57 Filmmaking Books You Need To Read

MattBusiness, Director Stories, Filmmaking, Video Production, Writing62 Comments

In our quest for furthering our knowledge and understanding of all aspects of filmmaking and video production, we often turn to books as a source of information. Anyone who follows this site knows that I’m a big reader and a life-long learner. Whilst nothing trumps real-world experience and time in the trenches of getting things done, books can open up whole worlds of experience that we can gain knowledge and understanding from.

I’m often asked what my favourite books are for learning different aspects of filmmaking and video production. Therefore, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of filmmaking books that I highly recommend. I’ve broken it up into sections to make for easier classification and if you’re looking for a specific topic or style of book.

Hold onto your hats, because this is unlike any article you’ve ever read about filmmaking books!

Without further ado, here are my Recommended Filmmaking Books:

Film/Video Production

To start with, here are some books about general filmmaking concepts. All these books offer a great (and often detailed) overview of the filmmaking process. Consider these a kind of ‘film school in a book.’

Directing: Film Techniques & Aesthetics by Michael Rabinger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier

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Directing covers the methods, technologies, thought processes, and judgments that a director must use throughout the fascinating process of making a film. The core of the book is the human, psychological, and technical knowledge that every director needs, the enduring elements of the craft that remain vital.

The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age (2013 Edition) by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus

The Com­plete Film Pro­duc­tion Hand­book by Eve Light Hon­thaner

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This book is for working film/TV professionals and students alike. If you’re a line producer, production manager, production supervisor, assistant director or production coordinator–the book has everything you’ll need (including all the forms, contracts, releases and checklists) to set up and run a production–from finding a production office to turning over delivery elements.

Even if you know what you’re doing, you will be thrilled to find everything you need in one place. If you’re not already working in film production, but think you’d like to be, read the book — and then decide. If you choose to pursue this career path, you’ll know what to expect, you’ll be prepared, and you’ll be ten steps ahead of everyone else just starting out.

The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook by Barry Andersson and Janie L. Geyen

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The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook is the expert guide to getting professional movie-making results with an HD video-enabled DSLR camera. Fully updated to reflect the latest technology, this updated edition provides guidance toward best practices and techniques that maximize results.

Shooting HD video with a DSLR has many benefits — and also a few tricky drawbacks — but this guide gives you the insight and training you need to overcome these challenges as you learn what to anticipate, how to work around it, and how to fix imperfections in post-production. Award winning independent filmmaker Barry Andersson walks you through the shooting process and shows you what to do before, during, and after filming to ensure high quality results.

The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film by Reed Martin

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The Reel Truth details the pitfalls, snares, and roadblocks that aspiring filmmakers encounter. Reed Martin interviewed more than one hundred luminaries from the independent film world to discuss the near misses that almost derailed their first and second films and identify the close shaves that could have cut their careers short.

Other books may tell you the best way to make your independent film or online short, but no other book describes so candidly how to spot and avoid such issues and obstacles as equipment problems, shooting-day snafus, postproduction myths, theatrical distribution deal breakers, and dozens of other commonly made missteps, including the top fifty mistakes every filmmaker makes.

Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from Concept Through Distribution by Gregory Goodell

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Independent Feature Film Production is an essential guidebook for filmmakers. Gregory Goodell addresses the making of independent films, taking the reader through the process of the independent film’s development phase: the script, commitment from the director and actors, and the legal structure necessary to raise money to make the picture.

Whether interested in learning to make a movie on a shoestring budget or on a larger scale, this book guides the reader through the entire proces of developing an independent film.

Shot by Shot; A Practical Guide to Filmmaking by John Cantine, Susan Howard, and Brady Lewis

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Shot by Shot: A Practical Guide to Filmmaking is a clear, easy-to-read introductory text designed for the beginning filmmaker working in either the super-8 or 16mm format.

The book is divided into nine chapters, each of which deals with the basic language, processes and techniques of filmmaking: * Camera and Lens * Film Stock * Composition * Continuity * Film Editing * Digital Editing * Preproduction * Lighting * Sound Shot by Shot: A Practical Guide to Filmmaking was written by three members of the faculty at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

From Reel to Deal: Everything You Need to Create a Successful Independent Film by Dov S-S Simens

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From screenwriting & budgeting to marketing, Simens provides encyclopedic, precise, & creative instruction for putting your vision up on the screen.

$30 Film School: How to Write, Direct, Produce, Shoot, Edit, Distribute, Tour With, and Sell Your Own No-Budget Digital Movie by Michael W. Dean

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We’re entering a new era. Mini-DV filmmaking is the new folk music, the new punk rock, the new medium where anyone can tell their story. 30-Dollar Film School is an alternative to spending four years and a hundred-thousand dollars to learn the trade.

It is influenced by punk rock’s Do-it-Yourself spirit of just learning the basics and then jumping up on a stage and making a point; and by the American work ethic back when it was pure, before it became all about corporations crushing the little guy. Throw in the hacker idea that information wants to be free (or at least very cheap) and you have this essence of this book.

Cinematography

Ah, the great art of light and shadow. A thorough study of cinematography should be at the forefront of any filmmaker’s education. These filmmaking books offer great breadth and scope in their understanding and teaching of this art form.

Painting With Light by John Alton

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Few cinematographers have had as decisive an impact on the cinematic medium as John Alton. Best known for his highly stylized film noir classics T-Men, He Walked by Night, and The Big Combo, Alton earned a reputation during the 1940s and 1950s as one of Hollywood’s consummate craftsmen through his visual signature of crisp shadows and sculpted beams of light.

