Here’s a list of books, textbooks and manual that I have learnt a lot from and found really useful. They range from books on film aesthetics, screenwriting, storytelling, animation and motivation.
The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
The best guide to writing narrative I’ve read yet. It teaches you how to write solid characters, structures, premise and pacing, and it also shows things to look out for that will make your narrative fail. Just keep in mind that it’s written primarily for writing stageplays and not screenplays so certain things don’t always apply if you’re writing for film. It also doesn’t take into account visual storytelling techniques as it’s written primarily for dialogue based theatrical storytelling.
The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Probably the most well known book of comparative mythology and religion from Joseph Campbell. This book looks in particular at the ‘Hero’s Journey’ which is a form of narrative that permeates the majority of our fiction today and throughout history. Quintessential for writers who want to understand their craft, even if they don’t want to follow the hero’s formula.
Re-Imagining Animation by Paul Wells and Johnny Hardstaff
A really interesting book on contemporary animation and it’s changing culture. Primarily focusing on the changing rolls of animation in the post-digital age. Invaluable for intermediate to advanced animators and animation academics.
Sight Sound Motion by Herbert Zettl
An in depth textbook covering the aesthetics of moving image filmmaking. It looks at the fine details and choices in film-making and their psychological effects on the viewer. The book covers, light, lighting, colour, area, depth and volume, screen volume and effects, time, motion, continuity & complexity editing and sound. It can get a bit dry at times and as a cinema goer you will already know some of the elements in this book, however it’s worth sitting down and reading it entirely.
Film Art by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson
Staple textbook for many cinema courses in film schools & universities. Looks at the aesthetics and mechanics of cinema in slightly broader context than ‘Sight Sound Motion’. Useful as a basis in understanding cinema for creators, academics and critics alike.
If you want this, get the edition before the latest and buy it second-hand as new editions cost a ridiculous amount of money for minimal new content.
B Book by M Dot Strange
A great book from an actual independent feature film animator/director. It looks at motivation, turmoils and the life of a dedicated fringe artist.
“I wrote this book as sort of an artistic pick you upper… a kick in the ass… a slap in the back of your head to get you going creating the awesome work that you should be!” – M Dot Strange
The War Of Art + Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
Really motivational books from author Steven Pressfield. After reading these I worked harder than ever. They talk about the personal need to create and becoming professional in your approach. There’s a couple of parts that talk about Pressfield’s religious connection to creating which didn’t really gel with me as I’m quite secular, but i just ignored these and the other parts were extremely relevant. A good book for when you’re stuck in a rut.
The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
The best textbook I’ve found yet for character animation. Useful regardless of what animation style you use. Written by the director of ‘The Cobbler and the Thief’. The examples given by Williams are quite stylized and cartoony but just tone that down if you want more realism or varying style in your character animation.
In The Blink Of An Eye (2nd ED) by Walter Murch
Insights and rules formulated by master editor Walter Murch. Editing is a hugely important step in film-making so the better you get at it as a D.I.Y or independent filmmaker the better your films will be. Incredibly useful information for filmmakers looking to get better at their craft.
The Conversations: Walter Murch And The Art Of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje
A five lengthy interviews with aforementioned master editor Walter Murch by the writer of The English Patient. They go through a lot of interesting content throughout their conversations. Worth a read if you read ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’ and want more.
Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez
This book is mostly journal entries from Robert Rodriguez in the early 90’s when he was 23 years old and making his debut film El Miriachi with a $7000 budget. While I’m not particularly into his films, it’s an interesting and motivational look at D.I.Y and independent film-making. Good stuff.