Filmmaking For Dummies, 2nd Edition®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Filmmaking and Storytelling

Part II: Gearing Up to Make Your Film

Part III: Ready to Roll: Starting Production on Your Film

Part IV: Finishing Your Film in Post

Part V: Finding a Distributor for Your Film

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Filmmaking and Storytelling

Chapter 1: So You Want to Be a Filmmaker

Independents Day versus the Hollywood Way

Filmmaking: Traditional or Digital?

Traditional: Super-8, 16mm, or 35mm

Going digital: Standard or high-def

Developing Your Sense of Story

Financing Your Film: Where’s the Money?

On a Budget: Scheduling Your Shoot

Planning Your Shoot, Shooting Your Plan

Hiring Your Cast and Crewing Up

Shooting in the Right Direction

Seeing the light

Being heard and scene

Actors taking your direction

Directing through the camera

Cut It Out! Editing Your Film

Listening to your film

Simulating film with software

Distributing Your Film and Finding an Audience

Chapter 2: Genres in General

Exploring Film Genres

Making ’em laugh with comedy

Getting dramatic about it

Horrifying horror films

Romancing the romantic

Getting physical: No talk and all action

Separating fact from (science) fiction

Indulging your fantasy

Go West, young man: Westerns

Going to war

Thrilling audiences with suspense

Stealing the audience’s attention: Crime pays

Making music with musicals

Kidding around: Family friendly films

Categorizing Your Genres

Featuring films

Made-for-TV movie

Documenting documentaries

Shooting short films: Keep it brief!

Directing television programs

Directing commercials

Minding your PSAs: Public service announcements

Feel like dancing? Music videos

Industrials: Industrial strength

Chapter 3: Penning and Pitching a Great Story

Screening for the Perfect Screenplay

The “write” way to find a writer

Adapting: A novel idea

Writing Your Own Original Screenplay

Structuring your screenplay

Creating conflict

Developing characters

Drafting your screenplay: Scene by scene

Collaborating with writer’s software

Formatting your screenplay

Selling Your Screenplay to a Production Studio, Distributor, or Investor

Getting your foot (and screenplay) in the door

Pitching a home run

Part II: Gearing Up to Make Your Film

Chapter 4: Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film

The Art of Scheduling a Film

Lining your script

Breaking into breakdown sheets

Creating production strips

Stripping down your schedule

Scheduling software to make your life easier

Balancing Your Film Budget

Tightrope walking above the line

Hanging below the line

Topping your budget

Budgeting for budget software

Factoring in a contingency amount

Insurance Is Your Best Policy

Finding an insurance broker

Bond, completion bond

Chapter 5: Financing Your Film

Creating an Enticing Prospectus

Synopsis of your film

Information about you

Info about your cast and crew

Your budget and profit projections

Investigating Investors

Locating potential investors: Show me the money!

Approaching a potential investor

Keeping the Securities and Exchange Commission in mind

Starting a Film Company

Being in the right company

Other things to do to set up your company

Going Escrow

Contracting Your Investor

Tapping into Alternative Sources

Pre-selling your film

Getting a grant

Getting a loan

Bartering: Trade you this for that

Chapter 6: Location, Location, Location

Locating Locations

Managing location scouts and managers

Evaluating potential locations

Taking a picture: Say “cheese” and “thank you”

Sounding Off about Soundstages

Finding — or creating — a sound stage

Putting up walls: Using flats

Shooting in the United States or Crossing the Border?

Researching U.S. government incentives

Traveling to Canada

Locating Stock Footage

Virtual Locations: Creating New Worlds on a Computer

Securing Your Locations

Acquiring permits

Ensuring you’re insured

Mapping out your locations

Policing your locations


Shooting Second-Unit Locations

Chapter 7: Crewing Up: Hiring Your Crew

Something to Crew About

Producing the producer

Directing the direction

Stepping over the line producer

Uniting with a production manager

Supervising the script

Directing photography with a cinematographer

Going with your gaffer

Getting a grip

Sounding like your sound mixer

Booming the sound

Propping up the prop master

Dressing up the wardrobe department

Making up is hard to do

Gopher this, gopher that

Keeping your composer

Editing: Cut that out!

