If there is a bible for anyone making a low-budget feature-length movie, then Dale Newton and John Gaspard’s, Digital Filmmaking 101: An Essential Guide to Producing Low-Budget Movies (2001), is it. An update of their previous book, Persistence of Vision: An Impractical Guide to Producing a Feature Film for Under $30,000 (1999), the newer version, as its title suggests, stresses tackling the feature-length movie in the digital medium as opposed to film. Whereas only several years ago hopes of distribution for anything not shot on film would have been virtually non-existent, today’s aspiring moviemaker needs to give serious consideration to the digital format as his medium of choice. Fast, clean and incredibly economic (to the tune of about 20,000 dollars less than shooting on film), the digital medium is the future of independent moviemaking, according to Gaspard and Newton.
This isn’t to say, however, that Digital Filmmaking 101 is aimed soley at the individual who is contemplating the shooting of an independent movie in digital. More generally the book is for anybody who has an idea for a movie and the drive to see it into reality. Covering virtually every step of the moviemaking process, from the initial stages of scriptwriting through to casting, pre-production, production and distribution, Newton and Gaspard offer a wealth of insight, tips and advice.
Perhaps the most worthy attribute of Digital Filmmaking 101 is its fresh approach to its subject matter. So many of the books about moviemaking either read like chemistry textbooks or are far too personal and anecdotal. Digital Filmmaking 101 gets the balance just right. Consistently giving practical information for any person involved in the moviemaking process, Newton and Gaspard are also unafraid to inject personality into their material’s presentation, making the book a constant pleasure to read.
For all their great advice, the authors make no bones about independent moviemaking being perhaps one of the most foolish and challenging ventures a person could choose to undertake. Most movies fail to get off the ground, let alone see distribution. What is more, with the movies that Netwon and Gaspard make and assume their readers will be making, there is little glamour, even less financial reward and a lot of accounting. On the same token, with hard work, perseverance and luck, the pair also prove it can be done, having directed and produced three features themselves: Resident Alien (1991), Beyond Bob (1995) and Grown Men (2003). If there is a way that the hopeful moviemaker can improve his chances of realizing his dream, then surely it is with Digital Filmmaking 101 in hand.