Customer Reviews: The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn't Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film
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on March 20, 2012
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. This book stresses Strategy, which I have found out personally is of vital importance when marketing your finished film(no coincidence that the author also taught at some of the best business schools in the country). There is even a seperate chapter on documentary films and the newly emerging markets and strategy that are now available for a doc filmmaker to make a great film - and a profit.

The chapter on legal issues in "The Reel Truth" is alone worth the price of the book; for example, don't just have your college buddy who is a lawyer to look over the contract, rather hire a professional who knows all the deal points and ways to structure the contract that protects the filmmakers in the event of either failure or succuess. Which is not to mention the other fine legal points of knowing what you can and can't shoot - because there is nothing worse as the book points out as having to cut your favorite scene in post because you didn't legally clear something. Nor have I encountered a book yet that has dived into the horribly prevalent state of screenplay theft; example being: How attending screenplay pitch-fests where you tell your ideas and script beats to a room full of professional producers and fellow screenwriters undercuts any claim you might have since you are freely disclosing your ideas without any expectation of compensation.

Indeed, my one worry before reading the book was that since the book was published in 2009, it might not be relevant to making a film in 2011/2012. I couldn't have been more wrong. The book feels like the author wrote it for the 2012 indie film market. For example, he especially examines with a microscope the ever-changing world of Indie film and the new ways to market and distribute your film on Amazon's CreateSpace and Youtube. Do yourself a favor: pay $16 dollars and save yourself a lifetime of heartache and suffering while making your first or second indie film! As the book points out -if there is one constant theme: IT CAN'T BE FIXED IN POST-PRODUCTION. So if you already have the talent and love of film, this book will be more important to you than any MFA a film school could ever provide you.
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on February 5, 2011
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. While film schools may teach film theory 101 and MBA students may learn about film finance by reading the trades, this book is the intersection of everything that one needs to get a good grip on reality.

As I am writing this review, the 2011 Sundance film festival just came to an end with 38 films being acquired for distribution. I don't know if those filmmakers read this book or its just an evolving process, but I think if more filmmakers and producers really dug deep into the core of the principles of The Reel Truth, there would be much more fluidity and success in making the kind of films that pave a roadmap for a filmmakers success.

Heck, even after reading this book, now I want to make a film on my smart phone camera and not worry about going through the headaches of pre-sales, hollywood agents, and a gazillion other middle men.

Take it from someone who is in these trenches and walked the walk. This books needs to be the Old Testament, New Testament, Koran, Bagvadhgita, Sutras all rolled up in one as the core reading material for film professors, film students, producers, directors, actors, writers, agents, attorneys, and private equity investors who are thinking of investing in film and the movie business.
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on July 26, 2009
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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on November 14, 2012
I hesitate to jump in here for fear of being assaulted by the fans. 59 5-stars and only one dissenter? How on earth can that be real?

Having said that I found the book to be chock full of information that I haven't heard or read anywhere else. It is rather dry though. I keep it by bed and read a little each night before drifting off. Usually I can only get through a chapter or so before I'm sleeping like a baby.

One thing of particular interest was learning how easy it is to have your written word stolen. It makes me wonder about all the nameless "director/producer/filmmakers" you see on Craigslist who won't give their name but want you to send a script. And "if we find something we like we'll contact you." Yeah, I'll hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

As I've gotten further into the book a few things have caught my attention.
Martin seems to think that Sundance is the only game in town for the inde film maker to sell a film. He has made no mention of Slamdance, SXSW, Telluride, Toronto, Los Angeles or the some two dozen other festivals that acquisition Execs go to looking to buy movies.

His information is a bit dated since the book was published in 2009. Maybe in 2008 box office sales were down. But in December 2009 Avatar made up for that with $2.7B world wide.(yes that's billion with a B) The Hangover did $467M. IN 2010 Sylvester Stalone came out with an Action Movie where the average age of the stars was about 60. It did $35m in the first weekend then went on to earn almost $300M world wide. Then he did it again this year with an even older cast average. Hangover II did more than $500M. To say nothing of The Avengers which did $200M opening weekend. Eventually doing $1.4B Worldwide. Bottom line - I think people really do go to the movies.

Martin's book is filled with valuable information but seems to have an overall theme of "it won't work", "don't even try it" "you're destined to fail". Are the odds against an independent film's success? Absolutely. The odds are against any film's success. In fact the odds are against any business venture's success. If you're in it for the money forget it. But if you're in it for the love of the art form then don't let this guy or anyone else scare you away. Heed his advice, most definitely. Then charge up the hill.
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on May 20, 2011

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. Also, some of the technological assertions are dated in the book. A new edition should take care of that since technology has progressed to the point that some of the assertions about camera and workflow are now moot.

