MWP home to ‘Shorts’ whisperer


It’s time to make that first film in short order, storytellers! In the third of a series, we turn our attention to Michael Wiese Productions of Studio City, California, a premier publisher since 1976 of trade books that cover various aspects of motion picture development, production, and distribution. The imprint’s founder, Michael Wiese, is a native of Urbana and contributes to the company from his home in Cornwall, England. Once a month for the next few months, we will share with you a brand-new review of a choice title from their catalog to demonstrate the breadth of subject matter.

Our next title is the third edition of Making It Big in Shorts by Kim Adelman, published by MWP in January 2017. I appreciate the demeanor and humor used in this guidebook to encourage budding film directors to embrace self-confidence and a sense of adventure when getting down to business. The author leans generously on her many years’ worth of experience to point out how young creators can infuse their early work with a unique voice and marketability. Take the shortest path to Making It Big in Shorts on the MWP website or purchase it through Amazon, while you can enjoy a podcast conversation between Adelman and host Ian O’Neill on an episode of How They Did It: Filmmaking from a year ago.

Condensed versions of the set will be collected in a MWP feature that we are planning for an upcoming issue of C-U Confidential. Please keep an eye out for our next entry in the series!

~ Jason Pankoke


Making It Big in Shorts: The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Short Films, 3rd edition
By Kim Adelman

Michael Wiese Productions
Paperback, 160 pages, $16.95 SRP

I have a confession to make. Years ago, Michael Wiese presented a seminar on developing story at the University of Illinois’ Illini Union the weekend of Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. He kindly let me pick a MWP book from his display in the back of the conference room. Glancing over the volumes filled with oodles of expert content, a particular choice felt like a one-stop shop bent on helping me better understand all the steps involved with the filming process and inspiring me to take an honest gamble on the same. Making It Big in Shorts, a relatively new release then using The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Short Films as its title, went home with me. I looked at it. I looked through it. I read patches of prose on various stages in the life of a film project. I never read it from cover to cover, though. I couldn’t tell you why if I tried my hardest. I can tell you it has remained in my library ever since.

Many personal benchmarks and zero completed shorts later, I have circled back and read the most recent edition of Making It Big in Shorts. I’m not sure whether the sage advice and pointed lessons of author Kim Adelman have stoked me enough to follow through on my older aspirations, but I understand why this book can be empowering in the hands of those chomping at the bit to make movies today. She brings credibility to what she says in terms of dreams, goals, and realistic expectations, never hesitating to reference her varied career for examples. Past a four-year stint producing short subjects with up-and-coming talent for the precursor to the FX network, Adelman has parlayed her championing of the format into teaching at UCLA Extension, speaking at seminars and on conference panels, writing for various outlets, and co-founding programs to highlight women and other needed voices in film.

Making It Big in Shorts is certainly reflective of Adelman’s high energy and positive vibe. Two mantras expressed throughout the text, “you are the studio” and “shorter, faster, cheaper,” describe the mindset she would prefer the serious reader-filmmaker to adopt. If one is looking to build a career, produce interesting and appealing shorts that people want to see and won’t break their bank. If one wants to experiment and gauge their own interest, keep the same considerations at the forefront. Ten chapters move quickly like a roller coaster of cascading advice as there are no sidebars to distract or appendices to claw through. Nuggets of truth include: plan early and thoroughly, ask often for free, raise funds for the rest, keep a paper trail, treat collaborators well, give proper credit, and use every device possible to convince the world you and your short are fire! They pack a slim and stylish volume that is itself “shorter, faster, cheaper,” clocking in at 100 pages less than the original 2004 edition.

While some may grumble at the lack of detail afforded certain aspects of the filmmaking process, the primary goal here is to inspire and demystify. Aiding this cause are veteran directors, former students, festival programmers, and other Adelman contacts who provide anecdotes on the value of short-form film. In addition, a foreword from cinema underdog Mark Borchardt of AMERICAN MOVIE fame reiterates the need to stay true to one’s self when navigating a medium outside the industry at large. Every section, including ones with blunt objectives like “Seven Secrets for Success” and “Ten Essential How-To’s,” is built to hype the reader like an exhilarating pep talk. For these reasons and more, Making It Big in Shorts is the kind of book one pours through attentively before making their first film and then dog-ears with successive skims in parallel with every early film journey on which they embark.

~ Jason Pankoke



Review © 2020 Jason Pankoke.

Graphics: courtesy Michael Wiese Productions
Thank you to Ken Lee of MWP for his assistance and kind words!


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