No less renowned for his virtuoso color cinematography and deft appropriation of widescreen and Technicolor, he earned an Academy Award in 1951 for his work on the musical An American in Paris. 

Master­Shots 100 Advanced Cam­era Tech­niques to Get an Expen­sive Look on Your Low-Budget Movie by Christo­pher Ken­wor­thy

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Master Shots gives filmmakers the techniques they need to execute complex, original shots on any budget. By using powerful master shots and well-executed moves, you can develop a strong style and stand out from the crowd.

Most low-budget movies look low-budget, because the director is forced to compromise at the last minute. Master Shots gives you so many powerful techniques that you’ll be able to respond, even under pressure, and create knock-out shots. When the clock is ticking and the light is fading, the techniques in this book can rescue your film, and make every shot look like it cost a fortune.

Every technique is illustrated with samples from great feature films and computer-generated diagrams for absolute clarity.

The Five C’s of Cin­e­matog­ra­phy: Motion Pic­ture Film­ing Tech­niques by Joseph V. Mas­celli

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The Five C’s of Cinematography is one of the three most important books on cinematic technique ever published — American Cinematographer

Mr. Mascelli provides the attentive reader with the equivalent of a complete course in filmmaking. — New York Times

The Five C’s is the most widely respected book on cinematography ever published. With the aid of hundreds of photographs and diagrams, it clearly and concisely presents al of the essential concepts and techniques of motion picture camera work.

Cin­e­matog­ra­phy: The­ory and Prac­tice: Image Mak­ing for Cin­e­matog­ra­phers and Direc­tors by Blain Brown

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There’s more to being a DP than holding a light meter! With this book as your guide, you are on your way to learning not only about the equipment and technology, but also about the concepts and thought processes that will enable you to shoot professionally, efficiently, and with artistic mastery. A leading book in the field, Cinematography has been translated into many languages and is a staple at the world’s top film schools.

Lavishly produced and illustrated, it covers the entire range of the profession. The book is not just a comprehensive guide to current professional practice; it goes beyond to explain the theory behind the practice, so you understand how the rules came about and when it’s appropriate to break them. In addition, directors will benefit from the book’s focus on the body of knowledge they should share with their Director of Photography.

Filmmakers On Filmmaking

Sometimes you need to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’ Here are a number of books written by famous directors. Here, you can get the inside track on the process and thinking behind a director’s work, why they did what they did and what their overall thoughts are on the art of filmmaking.

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

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From one of America’s most acclaimed directors comes a book that is both a professional memoir and a definitive guide to the art, craft, and business of the motion picture. Drawing on 40 years of experience on movies ranging from Long Day’s Journey Into Night to The Verdict, Lumet explains the painstaking labor that results in two hours of screen magic.

On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director by Alexander Mackendrick

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After more than twenty years in the film industry as a screenwriter, storyboard editor, and director of memorable films such as The Ladykillers, Alexander Mackendrick turned his back on Hollywood and began a new career as the Dean of one of the country’s most demanding and influential film schools. His absolute devotion to the craft of filmmaking served as a powerful impetus to students at the California Institute for the Arts for almost twenty five years, with a teaching style that included prodigious notes, neatly crafted storyboards, and handouts containing excerpts of works by Kierkegaard, Aristotle, and others.

At the core of Mackendrick’s lessons lay a deceptively simple goal: to teach aspiring filmmakers how to structure and write the stories they want to tell, while using the devices particular to the medium of film to tell their stories effectively.

On Directing Film by David Mamet

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Calling on his unique perspective as playwright, screenwriter, and director of his own critically acclaimed movies, House of Games and Things Change, David Mamet illuminates how a film comes to be. He looks at every aspect of directing—from script to cutting room—to show the many tasks directors undertake in reaching their prime objective: presenting a story that will be understood by the audience and has the power to be both surprising and inevitable at the same time.

Based on a series of classes Mamet taught at Columbia University’s film school, On Directing Film will be enjoyed not only by students but by anyone interested in an overview of the craft of filmmaking.

Kazan on Directing by Elia Kazan

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Elia Kazan was the twentieth century’s most celebrated director of both stage and screen, and this monumental, revelatory book shows us the master at work.  Kazan’s list of Broadway and Hollywood successes—A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, On the Waterfront, to name a few—is a testament to his profound impact on the art of directing.

This remarkable book, drawn from his notebooks, letters, interviews, and autobiography, reveals Kazan’s method: how he uncovered the “spine,” or core, of each script; how he analyzed each piece in terms of his own experience; and how he determined the specifics of his production.  And in the final section, “The Pleasures of Directing”—written during Kazan’s final years—he becomes a wise old pro offering advice and insight for budding artists, writers, actors, and directors.

Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors by Peter Bogdanovich

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In this fascinating chronicle of Hollywood and the grand art of making movies, Peter Bogdanovich–director, screenwriter, actor, and critic–interviews sixteen legendary directors of the first hundred years of film:

Robert Aldrich,  George Cukor,  Allan Dwan,  Howard Hawks,  Alfred Hitchcock,  Chuck Jones,  Fritz Lang,  Joseph H. Lewis,  Sidney Lumet,  Leo McCartey,  Otto Preminger,  Don Siegel,  Josef von Sternberg,  Frank Tashlin,  Edgar G. Ulmer,  Raoul Walsh.

