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Hand Held Hollywood: An Interview with Taz Goldstein on Filmmaking with the iPhone and iPad

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Peachpit talks to Taz Goldstein, author of Hand Held Hollywood's Filmmaking with the iPad & iPhone, about the best apps and devices for filming with the iPhone and iPad, and his most memorable moment as a director.
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Peachpit: When did you first realize that you could integrate an iDevice into your filmmaking workflow?

Taz: Right away…sort of. 

I integrated my first generation iPhone the day after it was released. I was using the Notes app to compose and store shot lists and scene notes while I was hanging out at the craft service table. Using my iPhone in this way was handy, and it absolutely appealed to my film nerd sensibilities, but at that point, I don't think understood the significance of what I was doing.

A couple years later, after Apple opened the iOS platform to outside developers, Hitchcock was released (and later renamed Storyboard Composer). This was the first professional app designed specifically for filmmakers. After using the app for a few minutes, I was hit with a powerful realization:  with the right apps and accessories, the iPhone would soon become the most versatile filmmaking tool ever created!  That's when I launched HandHeldHollywood.com. I wanted to create a home for like-minded filmmakers who were equally excited about the coming mobile filmmaking revolution.

Peachpit: Why did you decide to write your book, Hand Held Hollywood’s Filmmaking with the iPad and iPhone?

Taz: Several reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to share. I've been obsessed with this topic for years, and I wanted to compile everything I've learned so far and share it with the rest of the filmmaking community. I also love to teach. I think I find it rewarding because when it's done right, it can be a very pure form of storytelling (my favorite, most effective teachers were fantastic storytellers).

Finally, I wanted the challenge of writing the world's first and only complete guide to iOS filmmaking. I wanted it to be a thorough and informative guide that was equally entertaining. That's why I added a few fart jokes. You're welcome.

Peachpit: Who is the book written for?

Taz: I wrote the book for any and all iDevice-owning filmmakers, regardless of age or experience, who love telling stories and are eager to discover ways to do it better. iPhones and iPads have totally democratized the filmmaking process. A twelve-year-old girl with an iPhone might already be writing, shooting, and editing next year's Sundance winner. I wrote this book for that kid, and her older brother who's studying film production in college, and for their father who's been making films the same way for years.

The book is designed to bring aspiring filmmakers up to speed while encouraging pros to rethink their out-of-date workflows.

Peachpit: Do you prefer to use your iPhone or iPad for filmmaking?

Taz: I use both every day!  Each device excels at certain filmmaking tasks. For instance, when I'm walking around a location lining up shots with a viewfinder app like Artemis Director's Viewfinder, I prefer to use my iPhone because it's small, light, and easy to handle. Likewise, when I'm blocking cameras and actors with something like Shot Designer, I prefer working with my iPad's larger screen. I always have both on set, but the truth is, either device can handle most tasks.

Peachpit: What are some of your favorite iPhone / iPad apps?

Taz: That's a tough question. There are over 130 apps in the book, and almost every one is a favorite! That's why they're in the book! That said, if I were stranded alone on a desert island, and could only have a few filmmaking apps on my iDevices (because as you know, anyone stranded on a desert island is likely to have an iPhone, iPad, and a solar charger), I think I'd want Storyist (for screenwriting), Storyboard Composer (for storyboarding), MovieSlate (for slating and logging), and FiLMiC Pro (for shooting video) -- all of which would be of questionable value to someone stranded alone on a desert island. Maybe I should add Angry Birds to that list… and perhaps a coconut cookbook app.

Peachpit: What are your favorite iPhone / iPad accessories?

Taz: Another tough question. The book covers over 50 filmmaking accessories…and most of them rock. But, if you'd like a few highlights, I'd say the olloclip (for adding multiple lenses to my iPhone), the T-Slate (for turning my iPad into a proper movie slate), The Cube (for letting iPhones and iPads be used as wireless field monitors), and the ProPrompter HDi Pro2 (for transforming my iPad into a teleprompter).

Okay, now I suddenly feel awful because I've left out all the others! There are so many terrific apps and accessories that it seems almost criminal to single any out. Forget I said anything.

Peachpit: What was your most memorable moment as a director?

Taz: It was when I got to work alongside John A. Alonzo, the brilliant cinematographer who shot many classic films including ChinatownScarfaceNorma Rae and Harold & Maude. We worked together on my short film called The Dancing Cow. It was one of the last films he lensed before passing away in 2001. Working with John was like working with Yoda. Even when he wasn't teaching, he was teaching. All you had to do was sit and watch this guy work, and the lessons would come rolling in. Beyond what I learned, it was simply an amazing feeling to have someone of his caliber believe in me enough to contribute his time and energy. It was amazing.

Peachpit: In the ever-changing world of app updates, can a book like yours remain relevant?

Taz: That's a terrific question, and one I asked myself several times before writing the book. 

To find my answer, I closely watched the evolution of many of my favorite filmmaking apps. I observed that while these apps were receiving basic enhancements and interface tweaks, their primary filmmaking functions remained consistent. So, I decided to write a book that focused on the primary functions, rather than the superfluous bells and whistles that were more likely to change.

To future-proof things even more, I set up my own link forwarding system for all the QR Codes printed in the book. This way, I can make sure the links stay fresh and updated even as the landscape changes. For example, if a reader scans a QR Code for a particular app, and that app has been discounted and removed from the App Store, the reader will automatically be re-routed to a suitable replacement app or a webpage on my site that explains why the app was removed in the first place. 

By combining these two approaches, I believe I've written a book that will remain relevant, empowering, and hopefully inspiring for years to come.  

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