Movie Maniac

Advice, sites and blogs if you want to make a movie

I often get asked, "How did you get to be such an amazing filmmaker?"

Well, OK, I never get asked that, but it doesn't stop me from making movies. And I — like many DIY filmmakers — do most of the pre- and post-production work myself.

That means lots of research — we spend more time on the Internet than we actually do sleeping, stumbling blindly in search of helpful tips or meaningful inspiration. Or coupons for free hot dogs.

Well stumble no more. Welcome to my amazingly helpful Filmmaker's Friend installment of Movie Maniac, where I share some of my top-secret filmmaker resources. And by "top-secret" I mean that anyone can get access to them, you just have to know where to look.

First off, a disclaimer: This is a digital world we live in, so I consider any form of moviemaking to be "filmmaking" (just like an "album" is now a CD or digital download). I don't jump around the word "filmmaking" by using "moviemaking" just because it's shot with a digital camera and not on actual film. It's all about telling a story.

Pre-production and writing

* Having trouble getting that script going? Go Into the Story ( is an invaluable resource for screenwriters, offering tips for getting creativity flowing and problem-solving your character development.

* As I've mentioned before, John August ( —who frequently collaborates with Tim Burton (including on the upcoming "Frankenweenie") — also writes a helpful, thoughtful blog about writing screenplays while giving insight into the actual business of Hollywood.

* For funding ideas, try several of those new-fangled "crowd-funding" sites such as or , where you can offer perks for people who choose to donate to your project (such as giving them screen credit or offering to clean their house).


* With the rise of digital SLR cameras that shoot high-definition — in addition to the already staggering number of digital video cameras out there — finding the right one can be daunting.

I highly recommend the blog at , written by Stu Maschwitz, a filmmaker, photographer and writer. It's the single best camera resource I've found — he often compares cameras and their features in easy-to-understand ways that even my lower intelligence can comprehend.

And he's an ingenious developer, too (as creative director for Red Giant Software's amazing Magic Bullet video manipulation software line). Maschwitz knows of what he speaks — and he speaks it well.

Editing, special effects

* Film Riot ( is a video tutorial series that offers helpful tips with hilarious flair.

The show is just plain entertaining — any film buff would enjoy it (mostly because of goofy, hyperactive host Ryan Connelly) —but it's also amazingly informative. There are now 85 short episodes (about five minutes each) that cover everything from casting to camera angle selection to achieving digital or homemade special effects. It's the most helpful how-to site I've come across, and it's hysterical fun.

* For an introduction into the world of special effects with Adobe After Effects (which is widely used but incredibly hard to master), check out , which offers 10 free video tutorials on After Effects techniques, from titling to animation to keying. It's surprising that this intuitive level of instruction is free, but the hook is that developers want you to buy their more advanced tutorials, and you won't be able to master those without knowing the basics.


* Indietalk ( is an online community full of forums with people seeking advice or guidance in their writing or filmmaking endeavors.

* Withoutabox (, the almost universally used film festival submission service, has boards that are overflowing with filmmakers venting frustrations over the festival system or filmmaking world. You should know what you're getting yourself into — and these filmmakers hold nothing back in revealing their pain, anguish or — if they're lucky — exhilaration.