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Top Books that every young filmmaker should read

Top Books That Every Young Filmmaker Should Read
1) “Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting” by Robert McKee. A staple. The book in Hollywood that everyone is reading, but no one has ‘read’. McKee is a famous for his “Story Seminars“. The book is a great read, well written, and dives into the substance of what story is. Every chapter is worth rereading about 30 times. Absolutely can’t have a must read filmmakers list without this book.

2) “On Directing Film” by David Mamet. First off, this book is under $10. Huge. Second, Mamet published this book back in 1992 after only directing two features. My first inclination was to put the book down. But it’s 100 pages, something you can read in a sitting or two. Mamet gives succinct, honest insights into the directing process and the importance of using the cut when directing a film (he really doesn’t like Steadicam). Two of the six chapters are transcriptions from a classroom dialog he had with students at Columbia University. The book is gold as it takes the reader into the discussion of how events organically develop into a story that captivates both the conscious and unconscious mind.

3) “Cinematography: Theory and Practice” by Blain Brown. Unlike the previous book, you won’t get through reading this text in a week. Or a year. Or a lifetime… Each chapter focuses on the various aspects of Cinematography…technique, visual language, lenses, camera movement, color theory, and across the spectrum to things like set operation and common technical issues. Brown’s depth on each area makes the information is really useful. This is a reference text of mine. 20 years of shooting your own projects will make you a great DP, but a book like this is a perfect guide to help you focus on the right things while on that journey.

4) “Film Directing: Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen” by Steven D. Katz. Many of the greatest filmmakers spend an immense amount of time pre-visualizing a film and attempting to understand its many intangibles. Katz’s book is a journey. “The general approach in this book is to encourage the development of solutions that are adapted to the individual needs of the filmmaker.” (129) Most pages are filled with illustrations to demonstrate the content of the text. This is a guide worth reading through a few times to really grasp what “having a vision” really means. We’re all prone to potential abstractions between the concept in your head and how frames literally playback on a screen. This book helps, a lot.

5) “Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great” by William M. Akers. The title is awesome, the book is awesome. Akers provides a witty approach in his book that makes it more conversational than instructional. A light read with great tips, this book is a definite keeper.

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