8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (2023)

Directing

April 11, 2018 - Directing

Don’t read? You should start reading directing books to become a great filmmaker.

After all, top performers in various industries read for self-improvement.

Evidence suggests there is a strong link between success and reading.


I get it, we are filmmakers. We are visual people. We’d rather just watch something – reading can be boring and time-consuming. I would argue that reading is a key factor to success. Those who are successful in their industry intake valuable new knowledge wherever and whenever possible, and internalize it.


Written works are a wonderful source of knowledge because writing is a condensed form of thinking. A person puts all their thoughts and considerations onto paper and is forced to make these thoughts concise, throwing away bad ideas and leaving only those that are good.


With this in mind, here are some of the directing books I have read that I highly recommend any aspiring director read.

Visual Storytelling Skills

1. Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (1)

This directing book is a long one, filled with plenty of references, photos, and diagrams. It is up-to-date with modern techniques and technology and provides a great overview of directing, diving into both the artistic and technical aspects in depth.

“Directing covers the methods, technologies, thought processes, and judgments that a director must use throughout the fascinating process of making a film. The core of the book is the human, psychological, and technical knowledge that every director needs, the enduring elements of the craft that remain vital.

Directing also provides an unusually clear view of the artistic process, particularly in working with actors and principle crew to achieve personally expressive storytelling and professionalism on any budget.” (Source)

Bottom line: This directing book provides a solid overview for the filmmaker looking to up their game.

2. Film Directing Shot by Shot

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (2)

This directing book is highly technical, covering a painfully exhaustive number of camera movements, framings, and analyzing different shots’ usage in conjunction with one another. It uses a plethora of visual references, such as photographs taken from films and photos shot specifically for the book, to demonstrate these techniques.

“A complete catalog of motion picture techniques for filmmakers. It concentrates on the ‘storytelling’ school of filmmaking, utilizing the work of the great stylists who established the versatile vocabulary of technique that has dominated the movies since 1915. This graphic approach includes comparisons of style by interpreting a ‘model script’, created for the book, in storyboard form.” (Source)

I must admit that it is a tough read, and may be best used as a reference. However, if you spend the time to think hard about the effect of using the shots it presents, it can be very useful.

(Video) Top 3 Books Every Filmmaker Should Read

Mostly, this book challenges you to consider every possible directorial option you have available when it comes to camera movement, framing, and focal length, as well as each of these elements’ effects on your viewer.

Bottom line: This directing book will help you internalize and better understand all the shot techniques available to you as a director.

Working with Actors

3. Directing Actors

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (3)

“Internationally-renowned directing coach Weston demonstrates what constitutes a good performance, what actors want from a director, what directors do wrong, script analysis and preparation, how actors work, and shares insights into the director/actor relationship.” (Source)

Often people will suggest David Mamet’s book “On Directing Film”. While there’s no doubt Mamet is a master of his craft and his knowledge immense, I found that “On Directing Film” was less than helpful. Why? It wasn’t easily actionable. At least for me, I found it to be far too vague to put easily into effect in my directing habits, so I moved on.

However, “Directing Actors” represents the opposite. It is highly actionable. Each section is broken down into practical themes – what you, the director, should and must do (or at least suggestions) to get particular results. I may not remember everything I read in this book (perhaps it makes a better reference after reading once), but I remember key points it made that I was able to put into effect in my directing.

One thing that stood out to me as I read is how many sections seemed likerevelations. What I mean is that some of the points made in the book, once you read them, seem so straightforward and logical. You might ask yourself, ‘how did I not think of this, or just know it, before?’.

Bottom line: This directing book contains a heap of great, practical knowledge for working with actors.

Marketing and Publicity

4. Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (4)

I’ll be honest on this one. I haven’t had the chance (yet) to apply specific principles I learned through this book. However, I’ll tell you where I think the value lies in this book.

This book does two things:

First, it helps you to better understand the principles of selling and marketing generally, and specifically within the entertainment industry. I think that knowledge is very helpful because as you accrue more understanding about the subject of making films, you will be able to work more effectively and plan for the future when making films.

(Video) 6 Books Every New Film Director Should Read

Secondly, this book doesn’t assume you’re a trust fund baby, retired millionaire, or already have achieved some level of success in the film industry. It approaches the marketing and sale of feature films from the lowest level.

“This book gives street-level instruction and real-world examples on how to promote, distribute, and sell your production.” (Source)

This book asks you, ‘well, I don’t have a lot of resources… what can I do? What works?’ Then, it tells you, providing many examples of approaches to marketing and selling, and case studies from filmmakers that have found success with those exact methods.

