Recommended Reading

Each month we recommend a book for you to buy to assist you on your filmmaking career path. Here are all the books rounded up in one place. Remember to check back often to see what else has made it onto the list of all lists.

1. Making Short Films: The Complete Guide from Script to Screen

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“Whether you are embarking on your first YouTube project or planning a more ambitious, collaborative film, Making Short Films give you the answers for everything you need to know.
This new edition of what has become a bible for filmmakers internationally is completely rewritten, expanded and redesigned and now features a web-page with supporting information and access to the key films discussed inside. Just as the original, descriptions and explanations of the whole process to making a film is given as well as insider tips from producers and film makers.
All the history of short-film-making, all the criteria about putting together a script, ow to direct, securing funding and getting your short shown are packed into this must have for filmmakers of all types.”

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2. Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen

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A complete catalogue of motion picture techniques for filmmakers. It concentrates on the ‘storytelling’ school of filmmaking, utilizing the work of the great stylists who established the versatile vocabulary of technique that has dominated the movies
since 1915. This graphic approach includes comparisons of style by interpreting a ‘model script’, created for the book, in storyboard form.

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3. The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression

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This is an updated and newly revised edition of the classic book The Art of Photography (originally published in 1994), which has often been described as the most readable, understandable, and complete textbook on photography. With well over 100 beautiful photographic illustrations in both black-and-white and color, as well as numerous charts, graphs, and tables, this book presents the world of photography to beginner, intermediate, and advanced photographers seeking to make a personal statement through the medium of photography. Without talking down to anyone, or talking over anyone’s head, Barnbaum presents “how to” techniques for both traditional and digital approaches. Yet he goes well beyond the technical, as he delves deeply into the philosophical, expressive, and creative aspects of photography so often avoided in other books.

Bruce Barnbaum is recognized as one of the world’s finest landscape and architectural photographers, and for decades has been considered one of the best instructors in the field of photography. This latest incarnation of his textbook, which has evolved, grown, and been refined over the past 35 years, will prove to be an ongoing, invaluable photographic reference for years to come. It is truly the resource of choice for the thinking photographer.

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4. Painting With Light

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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”. First published in 1949, and long out of print since then, “Painting With Light” remains one of the few truly canonical statements on the art of motion picture photography, an unrivalled historical document on the workings of the postwar, American cinema. In simple, non-technical language, Alton explains the job of the cinematographer and explores how lighting, camera techniques, and choice of locations determine the visual mood of film. Todd McCarthy’s introduction, written especially for this edition, provides an overview of Alton’s biography and career and explores the influence of his work on contemporary cinematography.”

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 5. Rebel Without A Crew 

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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.”

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6. Colour (Cinema Aesthetics)

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Colour remains one of the few uncharted territories in writing about film style. Colour is the first monograph to deal with the close criticism of film colour across decades and countries. Through detailed explorations of films such as Three Colours: White and The Green Ray, this study offers a way of approaching, interpreting, and appreciating cinematic colour. The book also considers film’s ability to place colour in a shifting relationship with all other points of style including camerawork, editing, performance, music, and lighting. Accessible and inventive in its approach, Colour invites the reader to see films differently, providing a fresh perspective of this overlooked element of cinema aesthetics.

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7 . FilmCraft: Cinematography

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The first in the FilmCraft Series, this beautiful book covers the complex craft of cinematography through discussions with notable cinematographers, like Vittorio Storaro and Christopher Doyle. With stills, photos from the sets, and in-depth exploration of both iconic and contemporary projects, from Psycho and the French New Wave classic The Week End to Chicago and Zhang Yimou’s saga Hero. Get access to lauded professionals, who provide you with the perspective to think like the pros and create compelling visual stories. Apply the perspective you’ll gain to your own work with practical tips, or just sit back and coast along this thoughtful, behind-the-scenes road.

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8. The Art of Dramatic Writing

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Lajos Egri examines a play from the inside out, starting with the heart of any drama: its characters. For it is people – their private natures and their inter-relationships – that move a story and give it life. All good dramatic writing depends upon an understanding of human motives. Why do people act as they do? What forces transform a coward into a hero, a hero into a coward? What is it that Romeo does early in Shakespeare’s play that makes his later suicide seem inevitable? Why must Nora leave her husband at the end of A Doll’s House? These are a few of the fascinating problems which Egri analyzes. He shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise – a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behaviour – and to develop his dramatic conflict on the basis of that behaviour. Premise, character, conflict: this is Egri’s ABC. His book is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving truth in a literary creation.

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 9. On Filmmaking

 

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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.

In this impressive volume, edited by Paul Cronin, the myriad materials that made Mackendrick’s reputation as an instructor are collected for the first time, offering a chance for professionals as well as students to discover a methodology of filmmaking that is challenging yet refreshing in its clarity. Meticulously illustrated and drawing on examples from such classic films as North by Northwest, Citizen Kane, and Touch of Evil, Mackendrick’s elegant lessons are sure to provide inspiration for a new generation of filmmakers.

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10. Location Sound Bible: How To Record Professional Sound For Film & Television 

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The Location Sound Bible is a complete guide to recording dialog on location. Topics include audio basics, microphone selection, wireless systems, recording and mixing techniques, and the Ten Location Sound Commandments, but it’s more than just cables and connectors. This book takes you behind the scenes of Ric Viers’ work on feature films, television shows, broadcast news, courtroom dramas, music videos, and more.

