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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon October 7, 2007
Anthony Artis has created a very usable guide to making documentary films independently, which also happens to be the best guide I've encountered on what you really need to know to get started making independent films of any sort. The techniques he indicates that are designed for documentary filmmaking are essential skills for any independent filmmaker who wants things to stretch a limited budget without sacrificing filmmaking quality. The book is beautifully produced, well bound on high quality paper (as one might expect from Focal Press), and full of very useful illustrations and photos. It is also right on point -- this is designed as a usable guide and not as a book on history and theory -- though there are enough very quick tips and provocative pointers on the history and theory of documentary filmmaking to at least show that Mr. Artis knows his stuff -- this is not one of those books by someone who made a film or two that never made it anywhere and now pretends to be an expert on everything cinematic. Mr. Artis has made several documentary products for a wide range of venues and now works at NYU as an instructor and equipment manager -- he has the streed cred, the professional know-how and the academic training required to really pull of something like this tour-de-force of a usable guide. It reads quickly, with each minor topic covered in a few brief paragraphs with supplementary how-to guides, tips and pointers from professionals. It also covers everything, at least everything you could possibly digest until you have gotten some experience actually making a few films; at the same time he reminds budding filmmakers that there is always more to learn to supplement hands-on experience and points to a number of credible resources that would serve an amateur filmmaker very well.

One of the most refreshing features of this guide is that it strikes a good balance between the "down and dirty" guerilla style independent filmmaking it encourages and the recognition that professionalism and "mainstream" approaches to documentary filmmaking developed for a reason. He doesn't diss Hollywood style filmmaking, and is obviously well versed in it, and gives pointers for how to make work professional; at the same time he recognizes that professional standards urged in several mainstream filmmaking guides can become hurdles that keep aspiring filmmakers from picking up a camera and just getting started as they need to in order to develop professionally. Sometimes the "down and dirty" approach that encourages innovation and problem-solving over spending top dollar on the best equipment is just the right approach both for a particular subject matter and a particular style.

But the book as a whole covers it all: what to do when you are in a pinch and what to do when you can afford the time and money to give your project extra polish. He covers pre-production, including location scouting and getting releases, making budgets, raising money and securing a crew and keeping them happy; he covers cinematography and lighting and sound, how to get the best picture and sound regardless of your budget and equipment -- while at the same time pointing out clearly what does get sacrificed when you cut back on essentials; he covers shooting and interviewing, editing and distributing. Each chapter is refreshing and clear, written in an engaging style that isn't afraid to use street language but doesn't abuse that freedom to the point of sacrificing clarity. There is a thorough index and glossary and table of contents and even a tutorial dvd that illustrates some of the techniques he mentions and includes helpful charts and forms such as release forms and checklists. There are lots of great books on filmmaking out there -- and Mr. Artis mentions and describes several of them in an index on further reading in his book -- but I can't imagine another guide that is as clear and useful for one who really just wants to get out there, shut up and start shooting. I look forward to other titles in his "down and dirty dv" series (see the website at I've already assigned this one for a film class I'll be teaching in the Spring for which my students will be making small documentary projects as part of a course on the history of American independent cinema.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2007
As a graduate of NYU Film School, I've had to read A LOT of books. Some were more interesting than others, but there were few that I would have sought out on my own merit. The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide is one that I've been searching for. It provides great reference sheets and quick tips as well as practical explanations in layman terms of how to achieve a desired effect for your project. I've also used this book in courses I have taught and it's a hit. Whether novice or professional, there is something in this book for everyone. Now go ahead and click that link!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2009
Anthony Q. Artis has lovingly placed a complete video production course between the covers of a book. Here are all the things a conscientious film teacher tells his students, plus a DVD that shows, among other things, examples of good and bad sound along with interviews with prominent documentarians.

The book puts the focus on doing. Its tacit assumption is that everyone makes mistakes when they begin production, so you might as well get on with making them. Chapter one is titled Preproduction, and in fifty-two pages it covers everything from determining the goal of your documentary (What story do you want to tell and why?) to care and feeding of crew members (Don't skimp on food!).

By chapter two we're on location, and the book offers a lot of good advice about making a film in someone else's backyard. From then on it's all about getting it shot, getting good information, good images and good sound, planning for and conducting interviews, and the key to every successful documentary: editing and postproduction.

Do I love everything about this book? No. While it talks about guerilla filmmaking, in many ways it embraces a rather formal approach to making a documentary, which is to record interviews and shoot B-roll. While Artis says in chapter 6, "your B-roll is your A-roll," I find a bias here in favor of told evidence over visual evidence.

