My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"An independent film succeeds or fails on the choices of its creators. There is no safety net."
The Polish Brothers are my kind of filmmakers and this guide is my kind of beginners guide to making films. Honest, enthusiastic and filled with helpful tips.
As a first year film student we were prescribed The Guerrilla Filmmaker's Handbook as THE resource for making movies with next to no budget, even now it is a prescribed text at the university I am working at infact, but whilst that series is hip and trendy it misses out information that young people really need to know when contemplating how to proceed in their fledgling career as a filmmaker. The Polish Brothers Declaration of Independence should replace that text or at the very least work in conjunction with it. These guys have been there, fought the battle to make their dreams a reality, seen the horrors involved and gone back for more time and again and now their experience can be learned from thanks to this book.
Using examples from their first three productions, Twin Falls Idaho, Jackpot and Northfork, you are taken on a journey from concept to distribution that incorporates technical filmmaking advice with details of how a deal is made and encouragement to keep going through even the toughest of times. They have their own unique way of working and they readily admit that this book isn't foolproof but they are more than happy to share their working practices and help others achieve their dreams. If you want to be the next Michael Bay this guide might not be for you but if you have a desire to tell a heartfelt story and possibly go bankrupt then I recommend this book and the films of these brothers wholeheartedly.
I read it cover to cover because I had a real interest in what they had to say on the subject of filmmaking not because I am currently planning on making a movie. Some sections are incredibly dry and not necessary for casual readers but happily a glossary will make referring back to these lessons much easier in future when I have my technical head on. At other times it read like a production journal with fascinating and entertaining insights in to the goings on of a working movie production including how they came to get Nick Nolte involved in Northfork or how they made James Woods cry for example. Throughout I was reminded just how much I enjoy their work and now I appreciate it even more for the hardships that they endured in the name of their art.
And remember next time Zach Braff complains about creative control and being a true artist that to make a real independent film where the filmmaker is in charge creatively, one must sacrifice personal, financial, and physical well-being not just beg their fans for money via the internet or sell 15 second voicemail recordings for $150 a go.
Got a favourite film by The Polish Brothers? Read any other great books on how to kickstart your filmmaking career? Already a filmmaker and want to share your own advice? Comment below or tweet @bbbgtoby with #polishbros