"The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide" Book Review

Written by Robert Gold

Published by Focal Press

Written by Anthony Q. Artis
2014, 370 pages, Reference
Book released on May 5th, 2014


In my review for Anthony Artis' The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide, I praised the author's ability to share basic behind-the-camera knowledge in a way that was both simple and direct without talking down to the reader. His earlier book, The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide, is now being reissued in a Second Edition that expands upon the information originally provided in 2007 and addresses the advancements in technology; specifically regarding production equipment. This updated edition provides insight on new cameras and sound gear while stressing that the basic approach to the work remains consistent even as the tools for the job change.

Artis approaches the content as a street-smart veteran without time to waste on fantasies of working with a multi-million dollar budget. By offering a candid, straight-talk approach to the task at hand, he easily avoids the trappings of other text books and successfully keeps the subject matter interesting. In short, he provides a blueprint of sorts that, if followed, will minimize a lot of the headaches that plague productions no matter what the budget.

In what appears to be the template for the Shut Up and Shoot books, the layout begins with an overview of what to expect when heading into a production. Each chapter includes a brief aside titled “Been There, Done That”, written by a professional member of the relevant field, bringing additional information in an anecdotal format that reinforces the broad strokes of the piece as a whole. These essays are often paired with “Hot Tips” for troubleshooting along the way.

Chapter one stresses the importance of thorough pre-production and instructs readers on how to choose a topic strong enough to warrant documenting, and where to look when researching the subject. Once you know what you want to study, Artis offers tips on fundraising, assembling gear and selecting your crew.

Locations and logistics are the focus of the second chapter, as it is important to have a plan for maximizing the time you have to create the documentary. The next three chapters encourage readers to familiarize themselves with the camera, lights and sound gear so that they can be easily operated in the field where not every element can be controlled. Safety should always be a top priority and a respect for those around you is a must.

Chapters seven and eight zero in on the art of conducting an interview, stressing the importance of putting your subjects at ease, and making them look good. It is also critical for the filmmaker to be familiar with the specific topics being discussed in order to effectively engage the conversation. Artis offers an overview of technique and how best to ask relevant questions. From here, we move to chapter nine, which covers post production and editing and how the information can and should be presented to draw the appropriate conclusions.

While the Shut Up and Shoot books are awesome, they are by no means the final word on the subject and Artis is nice enough to include a list of “Recommended Reads” for additional information on filmmaking. There is also a thorough glossary of the many items and objects covered in these pages, as well as an index for quick reference. Just as the other book offered additional info via its website, there is a corresponding page here that offers links to camera guides, sample release forms, storyboards, checklists, tutorials and more. If you are considering making a documentary at some point, please check out this book before you shoot, as it will spare you many mistakes and setbacks.


Overall: Grade Cover
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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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