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Summer Reading


10 Blogs Filmmakers Need to Read

As I emerge from my NDA-driven rathole and rediscover the things I did before work consumed me, I’ve been catching up on some reading. Specifically blog reading (and a book or two as well).

My friend Jenelle likes to make fun of me for being late to the Blog party. She is right, blogging had been going on for a long time (in internet years) before I started writing here about a year-and-change ago so I’d have something live for the “blog” link on my new webpage – and an obsession was born. One that even overrode my hatred of the word “Blog.”

Also, I felt (perhaps arrogantly… Okay, probably arrogantly) that maybe I could have something to add to the glut of online chatter here at WordPress (or at Blogger, if you will) that somebody would find of some value. Directing is a cool job when there’s a job to be had, and perhaps some of the weirdness that I’ve gone through can be helpful to someone starting out.

Hey directors, why no blogs?

No, I’m not counting blogs that are a marketing move for your films, yet get abandoned the day after the film opens.

Truth is, I haven’t found a lot of blogs by working directors out there, which (if you believe the myth) is because most of them are too busy pumping the world full of a mysterious substance called “vision” to scribble this stuff out – but I secretly think it’s because many of them would prefer not to expose their underbelly to scrutiny, admitting in public that directing is often the act of professionally not-knowing, frequently digging one’s self out of a creative hole in front of 200 or more people.

Or maybe that’s just me. Probably just me. Everyone else clearly has everything figured out.

I wanted, really really wanted to recommend Kevin Smith’s blog, Silent Bob Speaks (AKA “My Boring-Ass Life”). Despite my misgivings about him as a filmmaker – misgivings which he apparently shares – but there’s just not enough content on his blog. Ever. Perhaps he just wants people to listen to his Smodcast podcast.

Anyway, writing this blog really got me reading other peoples’ blogs, trying to find the best information out there to help me understand the creative process, the film business, writing, directing, or the future of media. I mean, obviously, someone is blogging about everything, right now even. And SOME of those people are at the top of their fields and have chosen this direct way to interface with their fans, followers, or anyone else who might find their information useful. So I compiled ten of them whom I plug right into my RSS feed and read away every time they post.

Truly Free Film – Ted Hope

I list this blog first, because it best delves into the issues facing indie filmmakers the most. And make no mistake – those issues will inevitably bleed into studio filmmaking one day, if they haven’t already. Hope (whom I saw speak last July and then blogged about here) is an actual, real-world, for-realsies working producer with a giant list of credits. Hope speaks openly about how to build a better mousetrap for indie filmmakers, how to actually make money, and what things producers need to be considering. For a sample of his unique insight, check this out.

And speaking of Ted Hope, one of his more recent films was James Gunn’s “Super.” Gunn himself has a blog very much worth checking out. And he’s a director. So there goes my point from earlier I suppose.

 

Prolost – Stu Maschwitz

Many of us first became aware of Stu about ten years ago when his then-company, The Orphanage, created a process called Magic Bullet to make crappy interlaced DV footage look sorta-kinda like film. A few years later, 24P mini-DV and then HD rendered the fake-film-from-video market obsolete, but thanks to Stu’s innovation his Magic Bullet Looks Suite became immensely popular among indie filmmakers and has continued with things like Colorista, Mojo, Grinder, and LUT Buddy but his DV Rebel’s Guide book introduced many of us to the filmmaker behind the code – someone with an accessible, empowering message and the balls to tell filmmakers that technique is a master-able thing. He often swings back and forth from high-tech to boots-on-the-ground art-making, which is how it should be.

Confessions of an Aca-Fan – Henry Jenkins

With his book Convergence Culture, MIT’s Henry Jenkins blew a lot of minds with his radical ideas of “Transmedia” (a word he’s often given credit for coining). Now “transmedia” is the thing you’re soaking in about 100% of your day whether you want to or not. I personally can’t wait to read his follow-up book, “Spreadable Culture” whenever it comes out. Jenkins is one of the premiere smartypantses thinking about how we ingest story into our lives and how we can be a part of the stories we love. Now that Jenkins has moved from MIT to USC, I hope to see the Hollywood studios learn how to ape his message and figure out how to tell more immersive stories.

 

johnaugust.com – Screenwriter John August

Through his frequent, short, and very informative blogs, screenwriter John August (writer of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Big Fish,” and… I’ll just say it… “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”) brings some phenomenal advice and candidly answers questions. His blogging style (unlike mine…) is short and to-the-point and extremely useful to anyone at any stage in their writing career.

Cinema 5D

If you’re a gearhead like me, Cinema5D.com is a must-read daily. They post video of the most recent gear to be found for indie, low-budget, and DIY filmmakers alike (often all three at the same time). When I wasn’t able to attend the NAB show this year (due to my gig – the one with the NDA), I was able to vicariously live the NAB experience through the daily updates posted by Cinema5D.

 

Deadline Hollywood – Nikki Finke

As the trades have seemingly followed all print down its spiraling dark night of the soul, blogger Nikki Finke and her Deadline Hollywood website have almost replaced Daily Variety for many film professionals. Or at least supplemented it. Often getting the story before it even is a story, Deadline is a great way to keep abreast of trends and movements in the business without having to read all of those pun-and-alliteration-filled Variety headlines.

 

Vincent Laforet

With his touchstone short film “Reverie,” Laforet kicked off the modern DSLR filmmaking movement which is now regularly used in features, TV, music videos, and commercials. And since that short film, Laforet has kept his eye on the cutting edge of image-making with small cameras.

 

Sutter Ink – Kurt Sutter

Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter writes the most completely unvarnished blog. Read his inspired love-hate letter to agents and managers, called “Tenpersensual” here. God help him if his career ever begins to slide, but I can’t thank him enough for his candor and straight-shooting in the meantime. As I read his blog, all I can think about over and over again is the amazing 1966 quote from PJ Proby: “I am an artist and should be exempt from shit.”

The Hurlblog – Shane Hurlbut

ASC Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut is probably best known for having been Christian Bale’s personal anger-sponge on the “Terminator Salvation” set some years back. But that’s not how we should remember him, not at all. An accomplished DP for a few decades, Hurlbut is the Tony Robbins of HDSLR shooting and to hear him talk for five minutes will convince pretty much everyone that they should go make movies. Along with people like Gale Tattersall, Hurlbut will go down as one of the first really-real professional-working-cinematographers to legitimize the small-camera shooting style, and to do it with amazing panache. It’s a little off-topic, but if you want to see how awesome Hurlbut is, check out this educational series he made on HDSLR filmmaking. Seriously, do it!

 

Cheesycam

DIY filmmaking has never been DIY-ier than it is as presented by the fine folks at Cheesycam. Many times per day, they post articles, videos, and even ebay auctions and great deals on things from Amazon.com. I’ve bought a few things they’ve talked about with sometimes mixed results, but it’s inspiring on a daily basis – how little one needs to create an amazing image and how common things – like legos and a bicycle can be retrofitted into usable (if not quite “professional”) camera gear. And that’s not to say that many of the DIY projects on this site might not turn up on your next professional shoot either.

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One comment on “Summer Reading

  1. Interesting post, thanks for the tips. A few of those are on my daily reading list as well. Hurlbut is awesome and shares a lot of real world experience as does Laforet. And Stu, well yeah. One blog that you might want to check out as well is mikejones.tv. He’s a teacher/writer/critic/production kinda guy and his insights are intelligent and intriguing. Highly recommended and fits into your list quite nicely.

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