Filmmaking Books For Beginners – Are you trying to break into the film production world? I know I have been trying for the past few years and let’s just say that it isn’t as easy as I thought.
I have been flying all over North America attending film festivals and workshops meeting other aspiring filmmakers going through the same grind as I am.
I remember hearing a quote from a film director at a past event I was in Los Angeles that made my jaw dropped.
The quote was” Filmmaking is a 24/7 job, in which 8 hours is working a day job so you can live, another 8 hours networking, and another 8 hours working on your craft. Plus, somehow you have to fit sleep into that.”
If you have aspirations to be a director, writer, or producer in the filmmaking world, you will need to know your stuff and know it well.
If you have the money, then, by all means, apply to a prestigious film school and be taught by professionals who will guide you through the process of filmmaking.
Or you can learn the craft of filmmaking by taking online film classes like Masterclass and the other one.
But, I think the best way of learning anything is by researching through filmmaking books and getting your hands dirty.
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When it comes to filmmaking, it doesn’t matter if you are new or have been in the industry for years, there are times where you need to push your skills to a new level.
This list of the best filmmaking books for beginners below will help you in your quest to be a better screenwriter, director, producer, and cinematographer.
1. Making Movies - Sidney Lumet
Why does a director choose a particular script?
What must they do to keep actors fresh and truthful through take after take of a single scene?
How do you stage a shootout—involving more than one hundred extras and three colliding taxis—in the heart of New York’s diamond district.
What does it take to keep the studio honchos happy?
From the first rehearsal to the final screening, Making Movies is a master’s take, delivered with clarity, candor, and a wealth of anecdote.
This filmmaking book by Sidney Lumet gives the beginning filmmaker both a professional memoir and a definitive guide to the art, craft, and business of the motion picture.
With the forty years of experience in movies that range from Long Day’s Journey into Night to Network and The Verdict, Lumet explains how painstaking labor and inspired split-second decisions can result in two hours of screen magic.
Still one of the best filmmaking books for beginners out there.
2. How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck - Steve Stockman
How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck is one of the great filmmaking books that helps the beginning filmmaker learn how to tell a story and entertain an audience.
The book teaches a filmmaker how to make a movie that people will want to watch.
I like this filmmaking book because it teaches a filmmaker how to think in shots which is important for all great filmmaking books.
- How to move-point-shoot-stop-repeat, instead of planting yourself in one spot and pressing “Record” for five minutes.
- Why never to shoot until you see the whites of your subject’s eyes. Why to “zoom” with your feet and not the lens.
- How to create intrigue on camera.
The filmmaking book breaks down the key basics of video production: framing, lighting, sound, editing, and special effects.
Plus, you can treat this book as a filmmaking textbook because at the end of every chapter is a suggestion of how to immediately put what you’ve learned into practice, so the next time you’re shooting you’ll have begun to master the skill.
3. The Filmmaker's Handbook - Steven Ascher
Widely acknowledged as the “bible” of video and film production, and used in courses around the world, The Filmmaker’s Handbook is now updated with the latest advances in HD and new digital formats.
For students and teachers, professionals and novices, this is one of the incredible books about filmmaking that covers all aspects of movie-making.
- Techniques for making dramatic features, documentaries, corporate, broadcast, and experimental videos and films.
- Shooting with DSLRs, video, film, and digital cinema cameras.
- Digital editing with the latest video editing systems.
- In-depth coverage of lenses, lighting, sound recording, and mixing.
- The business aspects of funding and producing your project.
- Getting your movie shown in theaters, on TV, and on the Web.
This great filmmaking book for beginners is written by a playwright, screenwriter, and director who has made critically acclaimed movies like House of Games, State and Main, and Things Change.
David Mamet describes in the book how a film comes to be. For directors looking for a handbook that describes every aspect of directing from script to cutting room, this will be your go-to filmmaking book to draw upon.
The key objective of this filmmaking book is to show the many tasks directors undertake in reaching their prime objective of presenting a story that will be understood by the audience and has the power to be both surprising and inevitable at the same time.
Worried you don’t have enough cash to attend Columbia University?
On Directing Film is based on the lectures that were taught at this prestigious university by David Mamet.
