The 12 best books for filmmakers

While most of us in the video/film industry probably prefer plopping down and binging a few episodes of our favorite Netflix show, there’s a lot to be said about reading books. It’s no secret I’m a big book nerd (I’m actually on the board of my local library), but beyond that I think it’s important to consume various types of media.

Reading can help you generate ideas, learn about a new topic, or release a host of cathartic emotions. Additionally, reading works muscles that don’t get used with other media, and other than the time it takes to read, there are few, if any, downsides to reading. I’m going to cover books below, mostly because that’s what I read, but also because they are better suited than say graphic novels for educating and informing the reader on a topic.

So without further adieu, here’s a list of books that I think every filmmaker should read.


1 - Creating Character Arcs: Destined for the big screen? Like to write screenplays? Find yourself analyzing character development in everything you watch? Get this book.

2 - Rebel Without a Crew: Famed director Robert Rodriguez made his first movie over the course of a few weeks with only a camera and a few thousand bucks. This classic book is damn near a replacement for film school.

3 - Anatomy of Story: Simply put, a great book that will absolutely boost your storytelling game.

4 - Cinematic Storytelling: A great read on thinking critically about cinematography and how it can improve your storytelling. A must have for any budding cinematographer or filmmaker.

5 - Ferocious Truth: Learn filmmaking from a master of the craft: Werner Herzog. With decades of experience this guy is the real deal.

6 - In the Blink of an Eye: Esteemed film editor Walter Murch provides a ton of information in this book. Geared more towards editors than cinematographers or DPs, this is still a worthwhile read for anyone interested in films or filmmaking.

7 - The Hero With a Thousand Faces: If you don’t already have this book you need to get on it. Arguably one of the most respected and influential books on storytelling, filmmaking, and the myths that tie us all together.

8 - Notes on Directing: You’re in a directing class by yourself and you’ve got 130 teachers. OK, that’s not entirely true, there’s only one teacher, but this book will make you feel like you’ve gotten way more than you paid for (and all without the homework and lame classmates).

9 - A New History of Documentary Film: Explore the history, future, and current state of documentary filmmaking with this book. Another must have for any budding or professional documentary filmmaker.

10 - This Much is True: Another book for documentarians among us, this one written from the interviews and testimonials of professional documentary filmmakers.

11 - Story: Few books are as ubiquitous to filmmaking as this one by Robert McKee. Stories are the basis of movies, films, and videos, and this book dissects them even further.

12 - The Power of the Darkside: A protagonist is only as good as the antagonist that faces him or her. Learn how to give your characters a compelling and worthwhile villain to go up against.

13 - Physician’s Desk Reference: Hollowed out. Inside, waterproof matches, iodine tablets, beet seeds, protein bars, NASA blanket, and, in case I get bored, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." No, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."


What other filmmaking/video/movie/storytelling related books do you think belong on this list?


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