And the rest . . .

Finding and Interviewing Your Crew

Creative Ways to Pay Your Crew

Paying later: Deferments or points

Giving ’em credit

Hiring student bodies

Paying a kit fee

Hiring crew as independent contractors

Union or non-union — that’s the question

Putting a Contract Out on Your Crew

Chapter 8: Assembling Your Cast of Characters

Hooking Your Cast and Reeling Them In

Calling all agents

Casting through casting directors

Placing casting ads

Calling casting services

Accessing actor directories

Screening an Actor’s Information

Headshots and résumés

Taping their act

Spinning an actor’s Web site

Auditioning Your Potential Cast

Creating a friendly environment

Inspecting an actor’s etiquette

Slating on video

Avoiding bitter-cold readings

Monologues leave you all by yourself

Making the Cut: Picking Your Cast

Calling back

Screen testing

And the winners are . . .

Agreeing with Actors’ Agreements

Contracting union players

Contracting non-union players

Securing releases from extras

Chapter 9: Storyboarding Your Film

Understanding the Basics and Benefits of Storyboarding

Setting Up to Storyboard

Breaking down your script

Evaluating each shot

Organizing a shot list

Framing storyboard panels

Deciding What to Include in Each Panel: Putting Pencil to Paper

Choosing the right angles

Imagining camera and actor movement

Boarding your special effects

Sketching out the actors, props, and vehicles

Looking at lighting and location

I Can’t Draw, Even If My Life Depended on It

Designing with storyboard software

Drawing the help of a professional artist

Part III: Ready to Roll: Starting Production on Your Film

Chapter 10: Shooting through the Looking Glass

Choosing the Right Camera

Rolling with film cameras

Recording with digital camcorders

Do You Need Glasses? Types of Lenses and What They Do

The normal lens

Short or wide-angle lens

Going long with telephoto

Zooming in on zoom lenses

Clearing the Air about Filters

Sliding-in or screwing-on: Types of filters

Coloring with filters

Day for night and night for day

Neutral about Neutral density filters


Exposing Yourself to Exposures

F-stopping to a “t”

Shuttering to think

Focusing a Sharper Image: Depth of Field

Chapter 11: Let There Be Lighting!

Lighting Up Your Life

Shedding Some Light on Lighting Jargon

Big Foot-candles: Lighting for film cameras

Lux (and cream cheese): Lighting for digital (SD and HD)

Taking your color temperature

Illuminating with soft light versus hard light

Seeing your iLite

Painting with Light

Spotlight on Lighting Equipment

Shining light on halogens, incandescents, fluorescents, and HMIs

Filming the light of day

You’re on a roll with gels

Reflecting on reflector boards

Opening barn doors: No cows or chickens here

Cooking with cookies, scrims, and diffused glass

Waving flags and snoots

Measuring with light meters

Gathering light on accessories

Blowing a Fuse: Taking Safety Precautions

Chapter 12: Sound Advice: Production Sound

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Assembling a Sound Team

Mixing it up with your mixer

Making room for the boom operator

Choosing Analog or Digital Sound

Analog: The sound of Nagra Falls

DAT recorders and dat’s not all

In the field with digital recorders

Recording with Microphones

Shooting with shotgun microphones

Omni-directional mics

Lapel microphones

Wireless microphones

Using Your Headphones

Walking and Talking: Walkie-Talkies on Set

Listening for Quiet

Shushing the camera: Barney hears you

Silencing footsteps with sound blankets and foot foam

Getting Up to Speed Safe and Sound

Slating with the clapper board

Syncing picture and sound with timecode

Capturing On-Set Ambience

Reporting Your Sound

Chapter 13: Directing Your Actors: . . . And Action!

