The warning is quite cear and first appeared back in 1996, in the very first edition of this work: "Carving out a career in filmmaking is not dissimilar to mounting an expedition to tackle the North face of the Eiger." Quite.
Not dissimilar even, to writing a handbook like this. You simply know; the route is not going to be easy.
Here are two filmmakers, who, in terms of career development, have reached base camp. Though as far as so many would-be filmmakers are concerned, they stand on an achievement pinnacle named Low Budget Feature. Yes, this is the book that launched a thousand bedroom productions. With this second edition it will undoubtedly launch many, many more. Well, you have all been warned. And if you dont believe the warning in the introduction, just read the book. Then you will have a pretty clear assessment of what you are up against.
The moviemaker pay-off line on this book is, if it doesnt put you off making it, it will help you make it.
The big problem any handbook of this sort comes up against is, how do you make something that is so fundamentally complicated into something that is reasonably simple to understand? The answer of course, is to break the whole into its constituent parts and then get an expert on each part to give it to you straight. That is what The GFMH does and does clearly. Question and answer is used, the oldest way to acquire knowledge, still simplest, and best.
The format followed is the same as for any film. All stages get a thorough airing; development, pre-production, all the problems thrown up by the shoot itself and then into the hell that post-production can be. The narrative cant end there and doesnt. Finishing comes along, with markets, sales strategies, sale and leaseback arrangements and all the devices and routes open to the filmmaker to get the finished product before an audience. There are few gaps and in the new edition everything is fully revised and updated.
Film technology is changing as fast as any other and certainly faster now than at any time since the talkies came in. Digital is the new film sex it seems, know about by all, but only practiced well by a select few. Back in 1996 the prospect of digital film was not as pregnant with possibility as it is now. It was covered of course, but not with the depth of the new edition.
There are some anonymous contributors, left unnamed for politic reasons. Un-named they can speak freely, without having to conform to some unspoken agenda. If you want things straight, this is probably a good thing. Anyone desperate for a contact can probably e-mail to Living Spirit, the Jones/Jolliffe production company. These authors are enthusiasts. They want to help. It comes through. They would help, if asked.
One thing a film production can never escape is masses of paperwork. Contracts, clearances, music rights, movement orders, cue sheets, camera reports. This book supplies the lot. Every form you could possibly think of, and then some, including model crew, cast and location contracts, schedules and budgets. Now heres the best bit. They all come for free on a CD Rom tucked inside the back cover. Run it through your PC and you are in the film business. Theres also a movie where we meet the authors in person. Theyve both got good screen presence and Genevieve has the edge in the looks department. They talk on camera about the making of their second feature, White Angel.
I have two serious complaints, both personal. The copy of the first edition that I purchased last Christmas had much less software available and it cost an extra £100. That makes this edition even more of a bargain to the serious low budget filmmaker, but I feel out of pocket!
The second complaint is that they still havent sacked the proofreader, who clearly does not know about the use of the apostrophe in the English language. Its quite clear that in publishing, as in film, the computer is a mixed blessing. It makes the medium more accessible to all, but that in itself does not guarantee universal improvement. In both media, a good editors eye, apostrophes and all, still makes a big difference. Lets hope they find one before the third edition of misplaced apostrophes appears!
If you are long in film, you need to read this book, not only to grasp the difference between your filmmaking and those on shoestring budgets, but to see where the next generation of filmmakers is coming from. This is their Bible.
If you have the first edition, buy this one. At less than twenty quid its a steal. Opening the second edition of The GFMH feels like welcoming back an old friend and finding him a little older, a little wiser, but very well travelled. Youll be glad to spend time with him and youll be a wiser person for doing so.
The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook (2nd Edition)
By Chris Jones & Genevieve Jolliffe
Published by Continuum, London, 2000