filmmaking books



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  • filmmaking books

    I've been writing screenplays for about eight years now, after finishing my latest script I decided that I will shoot it independently. Since I don't have much experience in the shooting aspect of filmmaking I am looking for a few helpful books (preferably recent publications). Any suggestions would be appreciated, I plan to shoot on DV.

  • #2
    the basics of filmmaking are the same whether you shoot on film or on video.

    It really depends on where you are coming from but first off, I'd probably not recommend any DV specific books since that's the least important thing and directing, lighting and setting up your shots and blocking are far more important and much harder to learn then how to operate a DV camera.

    I might suggest 'Grammar Of The Shot' by Roy Thompson. It's a short book but explains what makes a shot work, what kinds of shots and the rules you have to understand of how people perceive film.

    'The Five C's of Cinematography' is a great book too on shots, how shots work and the like.

    Why two books about cinematography? Because if you don't understand how to set up a shot, how to create a feel or a sense of something with your film before you even edit it you failed before anyone has seen it.

    There are a ton of lighting books out there but I can't think of any that are base level right off the top of my head.

    I remember reading The Film Director by Richard L. Bare and it being a VERY bare bones directing kind of book but good, but very basic, stuff.

    Look on Amazon for books and look at the reviews of them then see if you can find them used on there or on It doesn't matter how old they are: The basics are the basics whether you are shooting film or video, whether you are shooting in 1964 or 2004.

    The best thing you can do is to get a video camera (doens't matter if it's a VHS one or whatever) and try to recreate the shots from a scene of a film that really worked for you. Look at each shot and analyse it to pieces. Try and recreate it... look at how much 'head room' the actors are given, look at how much 'nose room' there is when they are looking off camera.


    • #3

      just finished it last night.

      it isn't JUST Directors either, directors who write, produce, edit, work cinematoghraphy, even compose.

      GREAT confidence booster & a great price on it.


      • #4
        I found The Conversations by the great film- and sound-editor Walter Murch to teach me much about the art of making a film (and consequently gave me much to think about as a writer). It's just out in paper.

        I also often go back to Fran├žois Truffaut's classic book of interviews with Hitchcock, which can serve as a kind of textbook for anyone writing thriller scripts. It's also available in paper.


        • #5
          film directing shot by shot, by steven katz

          also, i would suggest shooting a short film before doing your feature. you can shoot one over a weekend and you will learn a lot, from shot set ups, to lighting, to how to deal with actors.

          i shot a 12 page short on the 16th and 17th, have been logging the footage, will be editing shortly, then will be having it scored, and so on...and it's two things: fun and exhausting.

          also, one other word: rehearsal.


          • #6
            Agree, I'm just now beginning to brainstorm my Short Feature. One of my professors said it's probably best just to put forth an effort and get something 'out there' with my stamp on it.

            And speaking of that, I'm looking for good books on making short films also.



            • #7
              I agree with Shot by Shot, Katz...standard issue for film students. You might also want to look at Filmmakers Handbook, Achell. Also required reading for film students. There is a new edition of this out that deals heavily with DV filmmaking. Couldn't remember his name so did a search...might as well share so you can see...


              You might also want to look at the "Producers Handbook" for helping to organize your production, can't think of the author but remember reading it and it was very thorough. When your done with your masterpiece and are ready to put it out there you might want to consider basically reading everything from two guys: Michael Wiese and Mark Litwak. Poducer and ent. lawyer respectively. These guys pretty much know everything about sales, promotion, distribution etc...just a suggestion. On second thought read their stuff first, they're film finance expert too!

              But probably the most important book of all: Rebel Without A Crew, Robert Rodriquez. Trust me.

              I totally agree with doing a short and rehearsing!!! I recommend taping your rehearsals, editing them and showing them to people you know on top of thorough review yourself. Stuff you write tends to look completely different when you finally watch it done by actors. Shoot some key scenes with improvised sets, make a trailer, see what it really looks like. Practice before you bet the farm on a two week shooting schedule. What I learned doing shorts in film school is that when you have limited resources and experience it only takes a few problems to screw a tight shooting schedule up. I of course had to have my equipment back first thing Mon. morning so time was always a factor. Don't know where you stand on that so good luck with it.


              • #8
                But probably the most important book of all: Rebel Without A Crew, Robert Rodriquez. Trust me.
                I don't know. I thought it was an entertaining read, but didn't provide much practical advice. RR's experience was singular and shouldn't really be expected. His production system was insane (dialogue was recorded wild?!). His success in Hollywood was one-in-a-million.

                If you're looking for nuts-and-bolts advice, I think there's much better books:

                "Digital Moviemaking" by Scott Billups (a bible of info about DV)

                "Make Your Own Damn Movie" and "All I Needed to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger" by Lloyd Kaufman (Say what you will about the Troma style, but Kaufman's been making successful indie films for thirty years. These books are chock-full of real world advice - and they're very funny.)

                "$30 Film School" by Michael Dean (He's a bit of DIY geek, but an 8-year-old could learn to make a movie from this book.)


                • #9
                  You're right Bottomless, actually, I should have mentioned RR's book as inspirational and entertaining but not worth much else. I mean c'mon; borrowing machine guns from the local cops, a hospitals only wheelchair, the bus stunt! Try any of that in your hometown, I dare you. And you can forget about completely free camera and editing unless you already own the stuff or know someone who does. Not a realistic model of how a first time indie gets made. Don't forget the most important piece either, Columbia did a ton of professional sound editing and foley work into the final version most of us saw on cable or video. Makes a huge difference when your watching it. Good stuff though.