My classmates and colleagues and I have a particular way of speaking to each other when we discuss film and filmmaking, and after three years of film school the language we share is fairly rich and fairly idiosyncratic. One of the expressions we like to use is “from soup to nuts,” which means from beginning to end (back in the early 19 somethin-or-others, a meal at a restaurant started with soup and ended with nuts).
How long is the movie, from soup to nuts?
How much is the camera package going to cost, from soup to nuts?
Wow! She took first prize at Sundance!? How much did she win, from soup to nuts?
You get the idea. You’ll notice that the three examples I gave all have to do with money. That’s because, to be perfectly honest, film school is an expensive endeavor. I’m sure I speak for all my classmates when I say that we wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. We’re doing what we love, we’re getting better at doing it, and we’re surrounded by people who support and believe in our work, and we know that once we enter the professional filmmaking world we probably won’t be in such a comfortable environment. That’s not to say, though, that everything about filmmaking is prohibitively expensive. The actual equipment one needs to make a film, from soup to nuts, is very affordable. Chances are, you already own the major components. They are:
A video camera:
Most new video cameras shoot onto memory cards. The new handheld, consumer grade cameras yield a really impressive image, and they shoot in HD, but cameras that shoot on standard definition mini-DV are great, too. They’re just as easy to use, they have all the ports necessary to edit footage, and the fact that you’re shooting onto tape gives you the added security of having actual masters, meaning a tangible copy of the original footage you can archive.
A computer with at least 100 gigs of hard drive space:
For the Digital Filmmaking for Teens courses we use Apple computers because Final Cut Studio, the editing and finishing software we teach, only runs on Macs. I personally have a MacBook Pro with 4 gigs of RAM, and it edits High Definition footage like a champ. Before that, though, I had a PowerBook G4, and if I didn’t start getting professional editing work that requires a more robust processor I’d still be using it.
For now, a computer with a lot of hard drive space, at least 100gigs, will suffice. But once you start getting serious about your film projects, you’re going to want to invest in an external hard drive. Something in the 250 gig range is perfectly acceptable. Just make sure that the drive spins at 7200 rpm and that it has a FireWire port (as opposed to just a USB port). Glyph hard drives are really reliable and come with a great warranty. Here’s the drive that just about everyone at NYU used during first year. You’ll notice that it works out to less than a dollar per gig:
We teach Final Cut Studio at Digital Media Academy, and it is in my opinion the best editing software on the market today. The interface is very intuitive because most of the editing is done on the timeline; you trim the clips, move them to where they belong in the story, and before you know it you have a movie. Final Cut Studio comes with the programs Color (a great color correction tool), Compression, Live Type, and DVD Studio, which is such a powerful program that I’d pay up to $500 dollars for it if it were sold separately.
To screen your movie! Look for bundles of DVD-r; they also work great as back-up storage media.
And that, from soup to nuts, is what you need to make a movie: a camera, a computer, editing software, and blank DVD’s, and much of this equipment can be purchased at DMA at a considerable discount. In my classes, I make it clear that the important part about making a movie—the writing and storytelling—is free. It’s entirely within you. Now, with cameras, computers, and editing software at such reasonable prices, the expensive part isn’t all that expensive, either.
I am teaching DMA’s Digital Filmmaking for Teens courses at Harvard and Brown University this summer.