I have probably at some point read every book aimed at filmmakers. I used to collect them, it was an easy go to Christmas gift for me from friends and family. This is an updated post from a list I made 2 years ago. If you have any suggestions of books I should check out then please let me know in the comment section below it be great to keep this list updated throughout the years. I have also created a video based around this post that you can watch here.
Robert Rodriguez’s famous book on how he made his first feature film ‘El Mariachi’ for $7,000 and found fame at the Sundance film festival. It is a very inspiring book, I bought it when I was 14 and it gave me a buzz to make films. If you want to be reminded how exciting filmmaking can be then this book is worth a read.
The book was written in the early 90s when video filmmaking was still happening and sending film reels to film festivals was still the way to go. It’s worth noting that at the time of El Mariachi only a few hundred films were entered into The Sundance film festival not near as many as the thirteen thousand that was entered last year (2017 stats including shorts & features of which only 225 which were selected to be shown at the official festival).
Film-making is more competitive today so treat the book as an entertaining and inspirational read other than a definite approach to filmmaking.
The no frills attached screenwriting book. I love it because it’s so down to earth and treats screenwriting as a realistic business (rather expecting your first feature film script to win an academy award). Although it focuses on how to write successful Hollywood films other than aiming at World cinema and independent film making; it most importantly tells you why the scripts you’ve been writing are not very good.
It has lists of writing formulas and tells you how to make your ideas marketable, how to write a winning log-line and how to draft your script like a pro. Save the Cat is the most well known screenwriting book aimed toward Hollywood screenwriting.
I thought I would mix up this years list with something a little different. Hollywood is a novel from author Charles Bukowski. It is an account of how he was commissioned to write a screenplay based on his novel and the experiences / struggles he faced doing so in Hollywood.
It's a semi-autobiographical novel based on his real life account of writing the screenplay to the film Barfly starring Mickey Rourke. Although fiction this might be a fun read if you want to get down to the grit and inside workings of Hollywood business. Not necessarily informative but more so an entertaining read.
If you are interested in cinematography, lighting design or production design then this is an alternative book to buy. This book looks at the power of colour in visual storytelling, how the use of colour influences emotions, characters and the audience. It uses examples from well known films going through how individual colours where used in each scene to further the scene development. It's a professionally designed book with lots of colour images and examples. If you have been making films for a few years and want to learn something new then this would be a good intermediate read.
Film Craft have created several books that span across many disciplines in film. Including editing, producing, costume design and sound design. The directors edition I own focuses purely on how to direct by giving you examples from 22 successful directors.
The interviews with directors include, how they started making films, getting their first film jobs, how they personally direct actors, the struggles they have had with making films and their own tips for young directors. Film Craft is a well written series, a large book with detailed images that would make a great gift.