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11. Adobe After Effects CS6 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques

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This is the only book to focus exclusively on the creation of visual effects for After Effects, and is a one-stop resource for anyone who wants in-depth explanations that demystify the realm of visual effects and how they were created, thanks to veteran author Mark Christiansen’s friendly and accessible style. A thoroughly packed, informative read, this masterful guide focuses on explaining the essential concepts, features, and techniques that are key to creating seamless movie-quality visual effects. Users who are comfortable with After Effects will find a helpful review of the fundamentals—managing footage, viewing and editing layers, animating type, and more—so they can learn how to work smarter and more efficiently. Readers of all levels will learn core techniques for effects compositing including color matching, keying, rotoscoping, motion tracking, emulating the camera, and concluding with using expressions in After Effects, written by contributor and expert Dan Ebberts. The final section of the book delves into creative explorations, demonstrating professional effects that readers might want to re-create.

Readers will also find comprehensive coverage of all that’s new in CS6, including variable mask feathering, Rolling Shutter Repair, Camera Tracker, and the new ray-traced 3D rendering engine which allows users to quickly design in 3D space.

Included with the book are files used for many of the techniques in the book: Sample clips and projects include HD footage from Pixel Corps and Artbeats, as well as demos of plug-ins that you can use to experiment with in your own effects.

 

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12. Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook: Film Lighting Equipment, Practice, and Electrical Distribution

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Comprehensive. Detailed. Practical. Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook, Fourth Edition, is a friendly, hands-on manual covering the day-to-day practices, equipment, and tricks of the trade essential to anyone doing motion picture lighting, including the lamp operator, rigging crew, gaffer, best boy, or director of photography. This handbook offers a wealth of practical technical information, useful techniques, as well as aesthetic discussions.

The Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook focuses on what is important when working on-set: trouble-shooting, teamwork, set protocol, and safety. It describes tricks and techniques for operating a vast array of lighting equipment including LEDs, xenons, camera synchronous strobes, black lights, underwater units, lighting effects units, and many others. Since its first edition, this handy on-set reference continues to be widely adopted as a training and reference manual by union training programs as well as top university film production programs.

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13. How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make

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Having read tons of screenplays as an executive, Denny Martin Flinn has come to understand that while all good screenplays are unique, all bad screenplays are the same. Flinn’s book will teach the reader how to avoid the pitfalls of bad screenwriting, and arrive at one’s own destination intact. Every example used was gleaned from a legitimate screenplay. Flinn’s advice is a no-nonsense analysis of the latest techniques for crafting first-rate screenplays that sell.

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14. Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema

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With sound becoming more important in cinema exhibition and DVD release, Sound Design offers user-friendly knowledge and stimulating exercises to help compose a story, develop characters and create emotion through skillful creation of the sound track. Psychoacoustics, music theory, voice study and analysis of well-known films expand perception, imagination and the musical skills of the reader.
Psychoacoustics, music theory, and voice study are covered through the detailed analysis of well-known films, to expand perception, imagination and the musical skills of the reader.

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15: Filming The Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography

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Don’t waste valuable time and budget fixing your footage in post! Shoot the effects you want effectively and creatively the first time. This full-color step-by step guide to visual effects cinematography empowers you to plan out and execute visual effects shots on a budget, without falling into the common pitfall of using high-end computer graphics to “fix it in post,” which can be an expensive, drawn-out process. Instead, learn how to put your shots together before you start shooting-whether you’re working in digital or film. Learn how to effectively photograph and create  miniatures, matte paintings, green screen set ups, crowd replication, digital rear projection, and so much more to create elements that will composite together flawlessly.

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16. The Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook: The Ultimate Guide to Digital Film Making

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If you’ve never made a film before, this amazing book will tell you.

How other young film makers made their first movie and found massive success* How to take your great ideas and turn them into great films* How to build a team to make your movie now* How to harness cheap technology to make expensive looking films* How to avoid hundreds of pitfalls many other film makers will fall into* How to find audiences and even make money from your movie. Veterans of the indie film scene, the authors have produced numerous low-budget feature films, sold projects to Hollywood studios, come perilously close to an Oscar nomination, and even ended up in prison! They’re also the team behind the best-selling Guerilla Film Makers Handbooks series, selling over 100,000 copies around the world and they’ve taught thousands of emerging filmmakers the key skills needed to make their own great movies to launch a career. Their offices are at Ealing Studios in London and in Los Angeles.

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17. Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques

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There are three kinds of feelings when reading a story – boredom, interest, and WOW! To become a successful writer you must create the WOW! Feeling on as many pages as possible, and this requires writing that engages the reader emotionally. In his best-selling 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, screenwriter Karl Iglesias explored the working habits of A-list Hollywood scribes. Now, he breaks new ground by focusing on the psychology of the reader. Based on his acclaimed classes at UCLA Extension, Writing for Emotional Impact goes beyond the basics and argues that Hollywood is in the emotion-delivery business, selling emotional experiences packaged in movies and TV shows. Karl not only encourages you to deliver emotional impact on as many pages as possible, he shows you how, offering you hundreds of dramatic techniques to take your writing to the professional level.

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18. Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors

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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.

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