Moviemak­ers’ Mas­ter Class: Pri­vate Lessons from the World’s Fore­most Direc­tors by Lau­rent Tirard

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From Scorsese and Lynch to Wenders and Godard, interviews with twenty of the world’s greatest directors on how they make films–and why

Each great filmmaker has a secret method to his moviemaking–but each of them is different. In Moviemaker Master Class, Laurent Tirard talks to twenty of today’s most important filmmakers to get to the core of each director’s approach to film, exploring the filmmaker’s vision as well as his technique, while allowing each man to speak in his own voice.

My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Film by Stephen Lowenstein

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In these vivid and revealing interviews, a diverse collection of filmmakers talk in extraordinary detail and with amazing candor about making their first films. Each chapter focuses on a director’s celebrated debut and tells the inside story of the film’s creation.

Along the way, every aspect of the movie industry is explored-from writing the script and raising the money to casting the actors and assembling the crew, from shooting and editing to selling the movie and screening it. These interviews are not only memoirs of particular movies; each one is also an emotional journey in which the director relives the pain and elation, the comedy and tragedy, of making a first feature film.

Produce Your Own Damn Movie! by Lloyd Kaufman

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When it comes to producing, no one speaks with more authority than Lloyd Kaufman, founder of the longest-running independent film studio, Troma Entertainment. He reveals the best ways to seek out investors, scout locations, hire crew and cast talent, navigate legalities, and stay within your budget.

Featuring tips from some of the finest producers in the business (Mark Damon, James Gunn, Mark Harris, Tery Jones, Brad Kevoy, Stepehn Paul, and more!) , this book gives filmmakers practical tools for getting a movie shoot started, keeping it afloat and seeing it through to the end.

Candid interviews, tips, tricks, and tidbits scattered throughout the book illustrate the many techniques you can employ to produce your own damn movie-Lloyd Kaufman shows you how it’s really done.

Hands On & Practical Guides

These filmmaking books let you get stuck in. Here are a number of hands-on guides that are a bit more how-to than some of the other books in mentioned in this article. The writers have all been-there-and-done-that and speak from direct experience. Enjoy these how-to guides that are some of the best filmmaking books out there!

Rebel with­out a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Film­maker With $7,000 Became a Hol­ly­wood Player by Robert Rodriguez

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In Rebel Without a Crew, famed independent screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Sin City 2, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids) discloses all the unique strategies and original techniques he used to make his remarkable debut film, El Mariachi, on a shoestring budget. This is both one man’s remarkable story and an essential guide for anyone who has a celluloid story to tell and the dreams and determination to see it through.  

Part production diary, part how-to manual, Rodriguez unveils how he was able to make his influential first film on only a $7,000 budget.  Also included is the appendix, ‘The Ten Minute Film Course,” a tell-all on how to save thousands of dollars on film school and teach yourself the ropes of film production, directing, and screenwriting.

How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000 (And Not Go to Jail) by Bret Stern

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Right now, you’re wondering, “Gee, what kind of information is in this cute yet stylish guide?” Sure, there are a bunch of other books that will take you through the filmmaking process, and if your name is Beaver Cleaver, you might be interested in them.

But you should know that filmmaking is a war, and this book will lead you through it like no other. These pages contain information learned from years spent in the filmmaking trenches.

Either You’re in or You’re in the Way: Two Brothers, Twelve Months, and One Filmmaking Hell-Ride to Keep a Promise to Their Father by Logan and Noah Miller

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When identical twin brothers Logan and Noah Miller’s homeless father died alone in a jail cell, they vowed, come hell or high water, that their film, Touching Home, would be made as a dedication to their love for him. Either You’re in or You’re in the Way is the amazing story of how — without a dime to their name nor a single meaningful contact in Hollywood — they managed to write, produce, direct, and act in a feature film alongside four-time Academy Award nominated actor Ed Harris and fellow nominees Brad Dourif and Robert Forster.

Either You’re in or You’re in the Way is a mordern-day Horatio Alger on steroids — a fast-paced thrill ride of heartbreak and redemption that will both captivate and inspire.

What They Don’t Teach You at Film School: 161 Strategies For Making Your Own Movies No Matter What by Camille Landau and Tiare White

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Two filmmakers who’ve beaten the system give the real dope on what it takes to get your movie made.

Do you have to go to film school to get your movies made? No, say two young entrepreneurs who survived the grind. Here they offer 140 strategies for making movies no matter what. Amateurs as well as seasoned veterans can pick up this entertaining and incredibly useful guide in any place–at any point of crisis–and find tactics that work. Whether it’s raising money or cutting your budget; dealing with angry landlords or angry cops; or jump-starting the production or stalling it while you finish the script, these strategies are delivered with funny, illustrative anecdotes from the authors’ experiences and from veteran filmmakers eager to share their stories. Irreverent, invaluable, and a lot cheaper than a year’s tuition, this friendly guide is the smartest investment any future filmmaker could make.

Strategies from the book include: Love your friends for criticizing your work–especially at the script stage; Shyness won’t get you the donuts; Duct tape miracles; Don’t fall in love with cast or crew (but if you do…).

Direct­ing Actors: Cre­at­ing Mem­o­rable Per­for­mances for Film & Tele­vi­sion by Judith Weston

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Internationally-renowned directing coach Weston demonstrates what constitutes a good performance, what actors want from a director, what directors do wrong, script analysis and preparation, how actors work, and shares insights into the director/actor relationship.

Shooting Video Production Specifically

A lot of this site is focused on video production. Here are three video production books that you should read before, during and after you set up your video production company. You’ll learn a lot from about video production by reading these books. I know I did!

