30+ Free E-Books That Will Help You Master Filmmaking
These free online resources cover many aspects of filmmaking that you need to know, from screenwriting to post.
[Editor's Note: No Film School asked Soukaina El Gharbaoui to collect these resources because of her expertise working with filmmakers at.]
If you're reading this, I can only assume that you're here because you've made films or are interested in making films. Thus, I can also imagine that you know something about both the excitement and challenges that the process entails—including the cost. One way you might be able to save some of your budget is to avoiding purchasing the professional books that teach you different aspects of the craft. Not only are these expensive, but they are often outdated as technological development beats the speed of publishing.
Since I work at a startup that develops a tool for film producers, I know how tight your schedule is. Who wants to spend their precious time researching reliable sources? Fortunately, we’ve collected the best free guides and eBooks about filmmaking for you right here.
Storytelling & Screenwriting
You can have the most expensive special effects and the most talented actors, but without a great story, your movie won’t make a dime. A great story has the ability to educate and entertain, and make us laugh, cry, and rethink things.That’s the magic of movies. If no one cares about the characters or the plot, the whole movie is already lost. These eBooks will guide you through the art of storytelling and screenwriting. After all, a well-written script with meaningful lines can be the first step to a great movie that people will remember.
- The Ultimate Storytelling Guide - The Advertising Bible by Filestage
- Storytelling or How to Make People Care About Anything - Fevered Mutterings
- The Seven Pillars of Storytelling - Sparkol
- A Crash Course in Screenwriting by David Griffith
- The Missing Ingredient by Jeff Bollow
- How to Write a Screenplay by Dorian Scott Cole
- Character Arcs - Jordan McCollum
- After the First Draft - Darcy Pattinson
- How Did They Write It? - Mentorless
- Rewrite Checklist by Scriptmag
- Scriptmag offers some free webinars and video tutorials, which are all about the art of screenwriting:
- Propel Your Screenwriting Career
- Character Development
Besides eBooks and webinars, there are some great tools that’ll help you organize your screenwriting process.
- Celtx is an all-in-one system for video and movie- planning. You can use it to write the script, prepare the shots, and guide your cast and crew into production.
- Filestage is a multimedia platform, where you can share, review, and collaborate on files such as PDFs, videos, images, and audio files. Colleagues and clients can even comment according to frame.
- Highland turns your words into a formatted screenplay, which you can export as an FDX or PDF.
- Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers, which allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long, difficult documents.
- Writer Duet by Screencraft is a collaborative screenwriting app for working with writing partners in real-time.
No Film School covers different aspects of production every single day, but here are a few extra downloads for you to read when you’re offline.
Cinematography & Lighting
Cinematography is, of course, the cornerstone to your film's visuals, and there’s a good reason why people use the phrase “presenting something in a good light.” Lighting can play a huge role on how things are presented, and what kind of impression they make. A well-lit space is crucial to the atmosphere it’s exuding. Also, you have the power to experiment with how much lighting does or doesn’t fit into a scene.
- Cinematographer’s Field Guide - Kodak
- Principles of Cinematography - Archive.org
- The DSLR Cinematography Guide - No Film School
- Lightroom Tips & Tricks Volume 1 - The Image Space
- Lightroom Tips & Tricks Volume 2 - The Image Space
Also, if you’re looking for handy templates and forms, this series of articles provides a huge list of insurance forms, budget sheets, storyboards, and shot-list templates. It’s split into forms for preproduction, production, and postproduction. For every part of the process, there are several kinds of templates that you can use:
Post-production covers every action after the movie has been filmed, which includes the editing, visual effects, color grading, and soundtrack. The guide below is general, and the other eBooks listed below handle specific aspects of the post-production process.
You can’t carry every second of recording into the final cut. As we all know, many takes are necessary to get what you need, and then it all comes together in the editing process.
- Film Editing Tutorial - Terri Meyer Boake
- The Technique of Film Editing: History, Theory, and Practice
- The Complete Film Editing Activities Guide - Oscars.org
It’s essential to set the right tone and color for the scenes in your film. Then you can determine the overall ambience. These two guides will show you how:
- Color Correction Handbook - Alexis van Hurkman
- The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction - Steve Hullfish
Adding music to a film can be a challenging, but it’s also fun. Melodies have a huge impact on people’s feelings. Imagine how many possibilities there are! But that’s also what makes it so difficult. Composing the soundtrack to a film is an art in and of itself. These guides will help you understand the principles of film scoring:
- Complete Guide to Film Scoring - Hugo Ribeiro.com
- So You Want to Be a Film Composer - David Beard Music.com
- Film Scoring Resources - Midnight Music
These eBooks help you understand and use visual effects in your film. Unlike special effects (which are created during the filming), visual effects are added after the film has been recorded. Visual effects can include features like green screens, title animations, or CGI.
- Visual Effects & Compositing - Jon Gress
- The VES Handbook of Visual Effects - Varmstudio.com
- The Core Skills of VFX - CreativeSkillSet
- Trick Photography and Special Effects - Labscientists.com
- Digital Storytelling - The Narrative Power of Visual Effects
Bonus: general resources
During my research, I found a lot of interesting ebooks, but some of them can’t be quite categorized because they’re about filmmaking in general. So I’ve compiled this broad list:
- International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers - Archive.org
- The Essential Reference Guide for Filmmakers - Kodak
- Complete Online Filmmaking Reference - 4Filmmaking
- The Modern Movie Making Movement - Filmmaking Stuff
In the age of the internet, there are tons of resources about any imaginable topic, but it can often be hard to determine which websites are actually helpful. The eBooks listed in this article are intended to provide you with a broad knowledge base in filmmaking basics. Also, some of the tools mentioned in our list can spare you a bunch of time during the filmmaking process, allowing you to focus on the creative part, rather than detaining yourself with complicated paperwork or sending emails back and forth. Of course, in the creative world, practice is your most valuable resource. Creativity can’t be taught without trying it out for yourself. If you meticulously foster your passion, you’ll gain expertise. So feel free to give those eBooks a read, and gather some inspiration for your next film!