While nothing prepares you to be a great filmmaker quite like good old-fashioned on-set experience, reading books is also a great way to learn. There are many books out there about filmmaking that trying to find a good one can be overwhelming. For that reason, we’ve compiled a short list of filmmaking books & guides we think are worth reading.
First Time Director: How to Make Your Breakthrough Movie
Written by Gil Bettman, First Time Director: How to Make Your Breakthrough Movie is a great read for less experienced filmmakers who are about to embark on their first feature film. Bettman carefully goes over everything you need to focus on as a director through preproduction and postproduction. He tries to impart wisdom about how to deal with all of the problems you might face on set.
Gil Bettman has been working in production since the 80’s, and has directed episodes of Knight Rider, The Twilight Zone, and several independent films. He currently teaches at Chapman University.
The Independent Filmmaker’s Law and Business Guide: Financing, Shooting, and Distributing Independent and Digital Films
As if making films wasn’t difficult enough, there’s all a whole bunch of legal and business things that filmmakers need to know. In this era of independent filmmaking, I think it’s more important than ever for filmmakers to know the legal side of the business.
Jon M. Garon, who is a law professor at Hamline University School of Law, goes over everything you need to know in the guide. He addresses the legal, financial, and organizational questions that an independent or guerilla filmmaker must face.
Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen
This is probably my all time favorite filmmaking book. It became an instant classic when it came out in the early 90’s. Film Directing Shot By Shot contains over 750 storyboards and illustrations from Citizen Kane, The Birds, and other Hollywood masterpieces.
If you’re an inexperienced hobbyist, it can really help you understand the importance of every single shot in a film. It contains in-depth information on shot composition, staging sequences, pre-visualization, depth of frame, and camera techniques.
If you’re a seasoned veteran, Film Directing Shot by Shot is a great book to read before a shoot to reinforce techniques you already know. It is also a great on-set quick reference guide.
Written by Sidney Lumet, Making Movies is one of the best books ever written on directing a film. Drawing on 40 years experience of movies ranging from Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Network, Murder on the Orient Express, and Dog Day Afternoon, Lumet goes over everything from choosing lenses to effectively directing actors.
The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook: Real-World Production Techniques
An ultimate beginner’s guide to shooting with DSLRs, this book goes over many tips and tricks to shoot more “professional” looking video. If you’re looking for ways to take your shooting skills to the next level this handbook will help you harness the video capabilities of your DSLR. Packed with professional movie-making secrets, solid technical advice, and practical timesavers, this unique book offers real-world solutions for all aspects of DSLR filmmaking.