best filmmaking books for beginners

15 Best Filmmaking Books For Beginners

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Filmmaking books are a great way to learn about working in the film industry. Of course, these days, you can get a lot of information from YouTube. But a book is more specialised, teaches professional practice and provides a great go-to reference. Not to mention filmmaking books are an excellent gift for any aspiring filmmaker. 

This is a list of the best books on filmmaking, including directing and cinematography books. We have read and reviewed all of these books below, so you can pick the best one for you.

Beginner Filmmaking Books

What book you choose will depend on your experience and career goals. Want to work as a director, editor, screenwriter? If you know what specific area you wish to specialise within, it makes sense to pick a career book. However, if you are a beginner or want to make independent films, you might prefer a comprehensive production book.

1. Filmmaking For Dummies by Michael Stoller

Filmmaking For Dummies

If you are a complete newcomer to filmmaking, this book breaks down the entire production process. The guide is easy to understand but still provides professional advice, including screenwriting, producing and editing your movie. It’s perfect for the beginner or hobby filmmaker.

2. Filmmaker’s Handbook by Stephen Ascher

Filmmaker's Handbook

Similar to filmmaking for dummies but with more technical advice. The filmmaker’s handbook is in the fifth edition and looks at all aspects of filmmaking for the beginner. It’s a huge book with quality advice on the whole filmmaking process. Although the tech advice is already a little outdated, the overall context of making a film is there.

3. Producer to Producer by Maureen A. Ryan

Producer to Producer

A more advanced guide to the film industry and the entire production process. If you are interested in being a producer or working in high-end film production, this book is for you. It’s more complex than the other filmmaking books but breaks down the whole process in the same detailed way.

Film Director Books

If you want to be a film director, you can buy books that focus specifically on directing. Because it requires a mixed set of skills, there are different types of directing books available. First, there are books that focus on the specific aspects of the job role, such as directing actors. Then there are books by famous directors featuring their personal tips. Both types of filmmaking books provide excellent learning resources.

4. On Directing Film by David Mamet

On Directing Film

From film and theatre director David Mamet, this book Looks at directing by breaking down techniques. The role of a director is mainly to tell a story and provide guidance to the actors. We can easily get distracted with all the other aspects of filmmaking, so it’s good to have a resource that brings you back to the directing basics.


5. Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez

Rebel Without A Crew - best filmmaking books

In 1993 Robert Rodrequiez made his debut feature film for only $7,000. This was practically unheard of at the time, and he did so on his own as a one-man crew. So if you want an optimistic book that gets you eager to make a film, then this is it. However, also keep in mind the tech and distribution advice is slightly outdated.

6. Hitchcock by Francis Truffaut

Hitchcock - best books for film directors

One of the best books on filmmaking features a transcription of conversations between Francis Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock. They talk about the art and business of filmmaking, including their personal career tips. In addition, this book provides professional advice and guidance for beginner filmmakers.

Cinematography Books

On a professional film set, the director of photography is in charge of cinematography. This is the art of cinematic camera and lighting techniques. It’s both a highly creative and technical job role. Even if you don’t aspire to be a DOP, it’s helpful to understand essential lighting and camera choices. There are two types of cinematography books, first the technical practice, and second the art form.

7. Cinematography: Theory and Practice by Blaine Brown

Cinematography: Theory and Practice

This book is for you if you are looking for a complete director of photography job role breakdown. It’s not too tech complex, so it would suit a beginner interested in this role. Blaine Brown has also written many cinematography books and like this one are sometimes part of a series.

8. Mastershots by Christopher Kenworthy

Mastershots - best cinematography books

One of the best books on filmmaking with a focus on the camera department. This book breaks down 100 camera and lighting techniques, including movement and camera angles. It’s aimed at beginner and intermediate filmmakers and includes plenty of images and set diagrams.


9. If it’s Purple Someone’s Gonna Die by Patti Bellatoni

If it's Purple Someone's Gonna Die

One of the best art form cinematography books looking at the use of colour theory in cinema. It’s a beautiful book, full of pictures and examples. Cinematography is not just about the technical aspects but how you use your craft to tell a story. This book would make an excellent gift for any aspiring filmmaker.

Screenwriting Books

You can’t make a film without a script. Screenwriting is one of the highest valued skills in filmmaking. It’s easy to write a film script but exceptionally hard to sell and create a screenwriting career. When it comes to screenwriting books, you have two types. First are the ones that focus on the actual structure and writing skills. Second, you have filmmaking books that look at a screenwriter’s career and advice on how to sell your screenplay.

10. Save the Cat by Blake Synder

Save the Cat - best filmmaking books

This is likely the most famous book on screenwriting. It focuses on storytelling formulas and how to write a successful script. If your goal is Hollywood screenwriting, then this is a great book to start out with. It doesn’t teach script format but more the process of screenwriting from idea to final product.

11. Story: Principles of Screenwriting by Robert Mckee

Story: Principles of Screenwriting

An in-depth book on how to write for film and TV. Providing advice on story structure, character development and how to build a story. It’s slightly more advanced than Save The Cat and might be a better fit for independent filmmaking outside the Hollywood system.

12. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Of course, Stephen King is not a screenwriter, but he knows a lot about writing stories. This is a great book for anybody looking to work as a full-time writer, either novels or screenplays. He looks in depth at the discipline needed for the writing process itself.

Film Editing Books

Sure, you can watch hours of YouTube videos on how to use editing software. But it’s hard to find advice on the art form of editing. Film editing is not just about putting together footage, it’s also about storytelling. Filmmaking books with an editing focus will teach you how to choose the best shot, as well as advice on the whole post-production process.

13. Writing for the Cut: Shaping Your Script for Cinema by Greg Loftin

Writing for the Cut: Shaping Your Script for Cinema

An informative book for both screenwriters and editors. It looks into the collaboration between these roles and how to work with a script during the edit. The book structure is also straightforward to follow and aimed towards beginner filmmakers.

14. In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing by Walter Murch

In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing

The most famous of filmmaking books with a focus on the art and craft of editing. This book discusses the more advanced practices of editing such as continuity, pacing and emotion. It’s more comprehensive but perfect for those who are serious about pursuing an editing career.

15. A Guide for Managing Post-Production by Barbara Clark

A Guide for Managing Post-Production - best filmmaking books

This book provides a very detailed overview of the entire post-production process. From scheduling, budgeting to delivery of the final cut. However, unlike the other editing books, it focuses more on professional practice and the teamwork side of post-production. 

Wrapping Up – Best Filmmaking Books For Beginners

Filmmaking books provide you with structured, professional advice on how to perform a task or film job role. A book can also be an excellent gift for a film student or graduate. Hopefully, one of these best books on filmmaking above can guide you towards your film career. If in doubt, choose a general filmmaking book that covers all areas of production.

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