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“The advice I give for filmmakers starting out is don’t wait for me. Don’t wait for the industry… It’s a mistake to wait for Hollywood to tell you you have a good idea. If you have a good idea, try to make it on your own as cheaply as possible… on your phone.”
Producer Jason Blum (Whiplash, Get Out, Paranormal Activity)
(His Blumhouse Productions focuses on making films in the $3-4 million range)
IndieWire/SXSW: Low-Budget Producer Jason Blum on the Secret of His Success by Paula Bernstein

Related Posts:
“Don’t try and compete with Hollywood”—Edward Burns
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 10 Days
10 Low-Budget Filmmaking Quotes
Shooting a Feature Film in a Coffin
Aiming for Small Scale Success First

Scott W. Smith

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At 23, 24, I was starting to make films. I knew someone who knew [sculptor Louise Bourgeois] very well, and he invited me to visit her studio. It was this huge, huge loft in Brooklyn, and she talked about every single sculpture, every single thing. She has a huge table, full of objects — things she collects, books stacked. She grabs a piece of clay and she says, “I tell you everything started from here, from this piece of clay. Hold it in your hands.” I was like, “It’s a piece of clay.” And then she said, “See, when I started becoming a sculptor, I said, ‘I want to do clay work,’ but I didn’t know what to do or how to transform this clay into something. So I kept this for days in my hand. Then, I finally had some images and something came out. All the emotion was in this piece. My identity of a sculpture is all here.”

For me, that was a lesson, because every time I start a project, I have to metaphorically find this little piece of clay. I spend three months before taking out my camera and trying to understand the place, trying to meet the people.”
Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi
Filmmaker Magazine article by Roberto Minervini

Last night I watched Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA which a few years ago was the first documentary film to win Best Picture in the 70 year history of the Venice Film Festival. And while I talk a lot about traditional arch-plot movies on this blog (because movies with an active protagonist with a goal—and a beginning, middle, and end—are the most accessible for audiences) there are other types of storytelling I enjoy.

One of my favorite films of all time Tender Mercies could be considered mini-plot (as could the recent Academy Award winning best film Moonlight). But the hardest sell for audiences is the anti-plot film. Sacro GRA falls into that category.

Yet, it’s a documentary that is quite compelling and beautifully shot. (Actually using the Panasonic AF101 with Zeiss Compact Primes. A camera, by the way, looked down upon by one well-known camera guru here in the States. But in the hands of an artist it’s just a tool to help carve the sculpture.)

Sacro GRA just made me think of the possibilities in filmmaking. If you need a purging of superhero movies from your system, then I recommend a good Italian film like Sacro GRA. It may not have a plot, but it’ll be good for your soul. (As of this writing you can find it on Netflix.)

I look forward to seeing next Rosi’s 2017 Oscar-nominated doc Fire at Sea.

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On the heals of writing yesterday’s post about a filmmaker from Austin, Texas, I thought it was fitting to write about a filmmaker from New Jersey talking about being inspired decades ago by a filmmaker from Austin.

“I was awed by (Richard Linklater’s film) Slacker, that it existed. And Richard’s story was kind of compelling too. This guy from Austin, Texas—not from Hollywood, not from New York—had made a film that’s playing in New York and look at all these people here to see it! And he’d made it for such a low amount of money. But by the end of the film I was thinking, I could definitely do this! And oddly enough it was the reaction that Clerks would have a few years later…Anyway we’re driving back to New Jersey and I say, ‘You Know, Vincent, I think that’s what I want to do. I think I want to make a film.”
Kevin Smith
My First Movie
20 Directors Talk About Their First Film
Page 74
Edited by Stephen Lowenstein

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Note: This is not a repost from 2008—despite the camera referenced—it’s a brand new post on April 2, 2017.

