Book Club For Filmmakers

At the end of yesterday’s live video podcast with Philip Bloom, Karen Abad and I decided to share some of our favorite books with everyone. We got a huge response and decided that it would be helpful for us to share what some of our favorite books have been, what we consider staples, and what we are each currently reading. Personally, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to really dedicate more time to reading because I’m extremely guilty of just googling what I want/need to know instead of trying to understand a subject matter as a whole. I think this is good and bad. There’s a wealth of information online which I love but I don’t want to be lazy with my education. I really do enjoy learning new things so it’s important to me to push myself to focus on one subject matter and really appreciate it in it’s entirety. So let’s get started with some of our favorite books, oh, and since the initial post had a list of about 20 books, we decided to share two at a time. I encourage you to pick one of these that you haven’t read and spend some time reading and really studying the book and all it’s information in its entity.

Karen Abad’s Picks:
The biggest reason why I enjoy these two books is because they cover a good amount of real world application in these two authors lives as well as throw in some helpful theory to fuel my desire to understand editing and cinematography more.

In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch – $8.43

This is one of my favorite books on editing theory and shaped the way that I edit films on a flatbed and how I cut films digitally. It covers six important criteria in making ideal “successful” cuts that I live by. Murch also talks about his experiences editing a couple of his films and covers some editing theory and history. In The Blink of An Eye is a quick read and wouldn’t go into in depth advice on editing, but it gives you great information on how to approach your film when you edit it.

Every Frame a Rembrandt: Art and Practice of Cinematography – $35.86

I love this book. Andrew Laszlo is a really great storyteller and does a pretty good job of relating anecdotes from 5 of his films to cinematography theory and the politics and psychology of making those films. Laszlo goes into depth about how he deals with the studio, producers, directors, and other crew members on a shoot. It was really helpful seeing how someone in the A.S.C would deal with problems that I may encounter on my shoots.

Cristina Valdivieso’s Picks:
My book shelves are full of books on theory and technical application but I decided to mix it up a bit. With my first pick I went with a book that I consider a staple and my last choice will probably not be too appealing but again, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and study a subject you may not find too interesting at first but it’s crucial to your business.

Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook by Harry Box – $30.91

This is the second book I’ve read on lighting from start to finish. This one in particular has a ton of information and it’s really my go to book for anything and everything technical when it comes to lighting. Granted this book spends a lot of time on electrical power and distribution but, as I mentioned above, it’s important for me to really challenge myself with topics that I may not find too entertaining in order to gain an appreciation for a specific subject as a whole. Again, this is a very technical book but if you can get through it, you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge.

The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers by Thomas A. Crowell – $20.88

Now I know this seems boring but I can not encourage everyone enough to expand their knowledge base. Yes, most of us consider ourselves filmmakers and want to focus on creating our work but it’s not enough to just focus on that anymore. What about your contracts, your bookkeeping, your brand, protecting yourself? There is so much more that you really need to know and understand to have a successful business. If you are working as an independent contractor, own your own business, are working with models, screenplays, copyright issues, contracts, etc. you should read this book. It is geared towards independent filmmakers who are trying to sell their movies but there is so much good information.

I thought it would be great to bring Jon into this conversation. He spends a lot of time reading film related books but he spends the same amount of time reading books that have absolutely nothing to fo with film yet pulls inspiration from each of them.

Jon Connor’s Picks:

SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions by Rainn Wilson – $12.72

You may have noticed my posts tend to be less technical and more philosophical in nature. I understand the fundamental concepts of filmmaking and do have a formal educational background in it but sometimes all the talk of gear and tech specs bores me to tears. So my first pick was written by actor Rainn Wilson amongst others. I found this book to be entertaining and a great way to spark your creative mojo. It challenges you to really look at things from a different perspective and question a lot of things in life. I found the artwork alone to be inspiring. It also offers creative challenges and lists for you to write that makes it extremely interactive.
The Days are Just Packed: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson – $11.55

Again, this book has nothing to do with filmmaking but thats why I recommend it. You can’t just draw inspiration from the field you are working in. Watching how Bill Watterson is able to tackle extremely complex topics in sometimes as little as four frames is amazing. It really goes to show the importance of great writing in storytelling. If you are interested in character development, Calvin and Hobbes, in my opinion are one of the greatest sets….ever. Even something as simple as looking at some of the frames of the cartoon can help with ideas for composition. This is also a great break from some of the other more technical books. If you are ever having a bad day I dare you to read this and not feel better. One of my favorite strips from the book shows Calvin approaching a television set with a bowl of tapioca to which he says: “Oh greatest of the mass media, thank you for elevating emotion, reducing thought, and stifling imagination. Thank you for the artificiality of quick solutions and for the insidious manipulation of human desires for commercial purposes. This bowl of lukewarm tapioca represents my brain. I offer it in humble sacrifice. Bestow thy flickering light forever.” Now if that isn’t some food for thought I don’t know what is.


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5 replies
  1. Eric Harnden
    Eric Harnden says:

    I am in love with this idea because I have over 100 books on filmmaking and I don’t think I’ve read any in it’s entirety. I, too, want to strengthen my discipline to finish them.

    Since you have In The Blink of an Eye listed and I do have that one, I am going to go read it and give my review here later.

    A no bones book I recommend is The Shut Up & Shoot Documentary Guide by Anthony Q. Artis – Focal Press. It covers all kinds of real life shooting issues and gets rid of any excuses you might have for not just getting out there and getting it done.

  2. Charles Sanson
    Charles Sanson says:

    I recommend a set of childrens books “My Book House” by Olive Beaupre Miller. You can go through each volume and find colored illustrations by an illustrator ‘ Donn P. Crane”, each picture is a lesson in composition. The retelling of biography’s, history, poems, Author works, can also inspire ones story telling abilities. I still find the books fasinating and I am 69 years old, in love with writing and film-making.

  3. Reetesh Motah
    Reetesh Motah says:

    Thanks for the list. I think i’ll start with the Calvin and Hobbes 🙂

    One of my favourites is:

    Moviemakers’ Master Class: Private Lessons from the World’s Foremost Directors

    It’s really filmmaking from different Directors’ perspectives and is a very inspiring read!

  4. rodney
    rodney says:

    I think that any book club for filmmakers should have a book like Think Outside The Box Office by Jon Reiss. In this day and age a filmmaker is not just the person who writes, shoots and cuts the final product, but also they have to think about marketing and self distribution. It is a great read and forces you to consider many things most never consider before starting a production.

  5. Chad Nickle
    Chad Nickle says:

    I just read a great book called “The filmmakers eye” by Gustavo Mercado, It is one of the best books on shot composition I have read, and unique in that it lays out the basic rules of composition using examples from films, and then gives examples of when breaking the rules can lead to extraordinary results. Don’t buy the Kindle edition, paperback is a must!


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