Refocus: Cutting-Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business by Ron Dawson & Tasra Dawson

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Do you want to stand out in today’s competitive wedding, corporate, and event video markets? To be paid what you’re worth for the creative work you produce? To find an extra two hours a day to pursue your passion? To get out from under the backlog of unfinished projects?

If the answer is “yes,” then this book was written for you. Read a few pages and you’ll find the authors’ unique approach to the business of video production is unlike what you’ve heard or read before. With good humor, practical advice, and a healthy dose of reality, Ron and Tasra Dawson show you how to get your business on track and transform it into the one of your dreams.

Corporate Video Production: Beyond the Board Room (And OUT of the Bored Room) by Stuart Sweetow

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In this updated edition of Corporate Video Production, Stuart Sweetow teaches aspiring and seasoned videographers how to make imaginative corporate videos with eye-catching designs, rhythmic editing tricks, and essential scriptwriting and interview techniques.

Readers will learn how to shoot on location or in a studio, work with employees-turned-actors, find new clients, and produce online videos and podcasts for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. 

The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide: A Down & Dirty DV Production by Anthony Q. Artis

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To anyone who wants to make a doc but doesn’t have a lot of time, money, or experience, Anthony Artis says: “It’s time to get down and dirty!”―a filmmaking mentality that teaches you how to be creative with your resources and do more with less.

Written by a guerrilla filmmaker for guerrilla filmmakers, this all new edition of a bestselling classic doesn’t just tell you, it shows you how to make your projects better, faster, and cheaper.

Screenwriting & ‘Normal’ Writing (For All Screens)

Knowing how to write, how to tell a story and how to persuade and cajole your audience is essential whether you’re making Hollywood movies, producing commercials or making an arthouse documentary. These books explain and get down into the nitty gritty of writing for massive impact, no matter what you’re writing:

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

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Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience.

In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee.

The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style by Christopher Riley

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The Hollywood Standard describes in clear, vivid prose and hundreds of examples how to format every element of a screenplay or television script. A reference for everyone who writes for the screen, from the novice to the veteran, this is the dictionary of script format, with instructions for formatting everything from the simplest master scene heading to the most complex and challenging musical underwater dream sequence.

This new edition includes a quick start guide, plus new chapters on avoiding a dozen deadly formatting mistakes, clarifying the difference between a spec script and production script, and mastering the vital art of proofreading. For the first time, readers will find instructions for formatting instant messages, text messages, email exchanges and caller ID.

Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

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No one knows the writer’s Hollywood more intimately than William Goldman. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels, Goldman now takes you into Hollywood’s inner sanctums…on and behind the scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and other films…into the plush offices of Hollywood producers…into the working lives of acting greats such as Redford, Olivier, Newman, and Hoffman…and into his own professional experiences and creative thought processes in the crafting of screenplays.

You get a firsthand look at why and how films get made and what elements make a good screenplay. Says columnist Liz Smith, “You’ll be fascinated.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

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The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself. The previous two editons of this book have sold over 180,000 units, making this book a ‘classic’ for screenwriters, writers, and novelists.

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field 

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A generation of screenwriters has used Syd Field’s bestselling books to ignite successful careers in film. Now the celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher, and bestselling author has updated his classic guide for a new generation of filmmakers, offering a fresh insider’s perspective on the film industry today.

From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are easily understood guidelines to help aspiring screenwriters—from novices to practiced writers—hone their craft.

Filled with updated material—including all-new personal anecdotes and insights, guidelines on marketing and collaboration, plus analyses of recent films, from American Beauty to Lord of the Rings—Screenplay presents a step-by-step, comprehensive technique for writing the screenplay that will succeed in Hollywood. Discover:

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

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This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!

The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

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The 20th anniversary edition of one of the most popular, authoritative, and useful books on screenwriting. A standard by which other screenwriting books are measured, it has sold over 200,000 copies in its twenty-year life. Always up-to-date and reliable, it contains everything that both the budding and working screenwriter need under one cover five books in one!

Editing (Filmmaking Books)

Editing is one of the most undervalued aspects of the filmmaking process. How many famous film editors can you name? Exactly. These guys slaved away for years in tiny rooms, especially pre-computer when they worked painstakingly on ‘dinosaur flatbed’ editing systems.

In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch

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In the Blink of an Eye is celebrated film editor Walter Murch’s vivid, multifaceted, thought — provoking essay on film editing. Starting with what might be the most basic editing question — Why do cuts work? — Murch treats the reader to a wonderful ride through the aesthetics and practical concerns of cutting film.

Along the way, he offers his unique insights on such subjects as continuity and discontinuity in editing, dreaming, and reality; criteria for a good cut; the blink of the eye as an emotional cue; digital editing; and much more. 

The Color Cor­rec­tion Hand­book: Pro­fes­sional Tech­niques for Video and Cin­ema by Alexis Van Hurk­man

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The colorist is responsible for the critical final stage of refinement of the film and broadcast image. Using all of the controls modern color correction software provides, colorists refine the mood, create style, add polish to scenes, and breathe life into the visuals. The craft of color correction can take considerable trial and error to learn, while the art of color grading takes years to perfect.

Alexis Van Hurkman draws on his wealth of industry experience to provide a thoroughly updated edition of what has become the standard guide to color correction. Using a friendly, clear teaching style and a slew of real-world examples and anecdotes, Alexis demonstrates how to achieve professional results for any project, using any number of dedicated grading applications, or even an editing program’s built-in color correction tools.