Sandra Carey said, "Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life," and never was this more evident than in this book. The Reel Truth is just that... the truth. I'll put it like this, you're going to pay for this wisdom one way or another... might as well get it here which is infinitely easier than the other way. Period. Get it now.
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on October 30, 2014
An amazing book packed with 90 percent of the info you need to get out there and start filming. I wasn't sure where to start, and I wanted to create something meaningful and diffrent but what did I really know about filmmaking? I hadn't gone to school for it, I just had a passion to film and I needed direction, where do I begin? What do I need to look out for? Can I just get together with a few friends and start filming? After reading this book I began to see through the haze, I started filming everything I could, documentaries, commercials, specials on government meetings about commercial logging rights. This book was the first real step to my future career as a film maker. Now I'm in pre production for a feature film.
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on January 15, 2014
(TL;DR: This book is a bargain for what it will save you in costly mistakes along the way. Put it on your Kindle or phone and refer to it often.)

Reading this book is like sitting in on several years' worth of excellent panels at a film conference like SXSW. You get to learn from detailed, honest responses and stories from your favorite filmmakers without leaving the house.

This is definitely a reference book -- don't try to read it straight through, as the information and guidance is far too dense and you might be left with zero wind in your sails. Used correctly, this book can help you take your blinders off about real challenges for indie filmmakers while arming you with real information for overcoming those challenges. (If you want to start with an overview of how to create a career with longevity in this demanding field, you might start with Chapter 13, "What's Next? Career Strategies for Making It.")

You could also start by finding your favorite indie films in the index and, one by one, dispelling the myths you might have heard about them. We all know the miraculous stories of small projects that made it big, but:
1) those are the exceptions, and
2) even those projects had more complicated journeys than you might know.

An interesting example was Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" -- every filmmaker knows that it only cost $7,00 to make, but did you know that Columbia Pictures spent $1,000,000 in postproduction to get it to the point that it could be exhibited? Martin gives you the information you need to get a realistic plan and dream for your film in place.

Martin makes the great point that while struggle is inherent in indie film projects, many filmmakers don't get a second chance to learn from their mistakes because they've depleted their resources, whether they be financial, emotional, or personal. I especially appreciate his well-rounded approach to this industry, warning filmmakers not to scupper their family lives and friendships just to make a movie at all costs.

One bummer is that it was published in 2009, so some tech details and social media are naturally out of date. I'd especially be interested to know what the numbers and technology landscape looks like now, five years into the U.S. recession and after new fundraising platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc. Maybe Martin's publisher will put out an updated edition one of these days.
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on March 12, 2013
"The Reel Truth" has proven to be a very useful tool that has real world applications. For example a feature I helped produce was stuck during casting because of financial problems. We had just enough money to pull off a quality picture. We had been debating wether or not we should cast a particular celebrity or spread the money elsewhere. Once, I read the section regarding "casting up", it became a no brainer. Fortunately for our specific case it proved to be the wisest decision. Our film now having credible actors, which luckily did not lose production value due to our balancing of the budget, has had more distributors interested and helped attach a sales rep. for when we go into our festival run. Depending on the story having a known actor really helps its chances of staying competitive in today's market.

Another part of the book that I loved, was all of the first hand accounts from real and proven filmmakers.

Given the fact that this book came out in 2009 it still holds a lot of valuable information relevant to 2013. Although, since marketing and distribution strategies are constantly changing I would enjoy reading an updated version specifically pertaining to "The Producers Rep" Chapter, "Distribution Deal Breakers", and "Smarter Marketing". Otherwise the information in this book will be relevant for years to come.
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on July 15, 2016
My son is looking to be the next great Indie film maker and I wanted to make sure that I fully understood what he might be getting into. Mr. Martin's book really gives a very realistic look at some of the obstacles he might face--- and actually made me feel alot better about helping him fund his project. There are alot of life's lessons one can learn in making an Independent Film from what I learned so I felt while he might be a little young- and it might not be a smashing hit---- the book served as a good roadmap on what to look out for which he loved and also made me optimistic that even if he is not the next Steven Spielberg- he would gain a tremendous amount from the experience for whatever he ultimately decides is his life calling should he decide not to pursue the film making route. Kudos to a very well written book with just enough detail to make it an interesting read for someone not directly tied to the field
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on October 29, 2012
I treat Martin's book as more of a heavily used reference book, than as a light read. I am constantly referencing it, and always sharing its insights with friends and colleagues on this tumultuous path of filmmaking. When speaking professional about producing with other filmmakers, his book frequently arms me to seem a lot smarter than I am about the process. Yet, I am certainly smarter for having read the book several times over and in engaging the material in a real world environment. Martin doesn't dilute the process of producing and financing, as so many texts do, rather it puts the needed tasks that seem daunting into perspective.
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