20 Books Directors Recommend Aspiring Filmmakers

Must read books filmmakers

Are you ready to make a film? From funding to the final product, there’ll be so much on your mind before you set out to. But if you’re looking for some inspiration in the written word to get you started, here are valuable recommendations from some very successful indie/filmmakers. From tips around filming on low budget to writing strong characters, here are some great books these directors recommend; books that have shaped their understanding of cinema and inspired them to make their own film. Add them to your reading list!

1. Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices by Rick Schmidt

“If you don’t know how to make films happen with little or no money, this is a book that you must read, go back to and lend to every person in your unit. To let them know that it is possible to make films with very little money if you put your mind and heart into it. From samples of simple drafts of contracts to protect your film to solutions for production, this is a great resource that I personally found very motivating when I was making my mumblecore movies.” – Sudhish Kamath [Director: Good Night Good Morning]

 

2. Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez

“The first book I read on filmmaking was by accident. It was called Rebel without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez. Its’ written in a diary format in first person by the filmmaker himself on how he made a film called El Mariachi in $7000 when he was just 23 and how that played a stepping stone for his career in Hollywood. I read the book and then watched the film. It was awe inspiring how he single-handedly shot the film at the time of film cameras when one also had to load the film stock. The film also had action sequences, fight sequences using guns and they were well choreographed.

Reading the book and watching the film along with the director’s commentary was like a master class in filmmaking for me. And reading how Robert Rodriguez pulled this off is enough for anyone to go and make their own film.” – Hemant Gaba [Dilliwood (a web series), Japan In Nagaland (documentary), Shuttlecock Boys].

 

3. Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

“This absolutely brutal book makes fun of movies and comes from a man who love cinema in all ways. I love this book for its detailed explanation on why a particular film has failed, which is an eye opener for any filmmaker. I feel it’s a hand full of important instructions for anyone involved in making movies. All the reviews in here feel like you are chatting with a friend about a film. On the whole, Ebert’s reviews are sarcastic, witty, funny and entertaining. If you enjoy Ebert’s criticism you will enjoy this book.” – Lokesh Kumar [Director: My Son is Gay]

 

Recommended: 5 Filmmaking Tips For Beginners From Director Lokesh Kumar

4. Guns and Thighs: The Story of my Life by Ram Gopal Varma

“This is the ultimate book for aspiring filmmakers. It talks about the process of filmmaking in the most unorthodox, brutally honest and unconventional way! Though it’s biographical, it has a good sense of humour and is a must read for today’s filmmakers.” – Shashant Shah [Director: Chalo Dilli, Dasvidaniya]

 

5. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

“I have always read a lot of books written by female authors that explore the female experience. I think those books have really influenced me as a person and in terms of my voice and preoccupation as a filmmaker. Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Elfriede Jelinek and more recently Barbara Pym, Penelope Fitzgerald, Elena Ferrante, Lucia Berlin are some of the female writers I love.

I think the book that gave me a lot of strength while I was making my first film Turning 30, was definitely Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. It, so beautifully, chronicles the complex interior world of a woman. I even made Gul (Gul Panag, who played the lead in Turning 30) read passages from the book as part of our prep for the film. (And I made Gul’s character read the book in a montage sequence in the film).

My advice to upcoming filmmakers would be to read what they love. And that perhaps may help them hone their own cinematic voices.” – Alankrita Shrivastava (Director: Lipstick Under My Burkha)

And here are 15 books director Aadish Keluskar recommends as essential reading that cover every aspect of filmmaking.

Cinema in general:

6. FILM ART: AN INTRODUCTION by David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson

Cinematography:

7. THE 5 Cs OF CINEMATOGRAPHY: MOTION PICTURE FILMING TECHNIQUES by Joseph V. Mascelli

8. WRITING WITH LIGHT by Vittorio Storaro

Editing:

9. IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE: A PERSPECTIVE ON FILM EDITING by Walter Murch

10. THE TECHNIQUES OF FILM EDITING by Karel Reisz

Sound Design:

11. AUDIO-VISION by Michel Chion

Screenwriting:

12. POETICS by Aristotle

13. THE TOOLS OF SCREENWRITING by David Howard

Acting:

14. THE ART OF ACTING by Stella Adler

15. THE LEE STRASBERG NOTES by Lola Cohen

Books on Filmmakers:

16. HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT by Truffaut

17. NOTES ON THE CINEMATOGRAPHER by Robert Bresson

18. MAKING MOVIES By Sidney Lumet

19. KAZAN ON DIRECTING by Elia Kazan

20. HERZOG ON HERZOG: CONVERSATIONS WITH PAUL CRONIN by Werner Herzog

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