The Tech­nique of Film and Video Edit­ing: His­tory, The­ory, and Prac­tice by Ken Dan­cyger

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The Technique of Film and Video Editing provides a detailed, precise look at the artistic and aesthetic principles and practices of editing for both picture and sound. Because editing is about more than learning a specific software program, this book focuses on the fundamentals of editing as art. Analysis of photographs from dozens of classic and contemporary films and videos provide a sound basis for the professional filmmaker and student editor.

This book puts into context the storytelling choices an editor will have to make against a background of theory, history, and practice. This edition includes brand new chapters covering the goals of editing, including editing for narrative clarity, subtext, aesthetics, and dramatic emphasis, all showing how to evoke specific audience responses. Some of the new films to be discussed include A History of Violence, Atonement, The Departed, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, MIchael Clayton, and more.

Behind The Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema by Charles Koppelman

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As the first software-only desktop nonlinear editing system, Final Cut Pro sat the film industry on its ear when it debuted back in 1999. Now it’s shaking things up again as editor Walter Murch, director Anthony Minghella, and a long list of Hollywood heavy-hitters are proving that this under-$1,000 software can (and should) be used to edit a multi-million dollar motion picture!

This book tells the story of that endeavor: the decision to use Final Cut Pro, the relationship between the technology and art (and craft) of movie-making, how Final Cut Pro was set up and configured for Cold Mountain, how the software’s use affected the work flow, and its implications for the future of filmmaking.

More than anything, however, this is Murch’s own story of what seemed to many a crazy endeavor– told through photos, journal entries, email musings, and anecdotes that give readers an inside view of what the film editor does and how this particular film progressed through post-production.

The book includes, in his own words, Murch’s vision, approach, and thoughts on storytelling as he shapes Cold Mountain under the intense pressures of completing a major studio film.

Business, Money, Financing & Distribution

Of course, this very site has plenty of resources on business from a video production company perspective. But here are some great filmmaking books on business, money and financing, especially from a film financing and distribution perspective.

Shaking the Money Tree by Morrie Warshawski

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Completely demystifies the art of fundraising for independent film and video projects for students, emerging, and seasoned media makers.

Fans, Friends and Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age by Scott Kirsner

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An essential guide for filmmakers, musicians, writers, artists, and other creative types. “Fans, Friends & Followers” explores the strategies for cultivating an online fan base that can support your creative career, enabling you to do the work you want to do and make a living at it.

Based on dozens of interviews with the artists pioneering new approaches to production, marketing, promotion, collaboration, and distribution, it presents strategies that work – in a straightforward, jargon-free way. 

The Movie Business: The Definitive Guide to the Legal and Financial Secrets of Getting Your Movie Made by Kelly Crabb

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A straightforward business and legal guide for novice movie producers covers a wide range of topics, including intellectual property laws, financing, and production challenges, in a guide that also provides in-depth coverage of understanding and negotiating a movie contract.

The Independent Film Producer’s Survival Guide: A Business and Legal Sourcebook by Gunnar Erickson, Mark Halloran and Harris Tulchin

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In this comprehensive guidebook, three experienced entertainment lawyers tell you everything you need to know to produce and market an independent filmâfrom the development process to deal making, financing, setting up the production, hiring directors and actors, securing location rights, acquiring music, calculating profits, digital moving making, distribution, and marketing your movie.

Film and Video Budgets by Deke Simon

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This book is an industry reference. With it’s constant updating, and with sample budgets online to download, it is a valuable resource for filmmakers at any level. (The sample budgets that you can download go all the way from a $5,000,000 production down to a ‘no budget’ student film.) Well written and easy to follow, this book is a mini-course in production, all by itself.

One of the biggest problems that first-time filmmakers have is under-estimating their costs. This leads to either going into debt, compromise on key parts of the production, or simply failing to complete the film.

Film and Video Budgets gives the filmmaker a way to ‘model out’ the production on paper, and see what the costs really are before shooting begins. Highly recommended, especially for first time feature filmmakers, makers of documentaries, student filmmakers, and for film teachers.

Think Outside the Box Office by Jon Reiss

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The independent film community is a buzz with the collapse of the traditional independent film distribution model. No longer can filmmakers expect their films to be acquired and released nationally. But just as the digital revolution created a democratization of the means of production, a new hybrid model of distribution has created a way for independent filmmakers to take control of the means of distribution.

This hybrid approach is not just DIY or Web based it combines the best techniques from each distribution arena, old and new. Jon Reiss spoke with countless filmmakers, distributors, publicists, web programmers, festival programmers and marketing experts to create this ultimate guide to film distribution and marketing for the digital era.

Unlike any other book on the subject, Think Outside the Box Office is the first to address the new distribution and marketing landscape facing filmmakers today.

Dealmaking in the Film & Television Industry: From Negotiations to Final Contracts by Mark Litwak

dealmaking-film-television-industry

Dealmaking” – the popular, award-winning ‘self-defence’ book for everyone working in the film and television industry – is now updated to include the latest legal rulings and entertainment technology developments. Addressing a general, non-attorney readership, it is a fascinating, highly accessible guide to current entertainment law’s peculiarities, ‘creative’ practices, and practical applications.

Armed with this book, filmmakers can save themselves thousands of pounds in legal fees as they navigate the shark-infested waters of the entertainment business. Whether you are a producer, writer, director, or actor, Mark Litwak will help you make the most of your business dealings while steering you clear of the many contractual traps that may await you.

