Ever seen a successful filmmaker’s house? It’s usually filled with two things – movies and books. The first one’s obvious! Watching movies is important for learning & developing an eye for films. But once you get down to actually working, filmmaking is a vast field. Expertise in multiple domains is crucial. And a little ‘bookish knowledge’ can be of great help. It will prepare you for the challenges ahead.
If you’re wondering what books to read, don’t worry! We’ve got your back. Here’s a curated list of the top 5 best books to read on filmmaking. Go through them & see which ones you want to stack up on your shelf (we recommend all☺)
by Satyajit Rai
Satyajit Rai (winner of 32 National Film Awards) needs no introduction. And if you want an insight into his filmmaking genius, your wait is over. Deep Focus is a compilation of his writings on cinema. The topics range from silent cinema & literary adaptations to his experience at film festivals (both as a judge and a contestant). As a bonus, the book comes with a foreword by Shyam Benegal. All the more reason to have it on your shelf.
In The Blink Of An Eye
by Walter Murch
What makes a cut work? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, this book is the answer. Written by veteran editor Walter Murch, it helps you understand the nuances of editing, through real-life examples. Murch famously cites the blink of an eye as the cue for a cut. For more such pearls on continuity, aesthetics & practicalities of cutting, we suggest you give this book a read.
Film Directing Shot By Shot
by Steven D Katz
This book focuses more on the visualizing & storyboarding aspect of films. It includes multiple visualizing techniques, with examples of real storyboards. Apart from aspiring filmmakers, it’s a great read for art directors too, since it includes sections on set construction, lens perspective, etc. The author, Steven D. Katz, is an award-winning filmmaker & writer with a 20-year long career in films.
by Syd Field
A step-by-step guide to writing for films, from concept to finished script. The book covers topics like crafting characters, character arcs, plotting, three-act structure & more. Even though it’s focused only on screenwriting, it’s a must for any aspiring filmmaker. Syd Field, in his 50-year career, has written several books on screenwriting, worked on nine screenplays & two TV series.
Interesting fact – Syd Field was dubbed as “the most sought after screenwriting teacher in the world” by The Hollywood Reporter.
Directing The Documentary
by Michael Rabiger
This is a must-have in the list of documentary filmmaking books. It covers methods, technologies & thought processes required for creating a documentary narrative. And since filmmaking is best learned by doing, it includes hands-on projects to practice what you have read. Apart from creative aspects, the book also covers topics like controlling the budget and delivering a good film on shoe-string budgets.
These were the essential books on filmmaking – the absolute must for any filmmaker to have. But apart from these, there are many other insightful titles that cover niche topics.
If purchasing filmmaking books is too expensive, one can also explore getting a membership at film libraries like the Gajanan Jagirdar Library at FTII and the NCPA Film Library in Mumbai. Such libraries often provide access to thousands of books, film DVDs, and high-quality soundtracks.
Audiobooks are also a great option nowadays. Try using services like Audible – it offers unlimited audiobooks for Rs.199 per month. With such easy options available, “I don’t know enough about films” is no longer an excuse to limit yourself. Just open a book and educate yourself.