- It this filmmaking book will be indispensable not only to students just learning the craft of filmmaking but to anyone interested in an overview of what it takes to make an incredible film.
5. Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting - William Goldman
This filmmaking book is my go-to when it comes to understanding the inner workings of the film industry by someone who knows what it takes to get movies made.
William Goldman, a two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels take the reader into Hollywood’s inner sanctums.
Learn from the experiences of behind the scenes examples for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and other films of dealing with Hollywood producers, and working with incredible talents such as Robert Redford, Lawerence Olivier, Paul Newman, and Dustin Hoffman.
Plus, get an insight into William Goldman’s professional experiences and creative thought processes in the crafting of screenplays.
This filmmaking book is perfect for any filmmaker trying to understand from firsthand knowledge of why and how films get made and what elements make a good screenplay.
I love this book so much and it is still one of the best filmmaking books for beginners.
6. Film Directing: Shot by Shot - Steven D. Katz
Shot by Shot is my go-to film directing book.
This filmmaking handbook is perfect for aspiring film directors, cinematographers, editors, and producers.
This is where you can learn the craft of visual storytelling from each Shot by Shot.
What I like about the book is that it contains photos and illustrations, to give a comprehensive look at shot design in print.
Storyboard examples used are from movies such as Citizen Kane, Blade Runner, Dead-pool, and Moonrise Kingdom.
Shot by Shot uniquely blends story analysis with compositional strategies, citing examples then il-lustrated with the storyboards used for the actual films.
Throughout the book, various visual approaches to short scenes are shown, exposing the directing processes of our most celebrated auteurs.
This is one of the top filmmaking books for beginners because it includes a meticulous, lavishly illustrated analysis of Steven Spielberg’s scene design for Empire of the Sun.
7. Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors - Blain Brown
I believe that any filmmaker needs to understand the world of cinematography.
Even experienced filmmakers need to stay updated and review new methods of filming and the equipment that makes movie magic happen.
Cinematography is something that not only the director of photography needs to understand but also the director, the camera assistants, gaffers, and digital imaging technicians.
Cinematography: Theory and Practice covers both the artistry and craftsmanship of cinematography and visual storytelling.
Take your knowledge of filmmaking to a whole new level by utilizing new tools, techniques, and roles to the next level with this cutting-edge roadmap from author and filmmaker Blain Brown.
Whether you are a student of filmmaking, just breaking into the business, currently working in the industry and looking to move up to the next level, or an experienced professional who wants to update their knowledge of tools and techniques, this essential filmmaking book provides both a basic introduction to these issues as well as more advanced and in-depth coverage of the subject.
This is one of the books on filmmaking for beginners that every filmmaker should have in his/her filmmaking tool kit.
8. Directing Actors - Judith Watson
This is another of the filmmaking books for beginners on this list for anyone interested in directing or acting.
What I love about this filmmaking book is that Judith Weston can recognize that directors, actors, writers, and technicians are involved in a process that is at essence a collaboration.
For them to have the best shot at creating something true and meaningful, they must share a language and a method of exchange that fosters creative cooperation.
Judith Weston truly sees the director as the central person in stimulating the energy of a production’s symmetry.
She encourages the aspiring film director on every aspect of a stage or film production, showing how the director can draw the best performances possible from actors.
This is one of the best filmmaking books for beginners to understand the director/actor relationship, and how to get the best performances possible.
9. Rebel Without A Crew: Or How A 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became A Hollywood Player - Robert Rodriguez
Another of the filmmaking books for beginners to read that I have had to purchase a few times because I have overused it over my years of so-called filmmaking.
The famed independent screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids, Machete) discloses all the unique strategies and original techniques he used to make his remarkable debut film El Mariachi on a shoestring budget.
This filmmaking book describes one man’s remarkable story and an essential filmmaking guide for anyone who has a story to tell and the dreams and determination to see it through.
This filmmaking handbook is 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.
What separates this filmmaking book from other filmmaking books is that it includes, “The Ten Minute Film Course.”
It’s a tell-all on how to save thousands of dollars on film school and teach yourself the ropes of film production, directing, and screenwriting.
This is one of those books on filmmaking for beginners that’s a perfect gift for the beginning filmmaker who needs to draw upon some inspiration from a filmmaker who did everything to get to where he is today.