Shooting to Kill: How an Independent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make Movies that Matter by Christine Vachon

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Complete with behind-the-scenes diary entries from the set of Vachon’s best-known fillms, Shooting to Kill offers all the satisfaction of an intimate memoir from the frontlines of independent filmmakins, from one of its most successful agent provocateurs — and survivors.

Hailed by the New York Times as the “godmother to the politically committed film” and by Interview as a true “auteur producer,” Christine Vachon has made her name with such bold, controversial, and commercially successful films as “Poison,” “Swoon,” Kids,” “Safe,” “I Shot Andy Warhol,” and “Velvet Goldmine.”

Over the last decade, she has become a driving force behind the most daring and strikingly original independent filmmakers-from Todd Haynes to Tom Kalin and Mary Harron-and helped put them on the map.

The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers by Thomas A. Crowell

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Find quick answers to hundreds of questions in this new edition of The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers. This no-nonsense reference provides fast answers in plain English-no law degree required! Arm yourself with the practical advice of author Thomas Crowell, a TV-producer-turned-entertainment-lawyer.

Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide by Chris Gore

ultimate-film-festival-survival-guide

The guerrilla guide to marketing and selling an indie film.

Some people are just there for the loot bags. But most of the people at a film festival are trying to market and sell an independent film. Don’t be just one of the horde. Use Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide to help your indie film stand out! Entertainment Weekly loves Gore’s book, calling it a “treatise on schmoozing, bullying, and otherwise weaseling one’s way into the cinematic madness known as film festivals.”

Cinematic Knowledge

This section features books that cover the history and theory of cinema. You can’t be a great filmmaker without a firm understand of what has come before you.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind

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When the low-budget biker movie Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born. This was an age when talented young filmmakers such as Scorsese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including De Niro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Jaws.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the ’70s — an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll (both onscreen and off) and a climate where innovation and experimentation reigned supreme. Based on hundreds of interviews with the directors themselves, producers, stars, agents, writers, studio executives, spouses, and ex-spouses, this is the full, candid story of Hollywood’s last golden age.

The Story of Film by Mark Cousins

story-of-film

Film critic, producer, and presenter Mark Cousins’ history shows how filmmakers are influenced both by the historical events of their times, and by each other.

He demonstrates, for example, how Douglas Sirk’s 1950s Hollywood melodramas influenced Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s despairing visions of 1970s Germany and how George Lucas’ Star Wars epics grew out of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. The Story of Film is divided into three main epochs: silent (1885–1928), sound (1928–1990), and digital (1990-present), and within this structure films are discussed in chapters reflecting both the stylistic concerns of the filmmakers and the political and social themes of the time.

As well as covering the great American films and filmmakers, the book explores cinema in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia, and South America, and shows how cinematic ideas and techniques cross national boundaries. Avoiding jargon and obscure critical theory, the author constantly places himself in the role of the moviegoer watching a film, asking How does a scene or a story affect us, and why? In doing so, he gets to the heart of cinematic technique, explaining how filmmakers use lighting, framing, focal length, and editing to create their effects. Clearly written, and illustrated with more than 400 stills, this book is essential reading for both film students and the general moviegoer.

The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose

art-of-immersion

Not long ago we were spectators, passive consumers of mass media. Now, on YouTube and blogs and Facebook and Twitter, we are media. No longer content in our traditional role as couch potatoes, we approach television shows, movies, even advertising as invitations to participate―as experiences to immerse ourselves in at will. Frank Rose introduces us to the people who are reshaping media for a two-way world, changing how we play, how we communicate, and how we think.

Filmmaker (Auto)Biographies

I love biographies on filmmakers, but I especially love autobiographies. Storyteller direct from the filmmakers themselves. Obviously, we can’t always been 100% sure that something is true, but filmmakers are naturally great storytellers and each anecdote becomes part of the folklore of their careers.

Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed by Paul Cronin

guide-for-the-perplexed

An invaluable set of career-length interviews with the German genius hailed by François Truffaut as “the most important film director alive”

Most of what we’ve heard about Werner Herzog is untrue. The sheer number of false rumors and downright lies disseminated about the man and his films is truly astonishing. Yet Herzog’s body of work is one of the most important in postwar European cinema.

Hitch­cock by François Truffaut

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Iconic, groundbreaking interviews of Alfred Hitchcock by film critic François Truffaut—providing insight into the cinematic method, the history of film, and one of the greatest directors of all time.

In Hitchcock, film critic François Truffaut presents fifty hours of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock about the whole of his vast directorial career, from his silent movies in Great Britain to his color films in Hollywood. The result is a portrait of one of the greatest directors the world has ever known, an all-round specialist who masterminded everything, from the screenplay and the photography to the editing and the soundtrack.

Hitchcock discusses the inspiration behind his films and the art of creating fear and suspense, as well as giving strikingly honest assessments of his achievements and failures, his doubts and hopes. This peek into the brain of one of cinema’s greats is a must-read for all film aficionados.

Guillermo del Toro Cab­i­net of Curiosi­ties: My Note­books, Col­lec­tions, and Other Obses­sions by Guillermo del Toro

cabinet-curiosities

Over the last two decades, writer-director Guillermo del Toro has mapped out a territory in the popular imagination that is uniquely his own, astonishing audiences with Cronos, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and a host of other films and creative endeavors.

Now, for the first time, del Toro reveals the inspirations behind his signature artistic motifs, sharing the contents of his personal notebooks, collections, and other obsessions.

