October 23, 2017

What Are You Reading? 6 Books That Will Help Teach You Filmmaking

Need a great book recommendation? Here are a bunch that will teach you everything from cinematography to editing.

There are books out there that cover every phase of filmmaking, from pre-production to marketing, but with so many titles out there, how do you know which ones are worth cracking open? I mean, you've got some that are highly rated by critics but not by actual filmmakers, some that are highly rated by filmmakers but not by critics, and some that may not even be on anyone's radar but is still an amazing, helpful book. In this video, Darious Britt of D4Darious shares six titles that should not only help you add to your library but help you add to your filmmaking repertoire as well.

Here are the books Britt mentions in the video:

  • Master Shots by Christopher Kenworthy
  • Directing Actors by Judith Weston
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Story by Robert McKee
  • In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
  • 101 Things I Learned in Film School by Neil Landau and Matthew Frederick

Save for 101 Things, I've read all of these books and I have to say that I echo Britt's recommendations. Master Shots was one of the very first books I bought before I ever even decided to go to film school—back when I was the creep reading film books in the middle of an aisle at Borders and not buying shit—and though it might'be been a tad too much for me at the time (I literally knew nothing about filmmaking), it has come in handy time and time again since then.

I have also read a plethora of screenwriting books, from Snyder to McKee to Field to Trottier to Campbell to Truby to Aristotle's Poetics for Pete's sake and this is what they taught me: I needed to stop reading screenwriting books. This may not be true for you, but for me what helped was reading actual scripts, studying their structure, timing, dialogue, etc., and then watching the corresponding film to get a sense of how the page translates to the screen. That has been by far the best homework I've ever given myself as a screenwriter, so my advice would be to go out and buy as many scripts as you possibly can (or find them on the internet) and read them! Chinatown  is a must-read. Casablanca  is a must-read. Really, any film that you enjoy watching is fair game. (If you need help deciding on a title, you can't go wrong with the WGA's 101 Greatest Screenplays list.)

In the end though, it's important to keep in mind that reading a book to learn filmmaking is one thing, but going out and actually doing filmmaking is another. It will actually teach you a whole lot more about your particular craft—though I still suggest reading books written by pros who have spent their lives perfecting theirs.

What are your favorite filmmaking books? Share your recommendations down in the comments!     

Your Comment

13 Comments

Am really bad in reading.. need to develop it to be a better film maker.
Feeling: Determined.

October 24, 2017 at 3:10AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
807

Grammar of the Film Language - Daniel Arijon
Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster - Warren Buckland
Getting Away With It - Steven Soderbergh
Making Movies - Sidney Lumet
Adventures in the Screen Trade / Which Lie Did I Tell? - William Goldman
The Magic Lantern - Ingmar Bergman

October 24, 2017 at 5:55AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3505

One more for this list:
Running the Show by Elizabeth Gill

October 24, 2017 at 12:25PM

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Manuel Imboden
Producer
263

Tarkovsky's book, Sculpting In Time, is far and away the most inspirational and educational book I've read on making films, and art in general. He doesn't just answer how, by why, which is a very important question. It's dense and not for everyone, but it changed my life.

David Bordwell's Figures Traced In Light is as much an educational book on blocking as it is a desperate plea to consider these old, nearly forgotten techniques. Cut less, block more.

And for a much more pragmatic book on filmmaking, Sidney Lumet's Making Movies in untouchable. He tells it how's it's done. No funny business (although lots of wit).

Avoid all screenwriting books. They're written by frauds and will lead you astray.

October 24, 2017 at 1:01PM

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Joseph Elliott
Director of Photography, , Director, Editor, Composer
253

Don't know the Bordwell one - will hunt a copy down ASAP!

October 25, 2017 at 8:49AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3505

I was thinking about "Sculpting the time" it's one of the best book I have ready. We can learn so much with that book. "Story" it's another big one. It's a essencial book for all cinematographers.

December 1, 2017 at 3:46AM

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Yes. "Sculpting in Time" was the most important book for me as well!
And I also agree with your description of Sidney Lumets book.
Since I can trust you now - I think I have to read "Figures traced in light" as well :)

December 4, 2017 at 6:46AM, Edited December 4, 6:54AM

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leJean
161

I'll be re-reading Dan O'Bannon's Guide to Screenplay Structure next. And I really love his original one-page synopsis to Alien, found here: http://cinearchive.org/post/56719060988/remembering-the-late-great-dan-o...

The man, the myth, the franchise!

Return of the Living Dead is a personal favourite too.

October 24, 2017 at 2:40PM, Edited October 24, 2:40PM

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"Hitchcock/Truffaut".

October 24, 2017 at 4:38PM, Edited October 24, 4:38PM

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Yeah, I forgot about this one. Great book.

October 24, 2017 at 9:15PM

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Joseph Elliott
Director of Photography, , Director, Editor, Composer
253

Yes that book is great. What a journey. I forgot another good one. "Notes on Cinematograph" by Robert Bresson.

December 1, 2017 at 3:53AM

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For me (once I read all of these great 6 books on filmmaking), the key to making better films was to understand story better. These four examples below apply to all forms of storytelling as well as filmmaking and are essential reading for any fiction filmmaker:

The Seven Basic Plots - Christopher Booker
Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them - John York
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King
Becoming a Writer - Dorothy Brande

October 26, 2017 at 4:26PM, Edited October 26, 4:26PM

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Derek Boyes
Writer/Director
100

Great books, my favorite one is "101 Things I Learned in Film School by Neil Landau and Matthew Frederick".
It was very helpful when I make a movie about gun safes for http://gunsafery.com/ project.

December 22, 2017 at 11:14AM

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