Favorite books about making movies

This post includes information from my previous post on what I’m reading, the Movie Edition.  But this one organizes books by topic.  It also includes only my favorites of the books I’ve read on making movies.  Consider this my recommended reading list on various topics in movie making.  This list may evolve over time as I find more books of interest.

Starting from the start of the process:

Scriptwriting

Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk.  Film Crit Hulk is an film critic who writes in the persona of the Incredible Hulk.  From reading his stuff, it’s also clear that he works in the movie business in something related to screenwriting.  In this book, available only as an e-book, he has put together a bunch of stuff from his blog, all about constructing stories and films.  I really like his approach, which does not rely on formula.

The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri.  More about playwriting, but applicable to screenwriting as well.  A nice solid approach to making sure that there’s drama in your dramas.

Shot planning

- Setting up your Shots: Great Camera Moves Every Director Should Know, by Jeremy Vineyard.  This does the best job of the various books I’ve seen on laying out the basic camera shots and moves – pans, tilts, dolly moves of various sorts, etc.

Master Shots vols 1-3, and Master Shots the various iBooks versions, by Christopher Kenworthy.  I absolutely loved these.  Each of vols 1-3 look at 100 shots from various movies and discuss the effect they have and how to make the shot.  Then the e-books are even better, though they don’t have as many shots – each one takes 25 of the shots from the other books, includes the information from the paper books, and then Kenworthy re-made the shots with actors.  The iBooks versions includes the video of the shot, then includes a version of the video with Kenworthy providing voice-over commentary discussing it.  All in all, consider this a set of cookbooks of useful shots.  But even better, after going through these, you start to understand what makes for good shots.  These books gave me a better understanding of setting up shots than anything else I’ve come across.  Special bonus: I sent Kenworthy a question about this (his email is on his website) and he sent back a nice friendly note that answered my question.  So special bonus.

Directing

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet.  Lumet directed a whole bunch of Hollywood pictures in a bunch of different genres.  In this book, he takes you through all the steps he goes through in directing, from selecting a project to what he does to help market the movie.  Really quite excellent on directing.

Directing Actors by Judith Weston.  A very nice book about how one should give direction to actors to get the best results from them.  I’ve learned a lot from this.

Cinematography

- Light, Science, and Magic by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, and Paul Fuqua.  Strictly speaking this one’s about photography, not video.  But it’s applicable, and excellent.  For my way of learning (I prefer to go from theory to practice), this has been the best book on photography I’ve ever read.  It explains how light behaves, then goes from that to detailed discussions of how to light and photograph different types of subjects.  Absolutely terrific, and strongly recommended if you want to get serious about photography.

Cinematography by Blain Brown.  I loved this book.  It’s a detailed description of the elements of cinematography, including detailed discussions of the technologies involved.  I learned things here about photography that I didn’t know.  A bit dry at times, but amazingly informative.

Editing

In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch.  Wonderful philosophical stuff, a great theory of editing, lots of interesting stuff.  A quick read as well.  This was the only book about editing I came across, but it is a good one.

Hollywood

Adventures in the Screen Trade  by William Goldman.  William Goldman’s an incredibly accomplished screenwriter whose works range from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to “Princess Bride.”  This book gives a gossipy discussion of how Hollywood makes its movies, including detailed stories of the films he’s made.  Again, not much help for the actual making of movies, but quite entertaining.

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