Getting Your Actors Familiar with the Material — and Each Other

Remembering that familiarity breeds content

Reading through the script: The table read

Adjusting dialogue to make it read naturally

Being a Parent and Mentor to Your Actors — with No Allowance

Preparing Your Actors before the Shoot

Rehearsals, yea or nay?

Rehearsing the characters, not just the lines

Discovering the characters’ backstories

Reading between the lines: Subtext

Exercising and warming up your actors

Acting is reacting

Speaking with body language

Directing Actors during the Shoot

Encouraging your actors to ask questions — but not too many

Reminding your actors that less is more — more or less

Feeling the words, not just memorizing

Blocking, walking, and talking

Taking care of business

Matching actors’ actions

Commending the actors

Chapter 14: A Sense of Direction: Directing Your Film

Focusing on Directing

Directing traits

Training yourself as a director

Translating Script to Screen

Understanding the screenplay

Rewriting or adjusting the script

Visualizing your screenplay

Mapping Out Your Plans for the Camera

Designing storyboards

Creating a shot list

Sketching schematics

Making notes on the script

Planning with models (not the high-fashion kind)

Continuing Continuity with Your Script Supervisor

Got a match?

Inserting coverage and cutaways

Screen direction: Your other left

Taking Your Best Shot

Where the heck are we? Establishing a wide shot

You don’t have to be a psychic to get a medium shot

Two shot: Three’s a crowd

I’m ready for my close-up

Picture This: Deciding When to Move the Camera and Why

Playing with dollies

Craning to get a high shot

Steadying the camera

Part IV: Finishing Your Film in Post

Chapter 15: Cut to: Editing Your Film Frame by Frame

Editing Your Film: Putting One Frame in Front of the Other

Choosing an editor: Who cut this?

Shooting enough coverage

Assembling a first cut

Building a director’s cut

Photo finish: Finalizing a final cut

Listening to the sound editor

Linear versus Non-Linear Editing

Editing in linear

Editing in non-linear

Editing on Your Computer

Hard driving

Cutting it with editing software

Posting your production in your computer

Outputting formats

Developing a Relationship with Your Film Lab

Developing negatives, producing prints, and more

Being positive about a negative cutter

Color-correcting your film: As plain as black and white

Answering your first film print

Cloning, Not Copying; Cloning, Not Copying

Chapter 16: Posting Your Film’s Soundtrack: Adding Music & Effects to the Mix

Finishing Sound in Postproduction

Stirring up the mixer’s toolbox

Mixing the right balance

Looping the loop

Creating Sound Effects with a Bang

Listening to sound-effects libraries

Creating and recording your own sound effects

Getting to know Jack Foley

Adding room tone: Ambience or background sounds

Scoring Big with Music

Conducting a composer to set the mood

Composing your own music

The sound of music libraries

Playing with original songs

Orchestrating the rights to popular music

Cueing up cue sheets

Singing songs in the public domain

Outputting Your Final Mix

Surrounding sound

Separating music and effects tracks for foreign release

Chapter 17: Conjuring Up Special Effects

Creating Effects: In or Out of Camera?

Dropping in Backgrounds

Turning blue and green

Dishing out special-effects plates

Painting scenery into your shots: Matte paintings

Have you seen scenic backdrops?