That said, there is a lot to like about "The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide." This book is so rich in so many ways that it is an excellent starting point for the beginning, wannabe documentary filmmaker as well as a handy resource for the rest of us who learned on the job, or learned our fundamentals so long ago that we can occasionally use a brush-up. Just as I carried the "American Cinematographer Manual" in my hip pocket when I was making documentaries on film, I'd keep this book on the reference shelf near my computer and stick it in my shoulder bag before going on a shoot.
And, if I were still teaching, this would definitely be one of the books I'd use.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2012
After reading the reviews, I decided to purchase this book. My initial excitement quickly dissapated after I received the book and opened it to discover that it read more like a series of simple one page instructions that come with digital products. My initial thought was that the author had only a rudimentary grasp of the subject matter.

I was looking for a "how to" book that went into the depth of the subject of making movies with digital equipment. I need detail on how to light the scenes, how to construct sets, the use of blue and green chroma screen backgrounds, how to rig up cameras, how to direct, and etc. Instead, the book covered such mundane things as how to fold a blanket, the types of cameras used in video production, the models of cameras currently being sold to the public, how not to overload the circuit panel with your lights, doing your video as inexpensive as possible, elementary lighting, and more. Unfornately, the text appeared in a BOLD font which made it difficult and frustrating to read. Of course, readers who have difficulty reading the book can always look at the many pictures and diagrams.

This is the type of book that you can skim in 10 minutes and get 80% of the content. I would expect that this book would be very well received by 7th adnd 8th grade students studying digital movie making. Regardless, I returned it to Amazon.

I know that I am going to be "dinged" for this review by all of those individuals who thought the book was great. However, when reviewers write book reviews which do not accurately describe the content of the book, then other individuals such as myself will fall in to the trap of buying the book in reliance on the reviews only to return it for a refund. Inaccurate reviews cost everybody in the long run.

Note that I did find the book "How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck" by Steve Stockman to be very informative and instructional. It met my needs for the planning and shooting of videos. It did not cover the equipment. Regardless, I found the quote at the top of that book to be accurate where it stated that that book was ... "Like two years of film school in 248 pages." That book covers everything in detail with the exception of the equipment. I also found the book "The Green Screen Handbook: Real-World Production Techniques" by Jeff Foster exceptional: that author clearly knew the subject matter, although he went into such complicated and intricate detail as to make me realize that I needed a more intermediate book on the use of green screen in video.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2008
A Must Read!, February 17, 2008
By Keesha Monroe - See all my reviews

I loved this book and would highly recommend it to any aspiring filmmakers. Now when I watch documentaries I see them so differently..with "new eyes" because of the knowledge I acquired from this book. I am a film student and I am anxious to begin work but I feel like the pace we are moving at school is too slow, I want to gain hands on experience. I want to have access to the basic information I need to get started, I do not want to wait for my degree or until I have "lots" of money to start my projects. I want to begin now while I have the passion. This book lays out how to do just that. No matter how much money, how much schooling, or what equipment you have, this book spells it out in plain English what to do and what not to do. It is an easy read and if you are a visual learner then you will love the photos, diagrams, and illustrations in this book. The DVD was an excellent added bonus. Most of all this book made my dreams of producing/directing documentaries seem obtainable in the near future. I will continue to use this as a reference book and place it right alongside my school books. If you are ready to stop dreaming about making films and ready to begin to make them then trust me get this book it will make your dream feel possible.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2012
For beginners this is the type of book you want to read with a pencil+notebook near you to write down all the useful notes you don't want to forget.

The only part I didn't like too much is that the book doesn't focus much on solo shooters or solo documentary makers, actually it's minimum what he says about solo documentary. Many visual sociologist or anthropologist out there (like me) can't rely on a crew and not even to talk about carrying expensive lights, mics, etc.

Can you imagine yourself in the deep amazonian with a huge load of equipment and/or crew, well not all of us are with the Nat Geo or with Discover Networks, and if this book was intended for indie documentary makers it should have focused a bit more on solo shooters.

Even though this book was amazing to clarify lots of concepts and get to new technical stuff for those of us who aren't film students.

My best advice for people needing to travel light and are on a budget:

-Get the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 16.05 MP Live MOS Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3-inch Free-Angle Touch Screen LCD and 14-140mm HD Hybrid Lens (Black) (research the lenses you will need and that will work best for your need. Forget about expensive MArk III, for video Panny GH2 beats Mrk III and Mrk II. No overheating!!!
-There are lots of filmmakers out there, indie and pro alike, who use natural lights and no more (Terrence Malick director of Tree of Life, only uses natural lights in his films).
-Get a lav or wireless mic (audio is the most important for us, consider the zoom h4n.
-Do you want to shoot only on tripod or you want moving scenes then get a Glidecam 4000 Pro Stabilizer System for Medium Sized Video Cameras up to 10 Pounds.
-Don't forget to manually autofocus, don't forget good audio, three thirds rule.