Bottom line: this directing book helps you get a boost in general marketing understanding and ‘street-level’ tactics, and it’s aimed at indie filmmakers planning to get their film in front of audiences.

Overview of Roles in the Business

5. Make Your Movie

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (5)

This book is a bomb – it is exploding with insight. (I’ve read this book from cover to cover twice if that says anything.)

Each section is dedicated to a role and area of the film industry, and though it definitely comes from the perspective of people who are at high levels in the industry, the type of valuable perspective they provide is highly revealing.

“This book is for anyone interested in the business of breaking into the movies. Learn who the key players are when it comes to getting a movie made and how to navigate the politics of filmmaking from start to finish, from first pitch to filling movie seats.” (Source)

The coolest thing about this book is that each section consists of a person successful in their area of the industry giving the bare-bones essence of their wisdom; what they think is most important for people to know, and they follow it up with a fascinating anecdote demonstrating their points.

Bottom line: This book is a great way to get up to speed or get a refresher on how the industry works and intake some wisdom from industry experts.


Legal and Contracts

6. Clearance and Copyright

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (6)

This book is a hidden gem. How is this not the most popular book for directors and indie filmmakers?

This book extensively covers the subjects of copyright and contracts in the film industry. If you want to better understand how deals are made between crew, cast, producers, studios, etc., want to better protect yourself, the people you work with, and your productions, as well as make better deals, you should read this book.

“Clearance and Copyright is the industry-standard guide to almost every conceivable rights issue that filmmakers, videomakers, television producers, and Internet content creators might encounter.

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From the initial acquisition of material through the rights issues that arise during preproduction, production, postproduction, and release, this legalese-free guide–now extensively revised, updated, and expanded–will help you protect yourself and your work from disastrous legal actions.” (Source)

By the way, this book includes a ton of free sample contracts for different things an indie filmmaker might need. Oh, and the book breaks down each and every paragraph in those contracts to explain what they are for, what they do, and what to look out for.

Bottom line: if you want a solid overview of what all ‘that legal stuff’ means, and how to protect yourself as a filmmaker, this is a must-read.

7. The Movie Business

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (7)

This book for directors is similar to Clearance and Copyright in terms of content, but with a broader view. It focuses less on contracts and copyright (though that is a large portion of its content) and more on the relationships between the people you hire or work with, the financial implications of those relationships, and what the legal issues are for that topic.

The book is broken down by the steps in the filmmaking process, from pre-production to distribution, and further breaks those down into the actions and relationships formed during that phase.

“Making a movie may be part art and part science, but it’s 100 percent business. In this comprehensive and accessible guide, Kelly Charles Crabb shares the information necessary to understand the legal and financial challenges involved in getting a film from story to the silver screen and beyond.” (Source)

This filmmaking book also covers a good bit of financial specifics, and the portion regarding dealing with distributors I find to be particularly insightful for the independent director. I know that when I was looking to distribute my first film, there seemed to be a mysterious and dark fog over the whole distribution process as if everything was a secret shared only within a small club; a club I wasn’t part of.

Bottom line: If you are looking to amplify further your understanding of the legal, relational, and financial aspects of making films, read this book.

Understanding Story

8. Save the Cat

8 Directing Books Every Filmmaker Should Read | Storyteller (8)

Save the Cat. If you haven’t already heard about Blake Snyder’s iconic and widely-loved book on the structure of feature films (and story generally), then you’ve probably read it.

“…Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. ‘Save the Cat’ is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying…” (Source)

There’s little more that needs to be said about this book. It’s a great directing book because it will improve your understanding of standard film and story structure and vastly improve your storytelling skills as a director.

I can’t recommend enough that you dedicate time to studying and practicing its principles.

(Video) TOP 10 FILMMAKING BOOKS (REVIEW) - By Samar K Mukherjee

If you haven’t started, this book is a good place to do so. While I don’t think reading it is a substitute for a continued and deep dive into story structure, this book has undoubtedly opened my mind and helped me work through various story problems.

Bottom line: The quintessential directing book to learning the key aspects of story and film structure.

Start reading… like right now.

Where you start will depend on where you’re at in skill and learning in your journey, but here’s a recap:

1. Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics2. Film Directing Shot by Shot

3. Directing Actors4.Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook5. Make Your Movie6.Clearance and Copyright7.The Movie Business8.Save the Cat

I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes each week to read a bit, even if it isn’t your strongest skill. You’ll be better off for it.

