The Essential Back to (Film) School Reading Guide + 3 Free EBooks
No need for film school. Here are your book recommendations for every film department + 3 FREE e-Books
Fall is near, with its pumpkin-flavored everything and college students flooding back into a city near you. It’s back to school, but even if your days in the classroom are done, don’t fret! I’ve got the books to keep your mind sharp and inspiration flowing well into the winter months!
You don’t have to be in film school to study filmmaking. With the internet and all its resources (like your friends here at PremiumBeat), it is easier now than ever to learn all the skills you need to make films. But if you’re itching to go deeper and take the more old-fashioned approach, here is a list of some great film books to check out. From story to screenwriting to lighting: these books are the best in their categories.
This list comes from recommendations straight off of film sets. I spoke with friends in a number of film departments to get their “go to” books.
by Steven Ascher & Edward Pincus
The Filmmaker’s Handbook covers it all, from start to finish, and in an accessible language for any level filmmaker. From pre-production all the way through to distribution, this book is a crash course for each step of the way. It even includes information for shooting on film and is full of tables and data rates in its wonderfully fat appendix.
by Sidney Lumet
Making Movies is a mixture of memoir and how-to by the Oscar-nominated director. He reflects on his experiences working with actors and handling the pressures on set. He also talks about his process for making creative decisions.
by Robert McKee
I’ve often felt it’s best to know the rules behind story and structure before you break them. In this highly recommended read, McKee lays the groundwork for story structure and development. It technically covers screenwriting, but the meat and bones of this book are in studying the art of story.
by Steven Douglas Katz
I absolutely love this book! With so many ways to tell a visual story, Katz’s comprehensive manual is chock full of diagrams and storyboards that show, side by side, the different ways storytelling techniques play out on the screen.
by David Mamet
Speaking to his own experiences as a filmmaker, this book is less of a how-to and more about Mamet’s theories and approaches to storytelling in the visual medium of filmmaking. Short and sweet to read, but packed with a lot of concepts that will challenge you to think more critically about the way you approach filmmaking.
by Erickson, Tulchin, and Halloran
Recommended by my favorite (and the most crafty) executive producer I know, this is the book he loans to any and everyone coming to him with questions about producing or the business side of the industry (as I did). And since the book is addressing the subject from an independent viewpoint, it provides lots of solutions for those coming to filmmaking on a tighter budget.
I initially read this book for one of the only film classes I took in college, and I’ve had it with me ever since. Just like The Filmmaker’s Handbook, this is a start-to-finish full outline of the ins and outs of documentary filmmaking — and a great reference point for any documentarian.
by David Trottier
Sure, you can find all that you need to know about screenwriting and formatting online these days. However, I personally have benefitted from having my copy of Trottier’s book around to help me structure my story and get my script into proper formatting shape. There are also lots of great insider tips on the world of professional screenwriting that would behoove anyone trying to break into that line of work.
As a less-than-savvy technical soul, I am always looking for reference points for the more technical jobs on set. Though you cannot come close to learning what it takes to be a gaffer, grip or AC through a book alone (or film school for that matter), these handbooks below are great starting points for building your base knowledge and theories.
by Harry C. Box
by David E. Elkins
by Michael G. Uva
This is a popular book among the entire PremiumBeat staff, and you can read some of the tips and tricks in this article.
FREE Filmmaking Books
If you are on the hunt for a few free books for general filmmaking, take a look at these great options.
From PremiumBeat.com, this free filmmaking ebook, 101 Filmmaking Tips + Tricks, is a catalogue of 101 articles in eight chapters. It’s almost 300 pages loaded with pre- and post-production tips, gear insights, audio/video editing techniques, and more.
by Shutterstock/Michael Maher
This comprehensive photo and video travel guide has everything you need to know about travel photography and destination video. From packing your bags to shooting the sunset in the Serengeti, this is your passport to success. You can read much more here, or download the book below.
by Timo Fecher
This is a free ebook for motion graphic designers, with over 200 pages of advice. Get the book here.
You may not agree with the approaches and techniques of all these authors, but it is my hope that most of these books on the list will get you thinking more critically about the beautifully complex medium of filmmaking.
Happy reading to you!
Fore more free filmmaking books, check out this article: 7 Free Filmmaking Books and Guides