The Method

I call this “Course Guidelines” because I am finishing up my book, “Screenwriting With a Calculator.”  I have too many words in it so far (like 108,000 so far!) so I think it’s going to be two books.

But in organizing the book, I had to organize my thoughts about “”   How are you going to learn about Media Math?  The Shifting Media Landscape?  Ways to Understand Physical Production?  And How to Write Scripts Less Expensive (notice that I didn’t say ‘cheaper)?

Section 1 “Always Learning”

If you don’t want to learn more in this business, then get out.  I’ve used cameras like Beaulieu, Arriflex, Mitchell, Panavision and other films cameras to modern digital cameras like the Red, Alexa, Sony F-55 and others.  I’ve worked on films for $68,000 and $68 million.

You have to keep on learning.  So where do we start?  And start isn’t really a good word for this journey.  We are going after a multidisciplinary approach to mix things up.  To build brick by brick on the Yellow Brick Road to Oz and that balloon ride up in the sky with the Wizard.

In this section, we are studying Technology and other Media marvels.  At one time, Steadicam was a brand new amazing technique.  Martin Scorsese seemed to latch onto it to create his own amazing shots.  I recently pointed out the incredible “Goodfellas” shot when Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) walks his girlfriend into the club from outside, through the halls, the kitchen, the back stage and onto the dance floor.  The original Steadicam rigs were $150,000 to $200,000.  That’s two hundred thousand dollars.   At the time, they were amazing platforms for motion picture production.  Check out this Scorsese shot.  Do not admit in public that you don’t know it!


Recently, I bought a DJI gimbal camera for $500 and it works like a charm.  Right out of the box, I am doing some amazing shots.  Check out this review on the DJI.


Section 2 “Study the Greats”

I didn’t say History because that might turn too many people off.  I’m a history junkie, especially on World War II.  You will have to read – and tolerate – my analogies here about World War Ii.

I’ve written a script set in World War II.  But I’ve also learned that shooting a project set in World War II is far less expensive in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria.

But in this case we are talking about Cinema History and how these Great Trailblazers in cinema created the Cinema Language.


You must have knowledge of the Film Greats (and TV Greats too) to understand the Film Industry.   Great directors like John Ford, William Wellman, Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa are essential to think like a Filmmaker.  

Director Alfred Hitchcock with a Dead Duck.

One Great Example:

Director Alfred Hitchcock used some amazing techniques to create the best part of a movie experience – emotions.  He created tension out of technique – not a bunch of VFX and unnecessary movement.  His masterful control (yes, he was a genius at that) of his screen space to manipulate the audience’s emotions in his story’s direction is legendary. He became the Conductor of his Orchestra (camera, lights, actors) of Murder.

One just has to see him here holding a ‘Dead Duck’ which is slang for either a dead man or soon to be dead man.  Or woman actually.

What did Alfred Hitchcock do that few other directors did over sixty years ago?  He created his own Brand.  His brand was Suspense which involves “intense excitement, suspense, a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.”    Hitchcock became synonymous with the Brand of suspense although he tried a number of genres including a screwball comedy.  He became a brand before Facebook, Google and anybody else.  His Social Media was Murder.

Section 3: Production Techniques

Understanding the production and how it works is key to becoming a Producer.  You want a doctor who hasn’t studied anatomy and all the moving parts?  Martial artists study anatomy.  Mechanics study the parts.  A math equation is broken down into parts.

Why Study Production Techniques?  Because if you understand production, then you will start writing efficiently for production.  Do you have to?  No.  Your choice.  Do financiers want a script that is financially doable?  Hell, yes. 

Techniques is a very broad category which can include everything from the newest technology to useful skills.  Filmmakers shoot films on iphones these days.  When I shot my feature/streaming project (more on that later), I used a Sony NEX-FS 100 which has an amazing sensor.  The sensor – if I pushed the gain – could read all the details of a night scene with little to no supplemental lighting.  I found locations where the street lighting worked great.  In this way, the camera read the details, then I color-corrected to a grainy black and white – but with the background details.

Furthermore   we want to study all sorts of Production Techniques.  These techniques are changing all the time – more technology, faster response time, faster workflow.   I was at PGA conference and nearly left the

For example,

Section 4: “Media Math”

The entire process all comes down to the math one way or the other.   We will be looking at the structure of a Schedule and a Budget.  Check on local production across the United States, including some growing areas like Ohio and the always cooking Atlanta.

Production Math involves a number of areas – linked to creativity and logistics.   Rebates from various countries can be considered in terms of production processes.

Ever consider shooting in Romania, Bulgaria?  What about Malaysia?  I’ve scouted South Korean and filmed in Egypt.  Scouted Italy and other countries.  “Vikings” is shot in Ireland.  “Narcos” in Colombia.  Both shows receive generous tax rebates on their production dollars.


Section:  “Michael’s Martini”

The Ever-Changing Media Landscape.

“The Martini” on a movie set is the last shot of the day so this entry is my “Take” on the Media Industry.  Remember that it’s no longer the “Film Industry” but the “Media Industry”.

Current events in the film and media industries are like a newspaper.  A new story appears every day about technology, Social Media, increased production capabilities.

Dazzling Roaring Twenties Comes Alive!At the same time, news and conferences are burgeoning with the rapid, massive and global growth of streaming entertainment.  Last year and the year before, I went to over a dozen conferences.

Plus Other conference relevant to App Developers Conference, International Locations Conference, etc.,  You must keep up on the current events in the film and TV industries.  So in “Michael’s Martini”

Your Turn

So that’s the “Course” as I see it.  A combination of Cinema History, Studying the Great, Production Techniques, News to move forward.