Clipping your magazines

Weathering the storm

Downsizing Miniatures

Looking down on miniatures

Forcing the perspective, forcefully

Climbing the walls

Creating Effects Right in the Camera

Backward about reverse photography

Double exposure, double exposure

Speeding slowly

Creating effects with lenses and filters

Exploding Effects on Fire

Making Up Your Mind about Make-Up Effects

Applying prosthetics

Here’s looking at scleral lenses

Take a bite out of this

Chapter 18: Giving Credit and Titles

Titling Your Film

Writing a Running List of Names and Positions

Spelling it write

Entitled to a credit

Designing Your Titles and Credits

Designing the style with fonts

Animating your main title and credits

Digital or optical credits

Crediting without a computer

Rolling Your Title and Credits

Timing the opening and ending credits

Ordering your title and credits

Ensuring the safety of your credits

Covering Your Eyes: Stripping Titles for Foreign Textless

Part V: Finding a Distributor for Your Film

Chapter 19: Distributing Your Film

Understanding How Distribution Works

Presenting Your Film to Distributors

Posting a poster of your film

Picturing the set photographer

Pulling your audience in with a trailer

Premiering your film

Distributing Your Film Domestically

Minding media rights

Anticipating ancillary rights

Meeting domestic buyers at the Home Media Expo

Distributing Your Film around the World

Selling your film at the super markets

Negotiating: How much for your film?

Speaking their language

Finding a Reliable Distributor or Sales Agent

The best domestic distributors

The best foreign distributors

Demystifying Distribution Contracts

Insuring for errors and omissions

Accounting for creative bookkeeping

Chapter 20: Exploring and Entering Film Festivals

Demystifying Film Festivals

Judging the difference between a film festival and a film market

Screening the benefits of entering film festivals

Entering and Winning Secrets

Submitting a work-in-progress — Don’t!

Entering the right festivals for your film

Choosing the appropriate genre and category

Writing a great synopsis of your film

Picture perfect: Selecting the best photos from your film

Sending the best format

Entering without a box

Getting an entry-fee discount

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten Tips for Discovering New Talent

Viewing Independent Films

Watching Local Theater

Attending Actors’ Showcases

Visiting Acting Schools

Talking to Agents and Managers

Searching the Academy Players Directory

Schmoozing at Film Festivals and Markets

Walking Down the Street

Holding Talent Contests

Starring Your Family

Chapter 22: Ten Ways to Get Publicity for Your Film

Submitting a Press Release

Doing a TV or Radio Interview

Getting a Review from Movie Critics

Mailing Out DVD Screeners

Attending Film Festivals

E-Mailing and Setting Up a Web Site

Designing T-Shirts and Other Premiums

Planning a Publicity Stunt

Organizing a Screening Party or Charity Event

Placing an Ad

Chapter 23: Ten Ways to Avoid Murphy’s Law

Testing the Camera

Scouting Locations for Noise

Watching the Weather Channel

Backing Up Locations and Actors

Using a Stunt Double

Standing by with First-Aid Kit or Medic on Set

Anticipating that Cellphones and Internet Don’t Work Everywhere

Mapping Out Directions

Providing Plenty of Parking

Securing Security Overnight

Powering Up Ahead of Time

Chapter 24: Ten Best Filmmaking Periodicals

The Hollywood Reporter

Daily Variety



Entertainment Weekly

People Magazine

American Cinematographer

DV Magazine

MovieMaker Magazine

StudentFilmmakers Magazine

Praise Pages

From “Fade In” to “Fade Out”, from “Action” to reaction, Bryan Stoller gives us a comprehensive understanding of the arts and sciences of making movies. Filmmaking For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is the smartest book I’ve read on the subject.

— Peter Saphier, Producer of Scarface and executive
at Paramount Pictures

Bryan is an extraordinary filmmaker. He writes, produces, directs, and is
fearless in raising money for the projects he believes in. He is wise beyond his years and an independent force to be reckoned with.

— George W. Perkins, Executive Producer of
Desperate Housewives

Amazing . . . that’s a one word description for Bryan Michael Stoller’s book.

— Diana Y. Holliday, aspiring filmmaker (Amazon review)

Filmmaking For Dummies 2nd Edition


About the Author

Bryan Michael Stoller is an international-award-winning filmmaker who has produced, written, and directed over 80 productions that include short comedy films, half-hour television shows, music videos, commercials, and feature films. Bryan and his films have been featured on Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, as well as in many newspapers and periodicals, including The Los Angeles Times, Premiere Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, and People Magazine. The first edition of Filmmaking For Dummies was featured along with Bryan in interviews on CNN, E! Entertainment, NBC Dateline, and with Katie Couric.

