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The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn't Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film Paperback – April 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Film marketer and business professor Martin has created a step-by-step guide on how to make an indie film and includes stories from and about such industry insiders as producer Christine Vachon and directors Doug Liman and Kimberly Peirce. Martin covers everything from raising money to distribution, while including invaluable details such as the average cost of a soundtrack song (about $15,000, but $500,000 if it's the Rolling Stones) or the price of renting a New York City theater for a one-week run ($10,000–$50,000). Using current examples like the trial and tribulations of Sideways director Alexander Payne or the financing behind Swingers, Martin dispenses practical advice culled from real-life indie hits and misses that is both inspiring and cautionary. For certain technical information (sample budget breakdowns and representation contracts), Martin includes a solid appendix in what is ultimately an informative and very entertaining account of the indie film for would-be independent filmmakers and producers. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This is an amazingly well-researched and accurate chronicle of independent filmmaking. I learned so much--things I wish I'd known when I was in the middle of it all myself. It is hard sometimes to make filmmaking advice flow with dramatic interest, but Reed Martin keeps it clear, eloquent, and fresh. I would definitely suggest The Reel Truth to aspiring filmmakers--it would make a great textbook--and I am personally looking forward to the next volume, especially now. (Tom DiCillo, director of Living in Oblivion, Johnny Suede, Delirious, and When You're Strange)

The Reel Truth is definitely a book every filmmaker should read. Reed Martin does a great job of covering everything from first-timer mistakes to new paths in distribution and gets some really great advice from leading producers, distributors, writers--pretty much everyone. (Brian Newman, CEO, Tribeca Film Institute)

Reed Martin has written a production guide filled with indispensible information and enlightening anecdotes. The novice filmmaker can learn something by opening to any page in The Reel Truth. (Mark Pogachefsky, President MPRM Communications)

[Martin] interviewed Danny Boyle, Christine Vachon, Doug Liman, Barbara Kopple, Alexander Payne, Darren Aronofsky, and Werner Herzog along with dozens of indie film execs. He says he asked everyone two questions: 'What's the worst advice you ever got?' and 'What do you wish somebody had told you that would have saved you a lot of trouble?' . . . Martin peppers The Reel Truth's tales of woe with inspirational stories about tough-minded auteurs who refuse to give up.' (Hugh Hart, The San Francisco Chronicle)

The road to making an indie film can seem more like the stations of the cross at times. Reed Martin's The Reel Truth is the gospel telling of a journey that many martyrs have taken before. Bring it with you for inspiration, and as a reminder that any movie that gets made is a miracle. (Matt Tyrnauer, director/producer, Valentino: The Last Emperor)

Reed Martin's The Reel Truth is not only a terrific guide for aspiring filmmakers and a modern textbook for film school students everywhere. The advice and anecdotes in the chapters covering production, marketing, distribution, and online exhibition are useful for working filmmakers as well. For anyone hoping to make a successful independent film--especially in today's hyper-competitive environment--The Reel Truth is required reading. (Miguel Arteta, director, Youth in Revolt, and The Good Girl)

A brilliant how-to manual for tackling and mastering the industry. (Anthony Bregman, producer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

This book is indispensable. (Tom Bernard, Copresident, Sony Pictures Classics)

The path to the premiere and beyond of any feature film is a minefield. With The Reel Truth, Reed Martin has given new filmmakers the battalion of bomb detectors necessary for survival. (Ted Hope, producer of The Ice Storm)

Reed Martin has created a smart, engaging read that is also one of the most comprehensive and cutting-edge looks at the changing face of independent-film production and distribution today. This is the one book I would call essential for anyone who really wants to make a career out of filmmaking. (Drew McWeeny, aka Moriarty, Ain't It Cool News)

Packed with practical advice and anecdotes from successful indie icons, Reed has written a guidebook essential for any aspiring filmmaker. (Tom Ortenberg, President of Theatrical Films, The Weinstein Company)

The most up-to-date guide readers could want…No one who embarks on a feature of his or her own after reading The Reel Truth can say he or she has not been warned--and, more important, not been prepared. (Jim Hemphill, American Cinematographer Magazine)

A must-have manual of knowledge and entertainment for beginning and experienced filmmakers...To not have this information is like scuba diving by yourself, skydiving without packing your own parachute...why risk it? (Chris Eyre, director of Smoke Signals)

What's great about The Reel Truth isn't simply its usefulness, but its thoroughness...Martin's invaluable book will help you navigate the treacherous terrain of the modern independent film scene. (Chris Bolton

An invaluable resource for those striking out on their own…From production, post-production, marketing and distribution, the book also covers such areas as dealing with music licensing, investors, script theft and securing legal help. However, it is Martin's personal interviews with leading directors, writers, producers and studio executives that offers "The Reel Truth" an extra layer of validity and insight to make it a true "insider's guide. (Jorge Carreon, (Los Angeles))

Making a movie, be it a five-minute short or a two-hour feature, takes more than vision. In his witty and addictively readable book The Reel Truth, author Reed Martin provides 500 pages of how-to advice for would-be De Palmas--everything from financing to casting, scoring to marketing--and backs it up with cautionary anecdotes and tips from famous directors. (Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald)

