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05/30/2007 - BOOK REVIEW: FAST, CHEAP & WRITTEN THAT WAY
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"BOOK REVIEW: FAST, CHEAP & WRITTEN THAT WAY - Top Screenwriters on Writing for the Low-Budget Movies"
Author: John Gaspard
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 10 19329077300

I will admit two things: 1. I'm on the verge of making my own low-budget film and, 2. I've only seen four of the 23 films talked about in this book. Thank God for Netflix.

This is a companion to the equally great book: "Fast Cheap & Under Control" about the making of low-budget films.

John Gaspard has collected 23 interviews from the screenwriters (and sometime directors) of many low budget films. Some of these films have been nominated for Academy Awards ("Capote") while others have taken their rightful place in the genre upon which they reside ("Re-Animator"). You will find every type and stripe of film here from period pieces to adaptations to original works.

What makes this book excellent but equally frustrating for a wannabe film-maker as myself, is that the interviewees all have different stories. I know that may sound like an odd statement but couldn't they all have done it easily? So I could feel better about making my film? - Yes, I'm kidding. :)

Of course the reality is that these interviewees talk of their struggles, their lucky breaks, the use of a connection or two. How something fell into someone's lap, how an investor walked through the door just at the right time, how they got that great shot, how they stretched that $5 into $10 or begged, borrowed or stole their way to a completed film.

John Gaspard ends the book with a "Thirty Lessons" learned chapter where he explores the lessons he learned while interviewing these writers. This chapter is worth the price alone.

The book is both fascinating and empowering. It makes me want to make my film even more so I can learn from their mistakes and, sadly, make my own.

My only complaints about this book is that I would have liked two things: I would have liked a capsule description of each film. Since I was unfamiliar with 19(!) of them, that would have helped me understand a bit what the writer was talking about in terms of plot line or story instead of gleaning it from how they answered the questions.

And, though Mr. Gaspard gives the reader a page of distributor and release year of all the films discussed, I would have liked more information such as how wide the release was, running time, how much the original budget was, how much the film actually cost and how much it made. Plus a little more on the writers themselves, other films they have written or works they have written would have been excellent.

Ultimately this is a great book exploring the idea of the low-budget film world through the writers that created it! Everyone started somewhere, that somewhere is described here.

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