, and summarizes them in the appendix. Some of these ‘rules’ have limited application, but many of them are worth considering when planning or thinking about a low budget film. At the very least, it is worth reading what successful indie directors have to say about their craft and the lessons they learned from it.
Overall, I would recommend the book if you are looking for a broad introduction, although it is rather lacking in specific detail. You won’t find much about the technical aspects of filmmaking, such as lighting, sound and cinematography (although Gaspard’s other book, Digital Filmmaking 101: An Essential Guide to Producing Low-Budget Movies may contain more in that regard; I haven’t read it yet.) and you won’t find much advice on directing actors (for that I recommend Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television by Judith Weston) but you will find general information on how to get your movie made without falling into the major pitfalls of low-budget production along the way. After all, much better to learn from others’ mistakes than repeat them all ourselves.
Yes, we’ve both been busy recently, hence the lack of posting. For my part, I’m putting in long hours at a new job inside the industry (I won’t tell you where, but I’m very excited to be working here) as well as achieving picture lock on a short film I’m editing for a local film student. I also had the pleasure of reconnecting with a colleague who has worked on my shorts in the past. More on all of this to come in the (hopefully) near future.