I would also suggest picking up his films on DVD in which many of them include his “10 minute film school” special features.
10. Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood - Peter Biskind
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is one of the filmmaking books to read if you want to know about the 70’s revolution in filmmaking.
While Easy Riders, Raging Bulls will not help you with the craft of learning how to make a movie, it does give an insight into how the biggest names in Hollywood changed the industry forever.
When the low-budget biker movie Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born.
This was an age when talented young filmmakers such as Scorsese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including De Niro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Jaws.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the ’70s.
This no-holds-barred book is an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll (both onscreen and off) and a climate where innovation and experimentation reigned supreme.
Based on hundreds of interviews with the directors themselves, producers, stars, agents, writers, studio executives, spouses, and ex-spouses, this is the full, candid story of Hollywood’s last golden age.
Funny story about this book is when I finished reading it while on vacation, I bumped into Martin Sheen at LAX airport a few days later.
There is a chapter about Apocalypse now, and what Martin Sheen went through during filming. I mentioned to Martin Sheen about this book in conversation, and he wasn’t aware of this book at all.
When I was sitting in the airport lounge, later on, I was kicking myself for not giving him my book to read while he was flying off to Toronto Canada.
11. The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques - Joseph V Mascelli
Do you have no money to attend a prestigious film school for cinematography?
Do you sometimes certain filmmakers have sold his/her souls to have the talent they have?
Are you looking for one of those filmmaking books that will teach you how to shoot a scene but don’t know where to start?
Then this is one of the best filmmaking books for beginners out there!
This is a filmmaking manual filled with information that breaks down the world of cinematography to its core.
Mascelli goes in-depth throughout every aspect of cinematography, essentially breaking down why everything works the way it does and when to use it.
Now sure, if you have no patience to even read this attentively, move on to something else.
But if you dedicate the time and the effort to read everything attentively, take notes, underline, re-read passages, and truly grasp what’s being said – you’ve already taken a huge step in understanding this craft.
If you are looking for independent filmmaking books, this is a must-have for your filmmaking book collection.
12. The Complete Film Production Handbook - Eve Honthaner
The Complete Film Production Handbook, Fourth Edition (American Film Market Presents)
This filmmaking book is for working film/TV professionals and students alike.
If you’re a line producer, production manager, production supervisor, assistant director or production coordinator–the book has everything you’ll need (including all the forms, contracts, releases and checklists) to set up and run a production–from finding a production office to turning over delivery elements.
Even if you know what you’re doing, you will be thrilled to find everything you need in one place.
If you’re not already working in film production, but think you’d like to be, read the book–and then decide.
If you choose to pursue this career path, you’ll know what to expect, you’ll be prepared, and you’ll be ten steps ahead of everyone else just starting out.
New topics and information in the fourth edition include:
- Low-budget independent films, including documentaries and shorts
- Information specific to television production and commercials
- The industry’s commitment to go green and how to do it
- Coverage of new travel and shipping regulations
- Updated information on scheduling, budgeting, deal memos, music clearances, communications, digital production, and new forms throughout
- This guide to production management is on every producer’s shelf and will save you time, money, and hassles
- Hundreds of forms, contracts, and checklists available to print and use on your production
- The New edition is fully updated with information about low-budget productions and much more!
In the Blink of an Eye is celebrated film editor Walter Murch’s vivid, multifaceted, thought-provoking essay on film editing.
Starting with what might be the most basic editing question — Why do cuts work? — Murch treats the reader to a wonderful ride through the aesthetics and practical concerns of cutting film.
Along the way, he offers his unique insights on such subjects as continuity and discontinuity in editing, dreaming, and reality; criteria for a good cut; the blink of the eye as an emotional cue; digital editing; and much more.
In this second edition, Murch reconsiders and completely revises his popular first edition’s lengthy meditation on digital editing (which accounts for a third of the book’s pages) in light of the technological changes that have taken place in the six years since its publication.
f you are a beginning filmmaker and have time on your hands to learn about the film industry, these essential filmmaking books will put you in the right direction to get you on your way.
Plus, all of these books on filmmaking can be found in the Amazon filmmaking books section, so you can order in your bathrobe and get these filmmaking books to read within a few days.