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Quiet on the set

The rise of digital video has brought amateur filmmakers into the big time. Do yourself a favor if you want to look pro: read this book.

I can’t make your movie,” Dean writes in the introduction, issuing a cranky plea for screenwriters to stop sending him their scripts. For those who still don’t get it, he adds, “Do it yourself.” With his guide to indie filmmaking, “$30 Film School” (Muska & Lipman Publishing), aspiring auteurs can do just that. Even better, they can do it on the cheap. Why pay tuition at some fancy-schmancy film school when you can plunk down $30 and get an education in the trade?

Thanks to the rise of digital video, low-cost filmmaking is becoming more widespread, and Dean writes an efficient, no-nonsense guide for anyone who wants to make real films in the new medium. There are no tips on shooting your kid’s birthday party here. The book is purely for readers who want to learn about boom mikes, advanced film editing, using sound programs, DVD authoring, and even e-mail promotion.

Dean doesn’t confine himself to the nuts-and-bolts of the digital world, however. He offers many tips about the basics of making a good film, and the chapter on filming techniques should be required reading for every neophyte cinematographer, from the rank amateur to the recent NYU film school grad. Also included are interviews with filmmakers and artists who’ve been through the process and not only survived, but still want to give advice about it.

The writing is devoid of any nuance or subtlety, so if you’re looking for a gentle essay about the value of independent cinema, stick with Salon.com. This is a guide so stripped bare of charm that it’s like “The Blair Witch Project” on paper, and hopefully, it’ll prove just as popular, because Dean has a lot of insight worth hearing. Just don’t send him the results of your first screenwriting efforts.

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