This is a book excellent for beginners but if you're searching for info of solo shooting you'll have to search some other place.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 9, 2010
I was prepared not to like this book, since the praise was uniform and sometimes the hype just isn't justified. However, this case, I'm prepared to say, I was more impressed by the book than I thought I'd be.

This is a book I've been carrying around so I have something good to read. I like to read when I have 'down time' and want to learn or be entertained. The fact that I don't want to leave it at home or at work, denying myself the pleasure of reading it when I'm not at that location, speaks to the fact that I'm getting a lot out of the book.

'Shut Up and Shoot' isn't perfect. The author has definite prejudices when it comes to sound and lighting. He's not a fan of LED lighting, which is the up-and-coming trend in video production (it's bright, very portable, rugged, long-lived, and cost-competitive), and he doesn't like boom mikes for interviews, preferring lavalier mikes (in spite of the fact that shotgun mikes on booms saves the problem of miking two or three people, checking sound, and so on). He also has deeper pockets than a lot of people, suggesting that wireless mikes need to cost over $500 or so, since cheaper wireless lav mikes 'are a waste of money' (well, what if you don't have that money?).

Despite my criticisms, I really, really liked this book. It shows you techniques and tricks that can make your production look like it cost a lot more than it did. He explains the advantages of using a mixer to record sound on your camcorder (saves the jiggling of the camera when you try to adjust sound levels). (However, he glosses over the thought that you probably should record sound on a field recorder instead of a camera entirely.)

This is the type of guide you're going to have to keep handy, since reading it and re-reading it will answer many questions, and give you many ideas on solving problems.

I'm never going to win any awards (and I'm not trying to), but I know that the tips on interviewing, for example, are going to help me immensely in the future. It's disheartening to realize I've been making rookie mistakes all along...

Highly recommended. I found myself carrying the book from room to room, thinking, 'I really like this book.' Praise enough. Buy this book if you are just starting out, or if you have some videos under your belt. It's a great starting point, and you're going to save money avoiding mistakes from the onset. Five stars for 'Shut Up and Shoot'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2009
I've been an aspiring film maker for a long time and was beginning to wonder if I should finally give up the dream until I read the "Shut up and Shoot" documentary guide. Now I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I moved from Southern California to Texas a few years ago and am now the Video Production Manager for a major newspaper. I've had success producing a few award winning TV ads and directed a successful ad campaign for the United Way but have had no luck thus far putting together a team for a full length documentary and no luck getting enough financing to put me through film school. Needles to say, I'm approaching the age of 43 and was starting to get frustrated.

This book has inspired me to push forward. I realize now that there is hope for creative minds that were unable to attend film school. And what a time saver! The most valuable information for me was the chapter on film funding and financing. This book will catapult you into the right direction. You gotta have it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2009
Anthony Artiss writes the DV book for the "rest of us" who are new to the field and are struggling to connect terminology with application. He speaks in plain english and makes sense of arcane technical terms.

I read Barry Braverman's Video Shooter immediately before Shut Up and Shoot. Now I wish that I had done the reverse as Artiss explains terms at a level for the beginner. I probably would have gotten more out of Braverman's book had it come second as his tome is more technical.

Shut up and shoot is not a Dummies book. It assumes the person has a basic understanding of the glossary of general terms but at the same time is careful to put new material in the proper context. It is a great step by step process to give one a basic understanding of the equipment and process needed to shoot a basic low budget documentary.

The bonus DVD has some great quick guides and cheat sheets that are definitely an added value.

Best value for the money. If you are a beginner this is the first book you should buy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2009
This book has definitely inspired me to get out and get it done! Anthony Artis dispenses with the mumble jumble that traditionally bogs down newbie film makers and drives the point home, GET OUT THERE AND MAKE THE MOVIE! The tips and tricks from the people who have walked the path you're starting on now means that your learning curve won't be as steep (or expensive) as theirs. And while Shut Up & Shoot is no 'hold your hand' type book, it covers everything you need to see your project through the entire production pipeline. A must read for new film makers or those who must teach new film makers. All the information is logically and concisely presented and is easily understandable. Remember, "It doesn't take money to make a movie, it takes resources." Anthony Q. Artis
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