“Buy a camera and start shooting. It’s that simple.”
Advice from a filmmaker whose first feature just played at SXSW

Let’s say you work at a taco joint and think to yourself, “Man, I’d sure like to make a feature film,”—where would you start? Oh, and the problem is you have little money and no real film experience. Were would you start?

There are many options including going to film school, working as a PA and learning as much as you can on the set and working your way up, or you could go the Parker Smith route.

Parker who? What? (Yes, the guy who gave that simple advice to buy a camera and start shooting.)

Parker Smith’s film Ramblin’ Freak debuted at the SXSW film festival just a few weeks ago. In a No Film School podcast interview with Joe Fusco, Smith said he basically binge watched documentary after documentary, bought two DVX 100B cameras, and hit the road with his cat and learned to be a filmmaker by shooting 55 hours of tape.

Yes, tape. Kickin’ it old school with DV tape.  I bought the Panasonic DVX 100 camera around 2003 shortly after it first came out. I was on a shoot with Orlando DP Ben Mesker and he was raving about the 24p film look of the DVX. This was in the days when high-end video shoots were done using DigiBeta cameras.

The standard rate in the early 2000s for a two person DigiBeta shoot was $1,300-1,500 per day. The DVX sold for around $3,500. I’ll never forget running into Randy Baker, another producer/cameraman friend, at a bookstore in Orlando and him encouraging me to buy the DVX 100 telling me it’d pay for itself after a couple of freelance shoots.

That’s what I did. Changed my life in some ways. (Much as the Canon 5D did later for others.) That DVX camera helped me as I went out on on own in what ended up being a 13-year self-employment production run. Over time I moved up the Panasonic food chain (HVX 200, AF 100), but that DVX not only paid a lot of bills, but opened doors for me shoot documentaries in Russia, Jamaica, South Africa, and Brazil.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 3.04.21 PM

With my trusty (now classic) DVX 100 camera in 2006/Cape Town, South Africa

When I flew in a seaplane over the Amazon River, in one of my coolest production experiences ever, I was shooting with a DVX100. And part of the DVX legacy is DP Nancy Schreiber won a best cinematography at Sundance for shooting November (2004) shot on the DVX, and the Duplass brothers shot The Puffy Chair (2005) also with the DVX.

But today, a DVX is only worth around $200. It’s a stand def camera. Why shoot in a digital world today on standard def on cameras 10 years old? Because you have a goal to be a feature filmmaker (and you have little money).

Embrace your limitations. That’s what Parker Smith did.

“I’ll actually have a shift delivering tacos the morning of my premiere. I will be off in time to attend though.”
Parker Smith
Interview with Jason Whyte/@jasonwhyte before the Rambin’ Freak premiere at SXSW

Now I don’t know if Smith has a distribution deal or not, but from the buzz I’ve heard, I’d say his documentary is worth a minimum of $100,000 in a Netflix deal. Not bad for a guy working at a taco joint who had a dream, an idea, a cat (people love cats, never forget that), and the willingness to shoot with cameras that most 16-year-olds living in McMansions wouldn’t even use for a web camera.

I doubt Smith will be shooting on a DVX again, but like many of us former DVX users, it will always hold a special place in his heart.

P.S. The DVX 100 now has a big brother, the DVX 200 that shoots in 4K. I’ve been to a demo for it, but haven’t shot with it yet. Writing this post has made me all nostalgic again for the DVX which I think when I stopped using it had logged around 900 hours.

Scott W. Smith

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“The Woman in the Room remains on my short list of favorite film adaptions.”
Stephen King

If you’re a filmmaker just starting out, don’t compare yourself to Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption—or his most recent work in creating The Walking Dead—look at what King was doing in his early twenties when he made the short film The Woman in the Room (based on a Stephen King short story).

Scott W. Smith

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After film school, filmmaker Brandon Li (@rungunshoot) spent eight years working in reality TV before carving his own path making films in unlikely places. Here are a few samples of his work followed a talk about his background and creative process.

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Compiled by Burger Fiction (“We make videos about movies”):

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