The result is a startling, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world’s most creative visionaries. Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotations that contextualize the ample visual material, this deluxe compendium is every bit as inspired as del Toro is himself.

Something Like an Autobiography by Akira Kurosawa

something-like-an-autobiography

A first rate book and a joy to read…. It’s doubtful that a complete understanding of the director’s artistry can be obtained without reading this book…. Also indispensable for budding directors are the addenda, in which Kurosawa lays out his beliefs on the primacy of a good script, on scriptwriting as an essential tool for directors, on directing actors, on camera placement, and on the value of steeping oneself in literature, from great novels to detective fiction.

The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography by Ingmar Bergman

magic-lantern

“When a film is not a document, it is a dream. . . . At the editing table, when I run the strip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood.”

Bergman, who has conveyed this heady sense of wonder and vision to moviegoers for decades, traces his lifelong love affair with film in his breathtakingly visual autobiography, The Magic Lantern.

More grand mosaic than linear account, Bergman’s vignettes trace his life from a rural Swedish childhood through his work in theater to Hollywood’s golden age, and a tumultuous romantic history that includes five wives and more than a few mistresses. Throughout, Bergman recounts his life in a series of deeply personal flashbacks that document some of the most important moments in twentieth-century filmmaking as well as the private obsessions of the man behind them. Ambitious in scope yet sensitively wrought, The Magic Lantern is a window to the mind of one of our era’s great geniuses.


Did I miss your favourite filmmaking book? Let me know in the comments below!

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62 Comments on “57 Filmmaking Books You Need To Read”

      1. Read a book a day. I’m here in my garage.

        No, but seriously. If you read 25 pages a day, you can tackle a book.

    1. No one’s saying you have to read all these to be successful. I guess the “You Need To Read” in their title might suggest something else, but it’s more a reference guide. At least that’s how I viewed it.

      Some people will complain about anything, though. I imagine is this was a list of “3 Filmmaking Books You Need To Read” then we’d have people complaining that it’s too few!

      Just think about all the time you spend wasting time on your FB timeline, watching stupid youtube videos and more!

      This is knowledge from experienced individuals folks. Don’t underestimate that in this “everyone’s an expert before I have a camera” world we now live in.

  1. WOW. Great effort. This is so informative and exactly what I needed! I’m sure I’m not the only one when I say “Thank You!”

  2. Yes, great resources! However, not one of them are free or even next to free.
    What a shame for people who just can’t afford knowledge.
    That is exactly why we do what we do, to give people a start where others are too greedy to give anything. Our country is in chaos and people need to learn to help others; without soaking them out of what they do have to live with.
    If anyone needs info on any of the resources above, just ask.

    We’re here to help.

    1. Hi Allan,

      Thanks for the comment.

      As far as the resources not being free, I find this a surprising criticism. If someone can’t afford a $5-$10 book to better themselves, their career or their business (or all three), then I find that strange.

      The knowledge that can be extracted from just ONE of these books (if implemented) can change a life for the better, and be worth tonnes more in value than the asking price.

      If we want to grow, we need to invest in ourselves and our education. Supporting book authors, and those who offer value, is great for the industry and should be encouraged. I could understand the criticism if this was hundreds of thousands of dollars in production equipment. But $10 books?

      I’ve said this around the site a lot in relation to video production companies: It’s like the person who works for free who ends up not having their work respected because it’s…free.

      Believing that filmmaking (or setting up a successful video production company) can be done for free is a false and that kind of thinking limits people. When I set up my video production company, I borrowed money to get things off the ground. Nowadays, it’s a successful company and the money is paid back. But without the initial investment in myself and my skills, I wouldn’t have got there.

      If you DID want to do this for free, with the Amazon links, you have the ISBN numbers to find these books in your local library.

      Although I would really recommend buying books, supporting authors and generally getting involved in a value exchange that will grow your career.

      Thanks,

      Matt

    1. get a load of this guy…

      no, really pay attention to him. videography is like snowboarding: you can read all about it, watch as many video tutorials, analyze the mechanics, g-forces, vector trajectories, and gravitational pull… and once you get to the mountain, it will all fall apart.

      The only way to get better at snowboarding once you learn the basic rules is by drilling. The same applies to videography.

    2. No one’s saying you have to read all these to be successful. I guess the “You Need To Read” in their title might suggest something else, but it’s more a reference guide. At least that’s how I viewed it.

      Some people will complain about anything, though. I imagine is this was a list of “3 Filmmaking Books You Need To Read” then we’d have people complaining that it’s too few!

      Just think about all the time you spend wasting time on your FB timeline, watching stupid youtube videos and more!

      This is knowledge from experienced individuals folks. Don’t underestimate that in this “everyone’s an expert before I have a camera” world we now live in.

  3. I’m all for reading to learn, but 57 is about 45-50 too many. There are some great ones out there, but nothing teaches you the ins and outs like actually doing. I love having books for downtime or travel, but I can’t imagine how long it would take to get through 57 of them. Particularly when some of them are quite thick.

    As well, you’d probably be much better off reading 5 books about filmmaking, and then a few on storytelling, then the rest as actual novels. Nolan was an english major, most directors are big readers, but not of technical stuff, of fiction. You learn storytelling by reading stories, not by reading technical manuals. Each has it’s place, but there are definitely some heavy diminishing returns on technical books.

