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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the most clear and useful guide to getting out there and making movies, October 7, 2007
This review is from: The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide: A Down & Dirty DV Production (Paperback)
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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