There are a few books that I own on indie filmmaking, and all of them have helped in their own way. There is one thing I absolutely hate about most of these, though, and that is when the writer makes comments about how impossible it is to break into the movie making scene and how you should basically never expect it to get you anywhere. Maybe that sort of reverse psychology works for some, but all it does for me is make me think that the filmmaking community is too large and complex for me to possibly understand. And if that's the case, why should I buy this guy's/girl's book when I know it won't get me anywhere?
Well, I'd been following the films of director Robert Rodriguez for years, and when I found out he'd written a book on low budget filmmaking, I searched it out. (Note: If you don't know Rodriguez's work, watch Sin City, From Dusk Til Dawn, Grindhouse's Planet Terror, The Faculty, Spy Kids, Desperado, and so on). I'm a slow reader, but I burned through that book within three or four days! The bulk of the book is excerpts from Robert's journal as he went through the process of making his first full length feature film El Mariachi. It's interesting just to read about his trials and tribulations as a young filmmaker desperate to make his movie, but there is also a wealth of information to gain. All kinds of cheap special effects, such as gunshot wounds, are covered, along with inexpensive lighting and camera techniques, and much more.
I think the main thing that I gained from this book, though, was not the tips and tricks but just the downright fiery enthusiasm I had for making my own short film as I read it. It's like it opened a door that I didn't know existed. All the expensive cameras and cranes and lights weren't needed to make a great movie, after all! I have friends who worked on an independent feature, and this book was like the bible on their set, I've been told.
After the journal ends in the book, Rodriguez adds a "10 Minute Film School" section that got me even more excited about getting out there and making my movie. He basically explains everything you need to know in about a chapter length. It's amazing. He also does his "10 Minute Film School" sessions on several of the dvd releases of his movies, as a special feature. All are incredibly helpful.
I'll end with a quote from the book:
"First step to being a filmmaker is stop saying you want to be a filmmaker. It took me forever to be able to tell anyone I was a filmmaker and keep a straight face until I was well on my way. But the truth was I had been a filmmaker ever since the day I had closed my eyes and pictured myself making movies. The rest was inevitable. So you don't want to be a filmmaker, you are a filmmaker. Go make yourself a business card. Next."