Bryan’s film career began at the early age of 10, when he hosted the network series Film Fun with his little sister Nancy on The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1981, Bryan moved to Los Angeles to attend the American Film Institute.

His comedy shorts entitled Undershorts have appeared on ABC’s Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders hosted by Don Rickles and Steve Lawrence, and NBC’s TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon. Bryan’s parody, The Linda Blair Witch Project, starring Linda Blair possessed by famous comedians, streamed on Steven Spielberg’s Web site. Bryan’s Light Years Away trailer streamed on Spielberg’s Web site.

Bryan’s work has appeared on major U.S. networks including NBC, ABC, HBO, and DirecTV. His top-rated episode of George Romero’s Tales from the Darkside continues to run as a late-night favorite in syndication. His films have screened at MIFED in Italy, the Cannes Film Festival in France, and the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. His screenplays have also won acclaimed awards at the Burbank Film Festival and the Santa Clarita International Film Festival.

You can find Bryan’s award-winning film Undercover Angel, which stars Yasmine Bleeth (Baywatch, Nash Bridges), Dean Winters (HBO’s OZ, 30 Rock), James Earl Jones, Casey Kasem, and Emily Mae Young (of Welch’s Juice commercials) at any Blockbuster video or Wal-Mart store. The film has aired on UPN, Lifetime, Showtime, Bravo, and PAX TV.

In his 2001 mockumentary Hollywood Goes to Las Vegas (winner of the Telly Award), Bryan’s dream of meeting actress Sandra Bullock finally came true. The program includes appearances by Haley Joel Osment, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Chris Rock, Sylvester Stallone, and Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe. In various other productions, Bryan has also directed George Carlin, Howie Mandel, Gilbert Gottfried, Barbra Streisand, Drew Barrymore, Jerry Lewis, and Dan Aykroyd. Dolly Parton wrote and recorded four original songs for one of Bryan’s films.

King of Pop Michael Jackson, after making an appearance in Bryan’s feature film, Miss Castaway & the Island Girls (also known as Silly Movie 2) developed with Bryan the big-screen adaptation of Jennings Michael Burch’s book They Cage the Animals at Night. Bryan wrote the screenplay for Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions.

Bryan continues to teach filmmaking seminars for The Learning Annex in the United States, as well as the Summer Film Institute and Alan Morissette’s “What Do I Do Now?” seminars in Canada. He also teaches film and screenwriting at various venues including the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles, and acting techniques at various industry schools in the Los Angeles area, including Action in Acting, APS, The Casting Break, and the Creative Actor’s Alliance, as well as internationally in Canada’s capitol for the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.

For more information on Bryan, check out his official Web site at


To my Mom, who claims the film credit “Producer of the Director” on all my movies. To my Dad (who played the ambassador in my movie The Random Factor) — I miss you. And to my dog, Little Bear, who can’t wait to get a copy of this book — he’ll just eat it up, literally.

Author’s Acknowledgments

The undertaking of this book has been very much like that of producing a movie. And of course, like the production of a film, this book wouldn’t have been possible without all the help and support of such wonderful individuals.

I’d like to thank again Natasha Graf, the acquisitions editor for the first edition of this book, for her kindness and understanding and for believing in me; and Alissa D. Schwipps, my original editor, who made the writing of this book such an enjoyable experience. I’d also like to thank Michael Lewis and Tracy Barr for their help with the second edition.