"Reed Martin interviews some of the brightest minds in independent cinema, including Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") and Christopher Nolan ("Memento"), for riveting first-person accounts of their own success stories as well as the moments when their careers could have ended right then and there if they opted to give up …More importantly, Martin offers practical lessons for those still dedicated enough to want to make a film." --Christian Toto, (Denver)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571211038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571211036
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Reed Martin is a former adjunct associate professor at NYU's Stern School of Business and Columbia Business School where he taught "Film Marketing, Distribution, and Exhibition." Previously, he has worked as the Director of Marketing at New York-based Independent Pictures, the low-budget production company of film producer Cary Woods ("Swingers," "Scream"). Martin is a former research associate at Harvard Business School where he helped create class materials for the senior faculty and wrote tech-centric business cases focused on disruptive innovation. Martin is a graduate of the management trainee program at 20th Century Fox Film in Los Angeles who received an MBA in marketing from Columbia in 1996. Listen to "The Reel Truth" featured on the radio show "Studio 360 With Kurt Andersen" at:

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mike on March 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reed Martin's "The Reel Truth" is without question the best book on the subject of Indie Filmmaking ever published. It reads like a well-written and fast paced novel and yet gets down in the weeds of the actual pitfalls (ex: forming an LLC to avoid being vulnerable in the future to lawsuits, the mishandling of data cards in a rush to see the dailies which leads to digital drop-outs, and the always overlooked importance of good sound recording - as Danny Boyle points out in the book, good sound is probably the most important aspect of indie filmmaking) and details brilliantly all the aspects of creating, funding, releasing, and marketing an independent film.

Without this book I have no idea how much more painful the experience would have been - as I have just completed an indie film and am taking it to film festivals. I have used it like a roadmap, and it was the best twenty dollars I could have spent. A tool as essential as any piece of film equipment (even the appendixes in the back of the book which contain sample in-depth budgets and contracts are great). It was required reading for each producer and the director because we felt there was so much to digest reading it that we would all be better off have gone through the book individually and highlighted it.

Although I enjoyed the other known works on the subject ("I Wake Up Screening", "Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes", and "Down and Dirty Pictures"), I felt none compared, or - more importantly - were as relevant as the recently published "The Reel Truth". Nor did the other books really elucidate with clarity all the overwhelming aspects an indie film producer, director, or screenwriter faces. Really no comparasion.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Yuri Rutman on February 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
As someone who heads a global film finance consulting, production, and distribution company ([...]), I come across hundreds if not thousands of investors, private equity funds, filmmakers, producers, and even former studio executives who are completely clueless or in the dark about the realities of what it takes to finance, produce, and distribute a film. It seems the majority of filmmakers and producers are still looking to make films like its 1995 and Sundance is like the Powerball lotto just waiting for a film to premiere there and be sold for gazillions of dollars.

To add insult to injury, some of the worst offenders in not educating filmmakers and film producers on the realities of the film business are the top film schools in the United States. If they were to only take a portion of their marketing dollars for recruiting and apply it to more practical books and instructors such as Reed Martin, we'd go back to a time when we would have much better films with larger distribution options available.

Hence, Reed Martin's book is really the only film school one needs, or if you are already in film school, this book should be your bible and holy grail on the semantics of the film business, the realities of distribution, film festivals, and all the chaos and noise in between.

It covers some very detailed and fine points on the realities of everything from raising money, to financing your own films (which we suggest to all first time filmmakers), to attaching cast, to various distribution options and how its evolving in terms of video on demand, digital distribution, etc.

Reed gives a very straight forward, politically incorrect reality check to what really goes on inside the minds of film investors, film festivals, agents, actors, directors, etc.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. J. Barr on July 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
I told myself that I was never going to read another book about independent filmmaking. I found it was a distraction from actually doing the work necessary to make a film happen.

However, I was recently made aware of The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn't Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film.

If are hoping to succeed in the film business, you must get this book. Reed Martin has done a great service for the independent film industry and for those of us who want to be a part of it. He is a unique combination of academic credentials, journalist and practical experience and his book benefits.

He interviewed over one hundred notables in the industry and has gleaned their insights on everything from screenplay to distribution. The content is current, enlightening and encouraging and should be required reading for all film courses and by anyone who dreams of one day completing their own masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Melvin Harris on May 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Reed Martin has created such a detailed road map to this industry that doing anything without the knowledge in this book is nothing more than a fool's errand. Many careers have been destroyed for lack of the knowledge presented here. The chapters on Actors, Financing, Business Plans, Post and Distribution were absolutely caustic against the flimsy skin of my dreams of independent film stardom; however, it was a wise lesson that I and others need to learn.

And that is the whole point.

The wisdom in this book is laid out in plain English. There are no short, muscular sentences denoting a Blah for Dummies approach. The style is fluid and varied which keeps both the novice and adept engaged.

The wisdom in this book is also supported by the myriad of industry professionals offering their stories. Name-droppers should be green with envy reading the quotes and anecdotes compiled here.

The pacing and organization is intelligent and the tone is conversational, yet the work retains a searchable quality which makes it play like a reference book. I feel like, at any stage of the journey, I can pull it out and find information pertinent to a particular situation and that's what I want for a book that professes to tell me everything I didn't know I needed to know.

There were some flaws in the book. Some chapters felt too bleak; after reading, I felt that the finish line of "the film" was a million miles away. It's not a problem because I am totally sold out about this business, but others will get discouraged and berate the book for being honest. However, I commend Mr. Martin for this approach as it is difficult to temper honesty with concern for peoples feelings. If one thing has to suffer, let it be ego.
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