The Six Day Horror Movie
A No-Nonsense Guide to No-Budget Filmmaking
Michael P. DiPaolo
photographs & illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
244pp. softcover (7 x 10) 2004 $39.95
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An Early Draft From My Book
THE SIX DAY HORROR MOVIE
© 2004 Michael P. DiPaolo
Off with their heads! It's time for a coup d'état! Now that the Digital Revolution is yesterday's internet posting, it's time for anyone with the imagination and energy to chop off the heads of those cost-accounting dinosaurs masquerading as motion picture producers in that non-existent place formerly known as Hollywood. The great Italian Director, Sergio Leone once said something to the effect that, "If America ever betrays the great myths that it has been the home of, then it's time to move on." Well gang, it's time to move on.
Now I can hear you all asking what the hell makes this guy so damn sure? How can anyone working outside those world-wide, corporate-media-monsteropolies, stand a snowballs' chance in hell? Just this, I recently finished DADDY, my first digital feature, after 16 years of struggling to create and distribute four other "underground" features, two on 16mm film and two on video. For the very first time, I can now produce, edit and distribute my entire production exclusively through the use of just one computer and one camcorder.
I was then able to screen the completed feature via a digital projector on a 20-foot screen where the sucker looked and sounded just as pretty as the night I shot her. In addition, a friend and I put together a fully featured DVD on my computer, which is now available to anyone in the entire world with an internet connection via my web site. Let me say this one more time (for effect), I've been making these damn things since 1986 and this is the very first time that the entire process (along with the much higher image and sound quality associated with it) has been available to anyone with access to just one computer and one camera.
However, for me, the really intriguing part of this particular Experiment in Terror was that I shot the entire thing in only six days for $5,000 while paying the cast and crew. And let's get one thing straight before moving on, the really important part of that last statement was about the cast and crew, not the $5,000.
Let me backtrack a bit. I've been in the room with more murderers than most police ever will, videotaping over 2,000 confessions while working at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. Simultaneously I have made five features which were loosely based on fictionalized variations from those confessions. And let me tell you, I've picked up plenty along the way, not just about making films and videos, but also about life and people.
And above all else, I've learned that you have to find out who to play with. I know that sounds like some simplistic kind of bullshit, but let me explain. You will end up wasting more of your time, thus more of your life personally and professionally, by playing with the wrong people than anything else in your entire life. Think about it, all the weeks, months, maybe even years wasted on projects where the bottom falls out over "creative differences" or any close personal relationship that goes bad for whatever reason.
Now unfortunately, I can't help you solve any of your personal problems but I can help you avoid many of the pitfalls you'll encounter dealing with the countless inter-personal relationships that form THE most crucial element in any low-budget production. This critical connection between the creative force behind any project (YOU) and the team you pick to make your dream a reality is usually given short shrift or left out of most film production books, it will be the main focus of this one.
You all know that there are a ton of books out there, and more appearing every other week, on how to shoot a film for $7,000 or $10,000 or $50,000 or $729,385.54. Don't bother looking for that approach in this book. Yeah I know, it takes money to make a film and this book will go into some of those aspects in later chapters, but working with a small budget takes a hell of a lot more than money to get your film made.
I'm getting sick and tired of this constant emphasis on what films cost as opposed to what they say, which is included in just about every article you see concerning "American Independent Film". They all seem to glory in recounting just how much or how little money was spent and how much more money is expected to be made. The articles all sound like lottery winner stories and most of the films look like they were put together by a lottery (on a hope and a prayer) winner, that is, ugly, static, boring coming of age stories with five or six white people standing around talking.
I think it's just a ploy by the major distributors to drive out Foreign Art Films and have unsuspecting, star-struck individuals with credit cards and/or home mortgage loans finance the development departments of those supposed "Independents" who just happen to be owned by one of those major distributors, but I digress.
What I'm trying to say is that many of the aspects of film making we are told are essential, simply are not. This book will attempt to help you make up your own mind about what is essential FOR YOU TO MAKE YOUR FILM YOUR WAY. I can tell you how to make films the way I do, but it probably won't help most of you make your films, but I can tell you how many of the "accepted notions" of film production are not necessarily true and how you can go about finding out what will work for you.
So that's why I've included an early chapter with the somewhat strange title, "Patron Saints of the Underground". All of these movie-making mavericks, most of whom have worked on genre films outside the Hollywood system and include Edgar Ulmer, Val Lewton, Roger Corman, John Cassavetes, Ed Wood and Jean-Luc Godard, found that the only way they could continue making THEIR films THEIR way was to develop a unique working method suited to their own individual creative needs. And surprise! Each and every one of these guys built a devoted team of co-workers around them to help them do it their way.
Another key concept that's especially relevant to anyone making genre films or videos, is cinematic POINT-OF-VIEW. I believe POINT-OF-VIEW to be of such fundamental importance, not only to genre filmmakers but anyone using a camera to tell a story, that I will devote an entire chapter to it. I dedicate it to Alfred Hitchcock, who more than any other filmmaker explored and exploited its possibilities both emotionally and artistically.
In a nutshell, your camera has a lens through which the image is fixed on the film or tape. Thus your lens becomes the spectator's eye and makes the statement "if you could only see things through my eyes" a reality for your audience. Your camera's POINT-OF-VIEW creates your cinematic style, not the story, not the characters, not the art direction, not the special effects, not the budget. And best of all, this is the one of the few elements of your entire production that does not cost you a dime, only your constant vigilance.
Then in the chapter on the ART OF THE AMBUSH, I will break down the filmmaking process into, what I believe are its six essential elements; The Story, The Team, The Plan, The Ambush (Production), The Ambush Metamorphosed (Post Production) and The Ambush Presented (Screenings). These six essential elements are all you absolutely NEED to make your film, everything else and how you go about accomplishing everything else is open and negotiable.
Listen to everyone, hell, anyone but ultimately do it your way and the only way you'll ever learn what your way is, is by knowing as much as you can about other filmmaker's working methods and then actually going out and shooting something, editing it and showing it to someone. Then starting all over again using what you've just learned. And the more you do it, the more you'll learn and the less susceptible you'll be to some "expert" telling you the "only" way to do something is their way. Because, beneath this hidden ground of their seemingly neutral "Instruction" is the profound EFFECT the way you work AFFECTS your finished work.
In filmmaking you can only really know what you've actually lived through and that is the filter through which I will be recounting my experiences to you, but I hope you don't go out and attempt to replicate my experiences or anyone else's, but rather, critically access them in relation to your personality, your experiences and your unique situation. And then decide how to use (or not use) them or come up with something more suited for your particular personality and situation.
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