An instructional manual on film directing, inspired by the making of a “microbudget” movie.
It might seem impossible to make a feature-length movie about a man trapped inside a car by a mudslide on a budget of only $40,000. However, Dickerson did just that, and he turned the experience of directing the film Detour into a book that’s both an enlightening primer for filmmakers and a behind-the-scenes memoir. The author treads somewhat in the footsteps of William Goldman’s landmark book Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983) as he lays out the laborious process of putting together a screenplay, using scenes from such films as Mulholland Drive (2001), Witness (1985), Taxi Driver (1976), and Schindler’s List (1993) as examples. Having previously made several short films, he envisioned Detour as a “minimalist action film,” initially intending to make it for only $10,000 in a garage, “using a junker that I would buy on Craigslist and a whole lot of dirt.” He runs into some “financing follies,” however, that tie him up for some two years and educate him about the dangers of being “seduced” by Hollywood. Like biting into a coconut, he warns his readers, “you’ll find it’s impenetrable, and your attempt futile, no matter how badly you want inside of it.” Once filming begins, Dickerson dishes out intriguing insider info for would-be directors—it’s a good idea, for example, to pick up a box of doughnuts on the way to the set no matter what your budget is. He also effectively details the creative and technical challenges he faced, such as how he completely buried actor Neil Hopkins in mud and how he found a reasonable facsimile of a dead bird. “It’s vital to never lose sight of that DIY mentality that compelled you to write and make the movie in the first place,” he advises. Detour eventually got its premiere at the famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It was a vindication of Dickerson’s belief, shown throughout this book, that, by using digital video and other tools, “We can all make, and release, a movie.”
A breezy guide that takes readers inside the sometimes hair-raising world of do-it-yourself filmmaking, capturing its many frustrations and challenges.