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10 Books Every Independent Filmmaker Should Own… and 4 for Screenwriters Too

8 Dec , 2014  

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Whether you're looking for a gift idea for someone else or a filmmaker yourself, has compiled 10 essential books that every independent filmmaker should own, plus 4 for screenwriters.

10 Books Every Independent Filmmaker Should Own

The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age: 2013 Edition
If there were to be something like the one-size-fits-all book for filmmakers, Ascher and Pincus’s book would certainly be it. From memory cards to color correction to sound recording to editing, this book is a must for the self-taught (and a reference handbook for the formally taught) filmmaker. However, the section on distribution only scratches the surface, which is why we include several other books that cover the post-release phase of filmmaking.

Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen (Michael Wiese Productions)
Here’s an idea: make a book about filmmaking that’s actually visual. I know, it seems obvious but most of them are just so text-heavy. Not Shot by Shot – this book may be a few years old, but the techniques of setting up a shot and lighting are timeless. This book is a great way for an aspiring filmmaker to see the basics and practice them on their own.

The Independent’s Guide to Film Distribution: DIY to Traditional Indie Film Distribution with over 200 Distributors
This 2014 updated book is designed with the idea that filmmakers need guidance and resources for successful distribution. The front section includes strategies and advice on crowdfunding, marketing and finding distribution for your film, while the second section includes the names, contact information, descriptions and distribution details for over 200 independent distributors.

On Directing Film
David Mamet’s guide to directing actors is officially old enough to be a ‘classic.’ But the advice within is most definitely timeless — and seeing as poor acting is a common problem in independent films, it’s something most independent directors could use some tips on.

Bankroll, 2nd edition: A New Approach to Financing Feature Films
Independent film financing isn’t what it used to be. But this book empowers filmmakers with the information they need to take on small to more ambitious independent film projects — and to start thinking like a business person, as well as a filmmaker.

Shaking the Money Tree, 3rd Edition: The Art of Getting Grants and Donations for Film and Video (Shaking the Money Tree: The Art of Getting Grants & Donations)
For films (notably documentaries) with grant and donation potential, this book offers a great guide to how to raise money in the nonprofit world by industry veteran Morrie Warshawski.

Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide, 4th edition: The Essential Companion for Filmmakers and Festival-Goers (Chris Gore’s Ultimate Flim Festival Survival Guide)
FilmThreat Founder Chris Gore created and has continued to update what remains the most comprehensive guide to film festivals. And seeing as film festival submissions can be a huge waste of money for filmmakers if not approached with some strategy, the cost of this book probably saves more money than it costs. Gore breaks down how to pick the right festivals for your film and how to build buzz, get press, and avoid common mistakes.

Contracts for the Film & Television Industry, 3rd Edition
So it’s not the sexiest title on this list, but sometimes the business of film is just that: not sexy. Veteran entertainment lawyer Mark Litwak offers up a collection of sample entertainment contracts along with discussions of the terms and ideas of each. If you order from his website, you can also get the CD with files of the contracts themselves.

The History of Independent Cinema
Local film buff Phil Hall provides a much condensed, but informative history of independent film, which any smart indie filmmaker might want to be well-versed in.

Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player
Ok, El Mariachi is not the best independent film ever made. Nonetheless, Robert Rodriguez gives some inspirational advice to filmmakers on how to ‘just do it’ like he did. He has a appendix called the ’10 Minute Film School’ which is sure to jumpstart any lollygagging filmmaker.

…and 4 Books for Screenwriters

Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters
This book is ideal for the writer/director who is starting with short films. Short screenplays follow some different rules than features, and Cowgill’s book demystifies the short screenwriting format with plenty of examples (some of which you can find online to watch).

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
In an already crowded market of screenplay books, this book found its way to the top of the heap. Although sometimes it feels like it could be condensed into half the size (of course, it’s not called ‘cut to the chase’), but it does contain clearcut advice for the perplexed or newbie screenwriter.

2015 Guide to Literary Agents: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
This guidebook provides screenwriters with a directory of literary agents — although it helps to have a few scripts already written before approaching agents.

The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out!
Longtime NewEnglandFilm writer and the ‘Screenplay Doctor’ Susan Kouguell provides a book’s worth of insider knowledge on movie executives, story analysts, option agreements, and pitches, and in doing so, guides screenwriters to their end goal — actually selling their work.