Additional thanks goes out to family and friends who were there for support and feedback, including my sisters, Nancy and Marlene, and my friends,
Gary Bosloy, Russel Molot, Tim Peyton, Peter Emslie, Tina and Alan Fleishman, Noah Golden, and Kamilla Bjorlin. To my friends Frank Tyson and Michael Jackson — thank you for allowing me to spend some writing time up at Neverland Ranch. Thanks to Alan Samuels, Philip Silver, and Jeremy Grody for reviewing some of the technical aspects in the sound chapters; Gloria Everett for being a sounding board on the budget and scheduling chapters; Cara Shapiro for reviewing the accuracy of the chapter on distribution; and my attorney, Michael E. Morales. And last but not least, thanks to Robert Caspari for being a true friend and a genius in his own right, and for his expertise on the technical review of this book.

And a special thanks to Jerry Lewis. It shows that life is magical when one of your favorite actor/filmmakers writes a foreword to your book!

My Cine-cere thanks to you all.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Tracy L. Barr

Previous Edition: Alissa D. Schwipps

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Technical Editor: Robert Caspari

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistant: Joe Niesen

Cover Photos: © Creatas Images

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Erin Smith

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Melissa K. Jester, S.D. Jumper, Christin Swinford

Special Art:

Proofreaders: Joni Heredia, Caitie Kelly

Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


ertrude Stein said, “A rose, is a rose, is a rose,” and Jerry Lewis says, Filmmaking For Dummies is a kind of book, a kind of book, a kind of book that all new and old film students can learn from.

It’s the brainchild of Bryan Michael Stoller, whose company is Stellar Entertainment, and from the looks of this book, he’s consistent.

He began in Canada at the age of 10 and knew then that he had to do it all, and he does — writes, produces, directs, and keeps away from acting because that’s Jack Nicholson country, and no one ever wants to be there.

I met Bryan on the set of a film I was making at the time called Slapstick. It should have been called Helter Skelter. . . . Never have so many been killed by one bad idea.

But this kid Bryan worked his little heart out filming behind-the-scenes footage of Slapstick, and if the studio had been smart, it would have released what he shot! We might have had a winner.

Although our meeting was over 20 years ago, I still recall watching one of his early films in my trailer dressing room between shots and I can remember how impressed I was. And I knew he was good. . . . And I am never wrong when I’m jealous. So read on, you fledglings, and see if his book can help you fly to stardom.

—Jerry Lewis
Actor, comedian, and author of The Total Film-Maker


Welcome to the wonderful world of filmmaking. Whether you love the escape of watching movies or the excitement, challenge, and magic of making a film yourself, this book is an informative, entertaining guide to help you realize your dream. For the beginning filmmaker, this book is your primer and reference guide to making a movie. For the seasoned professional, it’s a perfect refresher course (with many new ideas) before starting your next big flick.

This book is not only for the professional filmmaker, but for anyone interested in making a film, whether you’re an actor, a factory worker, or an office employee, and whether you’re unemployed, retired, or independently wealthy. This book will inspire you to reach for your filmmaking goals — and it will be a great adventure along the way! Filmmaking For Dummies, 2nd Edition, comes out of my filmmaking experiences — both my successes and my mistakes — and is bursting with helpful information and secret tips to assist you in making your own successful movie.

In 1987, I directed an episode of Tales from the Darkside entitled “The Bitterest Pill.” The show was about a crazy inventor who created a pill that gave him total recall. The premise of the episode was that knowledge is power. A little innocent-looking pill allowed you to remember everything you ever saw, ever heard — right back to the day the doctor pulled you from the womb and slapped you on the behind! With Filmmaking For Dummies, 2nd Edition, you gain the knowledge and thus the power to be a filmmaker. Whether you’re a great filmmaker depends on how you apply this knowledge. Like the pill in my Tales from the Darkside episode, this book gives you all the knowledge you need to get started (it’s up to you to recall it) and is your prescription for filmmaking — so read it and call your distributor in the morning!