Read on!

Author

Nick LaRovere

Entrepreneur & Storyteller. Co-founder of Occulus Films. I love working with teams to create compelling and engaging films and commercial video content. Fave films include Blade Runner and Mad Max: Fury Road.

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FAQs

Do filmmakers read a lot? ›

If you want to be a film director, a good one, then you have to be a reader. How else you think you are going to read all those scripts and find the best one from it? If you are not a good reader then you might end up becoming a director but not a very great one. I have met directors who don't even read the scripts.

Why is directing important in filmmaking? ›

Even though they may not appear in front of the camera, the director is one of the most important people on a film set. They do more than shout “action” and “cut” behind the scenes—they're the person who determines the creative vision and makes all of the film's biggest decisions.

What are the three most important qualities you think a filmmaker must have? ›

Having these five qualities could make a difference in a filmmaker's level of success and personal satisfaction in the profession.
  • Communication Skills. ...
  • Artistic Talent and Creativity. ...
  • Strong Leadership. ...
  • Excellent Time Management. ...
  • Organizational Skills.

What are the 4 styles of directing? ›

Styles of Directing
  • The dictator.
  • The negotiator.
  • The creative artist.
  • The confrontationalist.

Can an introvert become a film director? ›

The answer is 'of course. ' Just remember the life of the Bronte sisters. You don't need to do a study to realise how important creative ideas are to filmmakers. An introvert might just be the person to create the big one that will launch your career.

Is being a filmmaker stressful? ›

Being a director for film, TV or theatre can be a highly stressful job. You might be responsible for making many major decisions, looking after your cast and crew, and trying to balance the demands of production within short time frames.

What are the 8 principles of directing? ›

Principles of Directing
  • Maximum Individual Contribution. One of the main principles of directing is the contribution of individuals. ...
  • Harmony of Objectives. ...
  • Unity of Command. ...
  • Appropriate Direction Technique. ...
  • Managerial Communication. ...
  • Use of Informal Organization. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Follow Through.

What skills do you need for film directing? ›

5 Skills Every Director Needs to Succeed
  • Creativity. It can be pretty hard to identify the editor or sound designer that worked on a film, but the director? ...
  • Communication. As a director, you will be leading your film productions. ...
  • Decisiveness. ...
  • Open-mindedness. ...
  • Organization.

What are 3 benefits of directing? ›

Importance of Directing – Initiates Action, Ensures Co-Ordination, Improves Efficiency, Facilitates Change and Assists Stability and Growth
  • This direction provides the following benefits:
  • Initiates Action:
  • Ensures Co-Ordination:
  • Improves Efficiency:
  • Facilitates Change:
  • Assists Stability and Growth:

What are the 8 elements to a good film? ›

What are the key elements involved:
  • Film Type.
  • Shots.
  • Camera Angles.
  • Lighting.
  • Color.
  • Sound or Audio.
  • Editing.
  • Mise-en-Scene.
3 Mar 2021

What is the most important skill in filmmaking? ›

5 Skills Every Filmmaker Needs
  1. Technological Expertise – or at the very least, a very solid working understanding of the latest filming technology and software. ...
  2. Flexible Creativity. ...
  3. Written and Visual Storytelling. ...
  4. Decisive and Problem-Solving Leadership. ...
  5. Communication.
15 May 2017

What are the 5 most important elements in filming? ›

With that in mind, here are the 5 most powerful elements of cinematography that you should be incorporating in all of your projects:
  • Exposure. One of the first things to consider when creating a shot is the exposure. ...
  • Composition. ...
  • Camera Movement. ...
  • Camera Angles. ...
  • Color.
2 Jul 2020

What are the 3 main approaches to directing? ›

Three approaches to directing:!
  • The Literal Approach: The text is sacred, every word and bit of punctuation is. ...
  • Translation Approach: Tries to capture the spirit of the script. ...
  • Auteur (author) Approach: Sees the script as raw material for a performance, and. ...
  • Style- partnership with directors, actors, playwright!

What makes good directing? ›

A good director both commands and surrenders to the moment. Communicative. Directors should be able to properly communicate the needs of the scene to their actors. Doing multiple takes of the same scene can burn out your actors and your crew.

What are the five fundamentals of directing? ›

These chapters form an essential preparation for an in-depth examination of the five fundamentals of play directing that make up the core of the text: composition, picturization, movement, rhythm, and pantomimic dramatization.

