This is the first of what I hope will be several guest book reviews in the coming weeks. -JO
From Reel to Deal by Dov S-S Simens
Dov Simens’ From Reel to Deal is, well, the real deal.
Simens, a Hollywood fixture as a film instructor, takes us down into the filmmaking mines with him and sends us home with more than a few gold nuggets.
Having sat at the feet of the master in one of his filmmaking seminars many years ago, I found From Reel to Deal a welcome refresher to a time well spent in class.
Maybe that’s because Simens came across to me as a man with moxie, a little pugnacious as he took us behind the industry veil to reveal the ages-old secrets of film producing.
And Simens’ book is like that – a no-nonsense, bare knuckles step-by-step exposition of what it takes to make an independent film.
If you’re fortunate enough to be shooting on 35mm, take for example Simens’ summary advice for those filmmakers on how they’re viewed by film labs, “Even though you see yourself as a small, low-budget feature filmmaker, to the lab, you’re a big fish. Every lab wants your business.”
Based on that premise, Simens goes on to say, “I beg you, don’t pay retail. Haggle and get your developing and print costs down to at least 30 cents/foot.”
Engaging, informative and in clear, direct language, Simens walks us through all the steps that go into independent filmmaking and, even though the hypothetical budget is set at one million dollars, the information is valuable for any level of independent production.
From an authentic look at oneself as a producer, to pre-production and marketing your film, Simens leads would-be filmmakers from script to budgeting, to production and post, and on to sale and marketing with every stop in between.
Simens gives helpful homework assignments at the close of each chapter (e.g., from chapter 3 on producers, ‘Write down the traits you feel you have to be successful as a producer. Then proceed to the next chapter and compare’ – I’m at various points on the learning curve regarding the hierarchy of proudcer traits found in Chapter 4). He also offers both a list of books and one of contacts pertinent to each particular chapter at each chapter’s conclusion.
For the heart of deal making and its bare bone essentials, Simens book offers what you need to know. But for more of the ins and outs, including many current names and companies in the marketing and distribution arena, I’d recommend I Wake up Screening: What to Do Once You’ve Made That Movie by John Anderson and Laura Kim and The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution by Stacey Parks, each gives good direction for the road to your film’s distribution.
Having implemented many of Dov Simens’ ideas and methods, I can attest to the merit of From Reel to Deal as a valuable tool in the indie film process.