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Educate Yourself: 16 Must-Read Books for Filmmakers and Videographers

Johnathan Paul

These must-read books for filmmakers and videographers can give you an edge in our competitive industry.

Maybe you’ve decided to make the jump into the competitive business of film and video production or perhaps you’re looking to bump up your skills and optimize your business acumen. If so, add the following books to your reading list. We’ve wrangled up the best books for filmmakers and videographers that shed light on topics ranging from production techniques and raising grant money, to scriptwriting and promoting your project on social media.

Have you read any of the books on the list? Got others to add? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: Each of the books below link to Amazon, where they are avaliable for purchase. These are not affiliate or sponsored links! We encourage you to purchase at the bookstore of your choice.

1. Shaking the Money Tree

Shaking the Money Tree

Shaking the Money Tree is widely accepted as the definitive fundraising resource for indie film and video producers. In this 3rd edition, author Morrie Warshawski expands on his previous methods of finding film funds (private foundations, grants, and individual investors), as well as looking at alternative social media and crowd-funding methods. Shaking the Money Tree is a very short read, but it’s packed with valuable information, especially if you’re trying to get your next project off the ground.


2. The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook

DSLR Filmmaker Handbook

Nearly every documentary filmmaker I know uses a DSLR and nearly every single one of them has this book. Written by independent filmmaker Barry Andersson and entertainment attorney Janie L. Geyen, this handbook doesn’t just go over the ins and outs of what a DSLR is, it goes through the process of choosing the best camera for your needs, how to use the gear in the field, lighting for your DSLR, and even post-production processes. This isn’t just a book about a group of cameras, it’s a book about workflow and process. Without question this is a must read if you shoot with DSLRs.


3. The Filmmaker’s Handbook

Filmmakers Handbook

This is known throughout the industry as the “bible” of film production. Since 1999, The Filmmaker’s Handbook has been used at film schools across the world. Written by Academy Award nominee Steven Ascher, this handbook is all about the digital age of filmmaking. It gives in-depth looks into how to shoot narrative, documentary, corporate, or experimental films, as well as how to light, record sound, edit, and distribute. The 2013 edition has been updated to reflect the newest advancements in technology, such as capturing and post production processing with 4K and higher resolution formats.


4. Film Production Techniques

Film Production Techniques

Now in it’s sixth edition, Film Production Techniques runs through the process of blocking for the camera, constructing a scene, organizing your crew, and pre-visualizing your film. The book then moves on to the basics of camera operation, formats, lenses, tripods, etc. Mamer even goes over workflows, lighting, sound, and editing. It truly is a comprehensive book, which has been used in film schools for more than a decade.


5. The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film

The Reel Truth

Author Reed Martin takes readers through all of the issues that aspiring filmmakers will encounter on their journey. Not stopping with his own overview of things to avoid, Reed enlisted over one hundred industry professionals to give readers insight into the issues that nearly derailed their careers. This book is a fantastic resource on how to spot and avoid major issues during your filmmaking process.


6. The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style

The Hollywood Standard

This book by Christopher Riley will get you on your way to formatting your script the correctly. Riley doesn’t stop with just standard film scripts either. He gives reader insight on how to avoid common formatting mistakes, proofreading, producing a spec script, and even how to correctly format emails and text messages.


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


This Blain Brown book does a good job of breaking down processes and techniques in very easy to understand ways. While we will say that the Film Production Techniques book goes that extra mile in terms of information, its presentation pales in comparison to this book. The diagrams, illustrations, and included DVD go far beyond anything we’ve seen in previous books regarding cinematography or directing.


8. On Directing Film

On Directing Film

David Mamet’s book gives readers a view of the filmmaking process from the perspective of the director. He goes through the entire process from script to edit. David runs through all of the tasks that directors are responsible for, tasks which ultimately make or break their films. While this book is based on lectures that Mamet gave at Columbia University, it’s not just a textbook. This book will appeal to professionals and students alike. Also, check out Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies.


9. Film and Video Budgets

Film and Video Budgets

This is a must-have for any independent filmmaker and video producer. When you’re doing things on your own, without the luxury of a devoted producer and staff to run everything for you, then you need to know how to budget appropriately. This book will help you do that. Author Deke Simon last updated this book in 2010 and there’s word that a new edition delves into adjusted budgets for 4k and higher resolutions will be coming soon.


10. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting

Story Substance

Robert McKee is a former professor of screenwriting at the University of Southern California and is considered by many in the industry to be the leading expert on screenwriting. His client list is long and eye-popping, with names like Paul Haggis, Geoffrey Rush, John Cleese and Kirk Douglas. In Story, Robert takes the lectures and seminars that he gives around the world and puts them into one book.


In the Blink of An Eye

Three-time Oscar winner Walter Murch is a legendary editor and sound designer who has worked on such classics as THX 1138, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Trilogy, The English Patient and Cold Mountain. In the Blink of an Eye goes over continuity, criteria for cuts, emotional cues, digital editing, and changing technologies. This could be the definitive guide for all editors.


12. Shooting to Kill: How an Independent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make Movies that Matter

Shooting to Kill

Producer Christine Vachon has taken entries from the diary she kept during the filming of her best known movies (Boys Don’t Cry, One Hour Photo, Far From Heaven) and translated them into book form. Shooting to Kill reveals Vachon’s process on script writing, nurturing a vision, how to get financed, finding talent, rubbing elbows with the right people, and how to stretch every available resource as an independent filmmaker.


13. The Social Media Bible

Social Media Bible

As most filmmakers should know by now, the way in which we watch and promote films has changed dramatically. We’ve moved into the digital age where social media is king. Knowing how to effectively navigate social media can make or break your next project. Lon Safko has crafted a book that gives incredible insight on how to effectively utilize social media platforms to get your vision out to the rest of the world.


14. The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories

Art of Immersion

With the film industry changing from celluloid to digital, content no longer has a traditional label and distribution model. Frank Rose writes about how this new digital age is changing the way we watch the content we want, and it gives insight to filmmakers on how to stay on the cutting edge.


Pocket Lawyer

One of the best classes I took in film school covered Intellectual Property Law. As filmmakers and videographers, we need to be able to protect our work, while also not infringing on the rights of others. Utilize this book to learn the all the legal tools you can while beginning your career. Should you find yourself needing legal counsel, you’ll be ahead of the game and know exactly what you need.


16. Fans, Friends and Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age

Fans Friends and Followers

In order to have a long career, you need an audience. You need a group of people that want to engage with the art you create. Building this audience is the hardest thing any filmmaker does over the course of their career, no matter how long or short. Author Scott Kirsner has developed a book that will guide you through strategies on how to build on online audience and gain the followers you need to extend your career.

Hopefully these books will inspire and help you during your next project. Have you read any of these books? Did you find them helpful and inspirational? Do you know of other great books that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments below.