What is the personality type of a film director? ›

Directors are independent, future-oriented, calm confident and controlled. They have a charismatic and commanding presence, and tend to be mature in outlook and approach. They are long-term thinkers, who thrive on setting goals and achieving them. Success is what matters most to Directors.

Are any actors shy? ›

Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Jim Carrey, Danny Aiello, Melissa Rauch, Jim Parsons, Chris Pine, Tom Hanks, and Al Pacino are all known to have endured painful shyness during their childhoods. In fact, Pacino insists, “My first language was shy.

Do shy people make good actors? ›

"A shy person has a heck of an obstacle to overcome," Susan Russell, assistant professor of theatre, said. "A reserved person, however, can most certainly be a great actor."

What is the hardest job on a film set? ›

Job #4 Script supervisor

Certainly one of the most taxing and demanding job on a film crew. Starting a few weeks before the shoot, this is the person who breaks down the script and prepares it for the schedule. A script supervisor also notes own all the director's thoughts about how each scene is going to be shot.

Is film a stable career? ›

Each film production requires a large number of people in the film crew, which can make this a stable job with a lot of demand.

Is film a good career choice? ›

A career in film offers many travel opportunities. The film industry is full of interesting and hardworking people, all of whom have a passion for the same thing, which means that the atmosphere at work is often very positive and fun.

What are the 7 elements of directing? ›

Elements of Directing
  • 3.1 1] Issuing Orders and Instructions to Subordinates.
  • 3.2 2] Supervision in an overall manner.
  • 3.3 3] Motivating Subordinates.
  • 3.4 4] Providing Leadership.
  • 3.5 5] Communicating with Subordinates.
  • 3.6 6] Maintaining discipline and Rewarding Effective People.

What is the eight principle? ›

Principle 8: mutually beneficial supplier relations

It promotes the relationship between the company and its suppliers; recognising it is interdependent. A strong relationship enhances productivity and encourages seamless working practices.

What are the key elements of directing? ›

Communication, Supervision, Motivation and Leadership are the four essential elements of directing.

How can I improve my directing skills? ›

Improving director skills
  1. Gain hands-on experience. Gaining hands-on experience is one of the best ways to develop your skill set as a director. ...
  2. Take courses or attend workshops. ...
  3. Be open to feedback.
29 Mar 2021

What to study for directing? ›

Becoming a film director requires that you acquire an understanding of movie production, including skills in scripting and storyboarding, shooting scenes and editing. Significant work experience in the film industry and a bachelor's degree are the most common requirements for directors.

How do you develop directing skills? ›

How to improve director skills
  1. Gain practical experience. The first step to developing skills is to gain practical experience by using them in your daily work. ...
  2. Attend workshops or conferences. ...
  3. Pursue a higher qualification. ...
  4. Seek a mentor. ...
  5. Be open to feedback.

What are 2 characteristics of directing? ›

The two characteristics of directing are: (i) Directing initiates action; (ii) Directing takes place at every level. Was this answer helpful?

What is directing short answer? ›

Directing is the process of instructing, guiding, communicating, inspiring, motivating, and supervising the employees to achieve the predetermined goals of an organization. Concept: Functions of Management - Directing.

What is motivation in directing? ›

Motivation as an element of directing can be understood as a process of inducing employees to work towards the desired goals and objectives. It implies encouraging workers to work to the best of their capabilities towards the common goals and objectives of the organisation.

Which is the most important element of filmmaking Why? ›

But as filmmakers, our overriding concern should be movement. Movement also has a double meaning: 1) the physical movement of the camera or objects within the frame and 2) moving our audience emotionally.

What are the eight story elements? ›

There are eight elements of a story: theme, plot, characters, setting, conflict, point-of-view, tone and style.

What movies have 8 in the title? ›

8
  • 8 x 10 Tasveer (2009)
  • Eight Ball (1992)
  • Eight Bells (1935)
  • Eight Below (2006)
  • Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
  • Eight Days a Week (1998)
  • The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984)
  • Eight Girls in a Boat (1932)

Who is the most important person on a film set? ›

The Director is in control of all creative aspects of the film. They are the primary person responsible for the storytelling, creative decisions and acting of the film. The 1st Assistant Director is in charge of basically running the set.

What are the 5 C's in film? ›

The 5 Cs are Camera angles, Continuity, Cutting, Close-ups, and Composition. Let's go over them. Camera Angles. We can never forget that the camera is the viewer's eyes.