  4. i dont think anyone is saying you need to read these before making your first movie. but 57 over the course of a career is not impossible. Frankly, if you kept one of these on you at all times and read it in the inbetween spots like commutes, bathroom, lunch, whenever you would be on reddit, etc you could knock most out in a day or two. You might get some new ideas, and at the very least its probably better for your brain than a lot of the drivel we all take in scrolling a facebook timeline.

    Ive read exactly a dozen of the books on this list. See quiet a few that I would like to read but havent got around to yet. Found a few i had not heard of. And see at least a dozen more id suggest to film makers.

    I don’t understand the concept of too many. I agree shooting is the best way to learn, but im not making movies sitting on a toilet, riding on buses and airplanes. Or eating my morning cereal.

  5. Read ‘How to produce a feature film for under 3000 dollars’. It will change your entire outlook on WAITING until a truckload of money falls in your lap to start a project. Start with a decent script that contains fresh, innovative scenarios and characters..

    1. I’ve produced lots of TV shows, ads without $. I was sharing about where I am as opposed to where I think I should be.

  6. Cut to the Chase by Bobbie O’Steen (interviews with Sam O’Steen) and The Film Form and the Film Sense by Sergei Eisenstein. I may have missed them in the list, but Cut to the Chase is a mission critical story about the strategies for direction and editing (O’Steen’s first show was the Graduate) in the late sixties and early seventies.

  7. Great list! Book at the top really deserves to be there. Hurbis-Cherrier was my prof in film school and he is pretty amazing.

  8. A lot of these are great books to have I have few and would not hesitate in getting others as you can always learn

  9. even with all the filmmaking books in the world…. it is no substitute for a consultant who has been in the filmmaking trenches…. who has confronted and overcome everyday video and film making messes and challenges. just a thought… it’s also more cost effective and time conscious.

    so yes read the books. but consult a professional too.

    Save time and money – have better outcome and more impact!

    1. Mr. Ouziel has it right. Any business goes by this truth. People have done it many way s, but that is by far the best. Most important is to figure out what you do not know and hire someone who does.

      1. Thank you Gregory Ritch. I appreciate your understanding. Many people don’t know what they don’t know. So, I believe education is important.

  10. This list is amazing, thanks. I also recommend the book “Montaje Cinematografico. Arte en Movimiento” written by Rafael Sanchez. Is in spanish but it worth every page.

  11. Great list and thanks for compiling it.

    I don’t buy the comment that the books might distract us from actually going out and making films. There are plenty of moments during the day when you are not in the middle of a shoot. And if you ARE that busy, then you probably need a holiday, in which case I suggest you take one of these books on the plane.

    1. Most definitely, Richard. A couple of people seem annoyed that I included so many books here. But, in the grand scheme of things, 57 books really isn’t all that much, especially over a career. We all have plenty of spare time and downtime – it’s just how we use it that counts.

      Thanks for the comment!

  12. Great list…here is another, for anyone interested in social impact filmmaking and hybrid distribution models.

    Filmmaking for Change: Make Films that Transform the World

  13. I have DIRECTING by MICHAEL RABINGER AND MICK HURBIS-CHERRIER and DIRECT­ING ACTORS by JUDITH WESTON.

    The first one was my bible when I started. I would have all my notes from that book and reread sections I was getting to part of the process while making my first short. It’s really good.

    I really recommend the second book of Judith Weston “Film director’s intuition” is even better than the first one and touches more on script analysis & rehearsal.

    A book I haven’t seen on the list and is really good: The 21st century screenplay by Linda Aronson. You can do exercises as you finish each chapter, it helps me A LOT during rewrites.

  14. This is a great list, but I was wondering if anyone knows of any books that are specifically catered towards UK film production, and in particular, producing. There are several I’ve read on the list and whilst they are all very comprehensive, they primarily focus on producing American films and the US market. Thanks!

    1. I agree with Samantha, I have read a few of the books on the list. But trying to find a good producing book that focuses on the UK side of film making is hard to find. Does anyone know of any? I am currently reading ‘Producer to Producer’ which is very insightful. but even the business side of that is heavily focused on the American Film Industry. Thanks for sharing your list it offers a lot of insight.

    2. Thank you for sharing this list. I would like to recommend that budding filmmakers take up the basic filmmaking course by the National Film and Television School (NFTS), UK. Their basic program is conducted over the Internet at http://www.futurelearn.com. It’s an excellent primer.

  15. Start with ‘How to produce a movie for less than 3000 dollars. You might want to save your money after learning just about everything in it. Except hands on training which is best accompanied by like minded individuals with vision and tenacity. A couple of decent cameras and field sound gear are definite assets. Free tip: If you own the equipment do not let anyone else take it home with them. My field sound recording gear was stolen two years ago by people I trusted in Denver. We were shooting the opening scenes for my Invisible Man adaptation from H G Wells. Of course they got fired but I lost a few thousand dollars in time and equipment. The loss also set back the start dates on My Invisible Man and Tesla projects.

  16. I want to purchase some of your books for training purpose at the newly established Film Training Institute namely International Film Angels (IFA)

    1. Hi Damian,

      That sounds great. Just follow the links and make the purchases through Amazon.

      Let me know if you have any problems.

      Thanks,

      Matt

  17. All these suggestions are fantastic! I’ve also found a recent book very helpful. It’s called Setlife: A Guide to Getting a Job In Film by Matthew Webb. For those looking to get jobs on the big blockbusters I found it extremely helpful. There’s also some really cool interviews throughout. It was a bit difficult to find as it’s fairly new but Amazon has it.

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