About This Book

I’ve written this book with over 30 years of hands-on experience (I started young and naïve at the age of 10), so I know everything I talk about in this book through trial and error. I can save you a lot of time, trouble, and money because I’ve been there before — this book helps make your first time on the set seem more like you’ve been there before, too.

This book contains valuable information on:

Writing or finding a screenplay

Raising financing for your film

Budgeting and scheduling your movie

Hiring the right actors and crew

Choosing the right camera and medium (digital, video, or motion picture film)

Planning, shooting, and directing your film

Putting your movie together in the editing room

Finding a distributor to get your film in front of an audience

Entering (and maybe even winning) film festivals

The new age of filmmaking includes the advent of digital technology (including high definition), so throughout this book, all creative elements apply, whether you’re shooting with film stock or with a camcorder that records onto either videotape or digital files. Technically, shooting on film or recording to videotape or digital files is different, as I address in each particular example — but you soon realize that the similarities beat out the differences.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you pick out information from a page, I use the following conventions throughout the text to make elements consistent and easy to understand:

Web addresses appear in a special font (like www.bryanmichael, so you can easily pick them out.

New terms appear in italics and are closely followed by an easy-to- understand definition. Movie titles and the names of TV shows also appear in italics.

Bold highlights the action parts of numbered steps or keywords in bulleted lists.

What You’re Not to Read

Everything in this book is worth reading: It’s all interesting and relevant to filmmaking, but not all of it is essential. You can safely skip the following bits of information without missing any need-to-know information:

Text with a Technical Stuff icon beside it goes into behind-the-scenes or technical aspects of a topic. While riveting to those who like the back story, this information isn’t strictly necessary.

Sidebars, which look like text enclosed in a shaded gray box, consist of information that’s interesting to know but not necessarily critical to your understanding of the chapter or section topic. If you do stop to read a sidebar, you’ll either gain something you’ll appreciate or at the very least be entertained.

Foolish Assumptions

In writing this book, I made some assumptions about you:

You have some knowledge of the Internet and have access to the Web sites I list. I direct you to some pretty nifty sites to get free downloads, special software deals, and fun stuff to look at. Keep in mind, however, that Web addresses can change or become obsolete, so be prepared to find a few that may lead to a black hole in cyberspace.

You also like to watch movies and are interested in how they’re made so that you can make some of your own.

You may be a beginner with a consumer camcorder or a seasoned professional who wants to make an independent film.

If you don’t want to actually make movies, you’re a film buff who wants to know what goes on behind the scenes.

This book can’t possibly cover every aspect of running a camera and putting together a film. So if you don’t know the difference between a camera’s eyepiece and the lens, and which end to look through, pick up other books that are more specific to the technical aspects of filmmaking. You may also want to pick up other For Dummies books that complement this one, such as Digital Video For Dummies, by Keith Underdahl; Screenwriting For Dummies, by Laura Schellhardt; and Breaking into Acting For Dummies, by Larry Garrison and Wallace Wang (all published by Wiley). After you start making your own films, you may need to read these books: Stress Management For Dummies (Elkin) and High Blood Pressure For Dummies (Rubin).

How This Book Is Organized

This book is divided into six parts — from the screenplay, all the way to the distribution — and of course the ever popular Part of Tens. These six parts are each self-contained, so they help you understand the filmmaking experience regardless of what order you read them in. If you’re more interested in finding material or writing a screenplay, Part I will be of interest to you. If you want to know more about distribution before you decide to make a film, then you’ll want to look at Part V first.

Part I: Filmmaking and Storytelling

This part introduces you to the world of filmmaking and the excitement behind it. You see all the different genres to choose from to help you decide which one works best for your movie. This part also helps guide you to the right material, whether a short story, a news article, a true biographical story, or a completed screenplay.

Part II: Gearing Up to Make Your Film

This part shows you where to find financing for your film so that you can schedule and budget accurately. The preproduction process also includes finding the perfect location for the setting of your film, and finding the perfect crew. You audition actors and choose performers who will bring life to the characters in your screenplay. While you’re gearing up for the actual shoot, you’re also organizing your ideas for your shots on paper in the form of sketched images called storyboards.

