Inspired filmmakers are always hunting to gather as much knowledge as possible on creating cinema for the big and little screen. One way of completing such a task is to find the right source for that information, and that can come in the form of the right book or books.
Filmmaking is a constant and evolving learning experience. Directing, editing, writing, producing, and other forms in moviemaking can be taught through experience, yet books are a great way to broaden those skills. Additionally, a filmmaker’s perspective on their craft grows from learning from people who have seen the cinema world’s ins and outs. These perspectives and lessons can be easily found by picking up one of the many books on filmmaking.
The art of cinema, understanding it, and mastering the skills to create your project tends to be more of a visual learning experience. However, plenty of books can be found in libraries and bookstores to help those ready to study and become filmmakers. Here are several book suggestions that we think might be helpful on your educational journey.
Something Like An Autobiography – by Akira Kurosawa (Filmmaking)
Akira Kurosawa is considered one of the greatest directors in filmmaking. His movies Seven Samurai, Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, and many more have inspired moviemakers for decades. Kurosawa’s autobiography covers this master filmmaker’s techniques, teachings, how art influenced his career, and musing on film. It’s always a great idea to understand a veteran director’s viewpoint on their craft while formulating your voice in cinema.
Master Shots Volume 1,2, 3: The Director’s Vision — 100 Setups, Scene, and Moves for Your Breakthrough – by Christopher Kenworthy (Cinematography)
Writer, artist and former director Christopher Kenworthy knows cinema. His Master Shots trilogy covers framing, angles, and camera movement and has been the go-to for inspiring cinematographers. Many first-time and experienced directors and DPs (directors of photography) use this set of books as a point of reference when creating their scenes. Check this one out if you’re ready to improve your camera literacy and make a memorable shot in your film project.
Shooting to Kill – by Christine Vachon (Producing)
Producing is a task not for the weak of heart. The skills to create a movie require the ins and outs of the moviemaking process for a big and small film. Producer Christine Vachon’s book takes you through what a producer does on each sized movie. The text also describes a clear structure of how a person can move up in the ranks and become a creator that works with other creators. Every serious producer that plans to make their name in the movie industry should own this book.
In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing – by Walter Murch (Editing)
Walter Murch’s work spans over forty years in Hollywood. The editor has worked on films such as The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, and many more, so it’s safe to say that the talented artist knows a thing or two about editing. Murch breaks down the art of editing with many great practical tips and tricks not only for visual editing but sound editing as well. The details in this book help editors strategies the perfect “emotional cut” and help elevate the movie’s voice. Editors are sometimes the unsung heroes, and Murch lends his talent to make them heard.
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers – by Christopher Vogler (Writing)
Without a script, it isn’t easy to make a movie. This vital reading helps screenwriters understand writing for film and the many methods used to master the art. The book by Volger has been the go-to on utilizing archetypes but covers influence from mythology that has been used in stories, movies, and television. The Writer’s Journey should be in the collection of anyone who wants to make their mark in writing and makes a beautiful companion with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces.
On Directing Film – by David Mamet (Directing)
Director David Mamet is an example of an “expert” in filmmaking. The essential read is for anyone working in the moviemaking industry. On Directing Film is showcased through dialogues based on Mamet’s primary lessons at Columbia University. This method focuses on the idea that inspiring directors need to think visually—not in words but images. Although the book focuses on the art of directing, it’s also an excellent source to help better understand the skills required to create that outstanding script.
If It’s Purple, Someone Gonna Die – by Patti Bellantoni (Color Grading)
This worthwhile read from Patti Bellantoni helps filmmakers how the correct color selections for their scenes. Each section of the book is separated by six colors and explains how particular colors will invoke a specific emotional response from within the viewer. The book also helps anyone wanting to know proper color grading by displaying anecdotes and tips for using or avoiding each color. The art of color grading is a valuable skill to learn for filming and has been helpful for a long time. Thanks to Bellantoni, many of those can now better understand the art form in the world of cinema.
Rebel Without A Crew – by Robert Rodriguez (Independent Filmmaking)
Many filmmakers start on smaller or independent production. What better way to help with that than to learn from one of the masters? This book focuses on the process of Rodriguez creating his film El Mariachi at a young age with only $7,000 and continues to be a source of inspiration for many of today’s up-and-coming indie filmmakers. The director takes a unique approach to filmmaking that showcases helpful tips on how to create your film with little to no film crew. Also, the book holds a journey into Rodriguez’s filmmaker career and how he managed his films while understanding the art.
Shaking the Money Tree, 3rd Edition: How to Get Grants and Donations for Film and Video – by Morrie Warshawski (Funding)
You will need money and the most you can grab to make a film. Morrie Warshawski is a consultant and writer with over thirty years of experience specializing in nonprofits. Warshawski has worked with an eclectic mix of large and small agencies such as Habitat for Humanity San Francisco, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, to name a few. He’s taken his knowledge and applied it to an extreme degree by finding ways for filmmakers to get their projects financed. The book takes you through the best methods for gathering the cash you need and dictates the courses it offers to help you find grants to maximize your income.
Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors – by Peter Bogdanovich (Directing)
Peter Bogdanovich was known as a director, screenwriter, actor, and critic for most of his life. This book features several interviews with legendary directors of the first hundred years of cinema. The likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, Chuck Jones, Don Siegel, and many more share their insight on filmmaking and offer multiple unique techniques for creating cinema. The 864-page book is a hefty read but offers timeless knowledge that will be communicated to inspiring talents in the moviemaking industry. If the high number of pages is off-putting, the author has a series of books called Conversations with Filmmakers that might be to your liking.
The learning process of moviemaking varies for each individual, but what matters the most is finding the suitable method and your voice. The filmmaking experience can be different for anybody, and even veteran movie moviemakers admit that you’re never fully prepared to make your first film. What can always help is watching movies as an educational journey—as well as entertaining—but never forget that consuming different texts on these practices will help you understand the art and philosophy of cinema.