What are the 7 aspects of film production? ›

Mastering the 7 Stages of Film Production
  • Development. ...
  • Financing. ...
  • Pre-production. ...
  • Production. ...
  • Post-production. ...
  • Marketing. ...
  • Distribution.
21 Jun 2019

What are the 3 types of film? ›

Alan Williams distinguishes three main genre categories: narrative, avant-garde, and documentary. With the proliferation of particular genres, film subgenres can also emerge: the legal drama, for example, is a sub-genre of drama that includes courtroom- and trial-focused films.

What is the role of the director? ›

What does a film director do? A film director manages the creative aspects of the production. They direct the making of a film by visualizing the script while guiding the actors and technical crew to capture the vision for the screen. They control the film's dramatic and artistic aspects.

What are the types of directors? ›

Types of Directors
  • Residential Director. ...
  • Independent Director. ...
  • Small Shareholders Directors. ...
  • Women Director. ...
  • Additional Director. ...
  • Alternate Director. ...
  • Nominee Directors. ...
  • Executive Director.
1 Feb 2022

What are directing theories? ›

Directing Theory and Practice is a hybrid academic and studio class designed to introduce students to the history, theory, and practice of the director's craft. Readings on the theoretical/practical methods of direction are examined closely in class discussions and directing projects.

What is the skill set of a director? ›

Director-specific skills:

Leadership. Accounting and finance. Legal, regulatory and governance. Risk management.

What are 3 things the director is in charge of? ›

A director is responsible for overseeing the design, production, and final product of a film. This includes everything from casting to scriptwriting to directing actors on set.

What are the disadvantages of being a filmmaker? ›

A disadvantage of becoming a movie director is the stiff competition you will face from other directors vying for the same jobs and sources of project funding. Producers and investors are bombarded with movie ideas and can have their pick of eager directors.

Is it worth going to school for filmmaking? ›

Not only does film school help you in the field, but it can also aid in your post-graduate job hunt. Listing a film degree on your resume can increase your chances of being hired by a production company, editing house, or writer's room. This is because employers recognize the skills it takes to complete a film program.

Why should filmmakers read books? ›

It makes you a better creative. You look smart while doing it. In other words, reading is one of the simplest ways to immediately improve your life in every regard, even your filmmaking.

Is being a film student worth it? ›

A film degree can help you hone your skills, develop network connections, gain access to film equipment and build a creative portfolio. Knowing more about the various reasons some aspiring filmmakers earn degrees may help you decide if you want to attend film school.

What skills should a filmmaker have? ›

Top 10 Skills Every Beginner Filmmaker Needs
  • Learning Technology. ...
  • Sound Editing and Recording. ...
  • Understanding Software. ...
  • Cinematography. ...
  • Mastering Screenwriting. ...
  • Working with Technical Departments. ...
  • Multitasking. ...
  • Shooting with Drones.

Do you need talent to be a filmmaker? ›

While you don't have to be an expert on every element of filmmaking, it's important to at least know what a good shot looks like and how to achieve it, including framing, staging, lighting, and the actual technology that should be used.

Which country is best for filmmaking? ›

Best countries to study film
  • USA.
  • UK.
  • India.
  • China.
  • Japan.
  • Germany.
  • France.
  • Spain.

Is becoming a filmmaker hard? ›

The road to becoming a director is never going to be easy. If this is your dream, know it will require a lot of determination, struggle, and never-ending effort. Whether you decide to attend film school or not, learning as much as possible about filmmaking is vital.

Is filmmaking a high paying job? ›

Producer. Payscale reports that the median annual salary for a producer in TV and films is just $66,121. However, the typical Hollywood film producer earns $750,000 to $1 million per movie, though first-time producers might make only $250,000. Producers behind monster box office hits can pull in tens of millions.

Why are books better than movies answer? ›

Books can let you imagine the setting or events happening in the story. They are also more detailed than movies because movies sometimes leave out some important details. In some movies, they switch up the characters because in the book they are different and totally the opposite.

Why books are better than movies quotes? ›

They are ready when you are. You are a participant and not a mere observer. You make the decisions what things look like, or ought to.

What are the advantages of reading a book instead of watching a film? ›

You can read a book anywhere you go. You don't need a power source to charge your book, and you don't need a television screen on which to watch it. Books are easy to travel with, and are always an endless source of entertainment.

Is 28 too old for film school? ›

Well-Known Member. You're never too old to enter film school. At UCLA we have people starting the program in their 30s, and the screenwriting and producing programs sometimes have students in their 40s.

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