Part III: Ready to Roll: Starting Production on Your Film

In this part, I introduce you to the magical box that captures your story on film stock, videotape, or digital files — it’s called the camera. In a non-technical style, I explain how the camera and lens work. You see how lighting is more a science than just pointing some lamps in a particular direction. Sound is an important element to your production, and after reading this part, you may notice your hearing has become more acute.

This part also helps you work with your actors to get the best and most believable performances in front of the camera. I also cover the multifaceted job of the director — from a technical and creative sense. Now with the new age of digital technology (including high definition), anyone with a camcorder can go out and make a modest movie (with virtually no budget).

Part IV: Finishing Your Film in Post

In this part, you discover the magic of non-linear editing and how you can even possibly salvage bad scenes and make them work in postproduction. With computer software and editing technology, you can turn your home computer into a powerful postproduction editing system — and affordably, too! In this part, you also begin working with a composer to set your film to music, enhancing the visuals with sound effects, and employing other postproduction sound techniques that make your movie sound great. Special visual effects don’t have to be expensive, and you see how you can do many effects with the camera without exploding your budget. This stage in production is also the time to thank everyone who worked on the production by giving them the appropriate recognition in the opening or ending credit roll of your film.

Part V: Finding a Distributor for Your Film

This part deals with one of the most important aspects of the filmmaking process because, without distribution, no one will ever see your masterpiece, and your investors will never make their investment back — or any chance of a profit. You may want to read this part first so that you’re aware of the commercial elements your film needs in order to get a distributor who can sell it successfully in the domestic markets (the U.S. and Canada), as well as the international territories. Along with finding the right distributor, you may also want to enter your film in film festivals to try to garner some award attention. (Film festivals can help attract a distributor if you haven’t found one at this point.)

Part VI: The Part of Tens

For Dummies books are famous for The Part of Tens. Here, I share ten great tips on how to find talent for your film, along with how to raise attention through proper publicizing after your movie is finished. I talk from experience about ten ways to save you time, trouble, and money — maybe even save your production. I also list the ten best magazines and periodicals to keep you informed on the entertainment industry and to help you find some great material for your film.

Icons Used in This Book

This book uses icons to bring attention to things that you may find helpful or important.

Tip.eps This icon shares tips that can save you a lot of time and trouble.

Remember.eps This icon is a friendly reminder of things that you don’t want to forget about when making a film.

cinemasecret.eps This icon reveals secrets you’ll know only from reading this book. These secrets lead you to helpful filmmaking information not known by the masses. But don’t tell anyone — it’s a secret!

Warning(bomb).eps This icon makes you aware of things that can negatively impact your film, so be sure to heed the advice here.

TechnicalStuff.eps Information that appears beside this icon is interesting, but nonessential. It shares filmmaking esoterica that, as a budding filmmaker or film buff, you’ll find interesting but don’t need to know. Consider these fun-but-skippable nuggets.

Where to Go from Here

Unlike watching a film from beginning to end, you can open this book in the middle and dive right in to making your film. Filmmaking For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is written in a non-linear format, meaning you can start anywhere and read what you want to know in the order you want to know it. This means that you can start on any chapter in this book and move around from chapter to chapter in no particular order — and still understand how to make a film. You can even read from back to front if you’re so inclined.

Part I

Filmmaking and Storytelling


In this part . . .

You’re reading this book because either you want to be a movie mogul or you already are one. You’ve chosen an exciting career or hobby, and this part puts the world of filmmaking into perspective for you and sets you on track for a cinematic adventure.

In this part, I introduce you to the different film genres so you can decide what kind of story you want to share with an audience. I also guide you through a crash course on the process of writing an original screenplay — or finding a commercial script and getting the rights to produce it.