Filmmaker, instructor, and now author Dov S-S Simens has written a much-anticipated and long overdue guide to the independent film business. In what is certain to become an independent filmmaker’s bible, From Reel to Deal provides a down-and-dirty, in-your-face, comprehensive explanation of each critical step in the independent filmmaking process. The book offers fundamental and practical advice that, if utilized properly, according to Simens, takes away any excuses aspiring independent filmmakers may have for failing to bring their ideas to the big screen.
Each chapter of this book serves as a lecture on a specific phase of the filmmaking process -- from the writing of the script, to the renting and purchasing of materials, to the hiring of the talent, to the production of the film, to the distribution of the final product. Simens details what each phase is, what needs to be accomplished to successfully move through it, and how to conserve money, time, energy and resources along the way. Each chapter concludes with a short, focused “to do list” offering concise directions about how to master critical skills as well as an extensive list of resources to obtain more comprehensive information on each topic covered. This clear and concise organization adds to the book’s value as it enables the filmmaker to immediately pinpoint the portion of the book relevant to the stage s/he is working through.
Since a lack of financial resources is a reality that plagues independent filmmakers, this issue is a pervasive theme throughout the guide. While the book is painstakingly honest about the inevitability of financial roadblocks, it makes it clear that a lack of money should not prevent a film’s completion. To simplify matters, the book outlines the “38 Steps of Filmmaking” which represent the thirty-eight checks that filmmakers will need to complete a feature film. The text outlines the approximate amount each check will be made out for and the specific purpose for each expenditure. It goes on to explain the importance of each check as it relates to the final product, making it very clear which checks are critical to the film’s success (bad sound will kill even the best film production) and which checks leave room for additional flexibility (you, as the key player in the film, are unlikely to need any funding above and beyond rent and food, right?). Also provided are simple strategies to negotiate the best deals to ensure that each check is written for the smallest amount possible without sacrificing the quality of the final product. In short, you will learn what to expect to pay if you are paying retail, why you should never pay retail, and seemingly simple tactics to insure you achieve this result.
Just as methodically as the book points out the myriad problems filmmakers are likely to face, it discounts those issues that the author believes can be summarily dismissed as not being the filmmaker’s to resolve (the union thing… it’s a problem, but not yours). Simens explains the harsh reality that since filmmakers are faced with so many problems they must work through, there will be no time or energy to spend on resolving (or even thinking about) any problems other than their own.
This book truly is the real deal for anyone interested in learning about the process of independent filmmaking and I highly recommend it for filmmakers of all levels of expertise.