Reading is one of the simplest ways to immediately improve your life in every regard, even your filmmaking. A while back we reached out to some of our friends in filmmaking to see what they would recommend for some summer reading and they had some incredibly thoughtful responses. So, we thought we’d go for round two because we’re sure as hell not running out of books to read.
We’ve compiled a list of eight books every filmmaker should read this summer. Some are directly related to the craft. Others are simply examples of great craftsmanship themselves. But all of them will make fantastic companions whether you’re unwinding on the beach or head-down inside your latest project. These suggestions were compiled from our own reading and from the reading of some of our talented filmmaking friends. We hope you find one that, in the words of J. D. Salinger, “Really knocks you out.”
No matter how big our creative dreams, we still have to live one day at a time. Or, to put it in reverse (and to quote Annie Dillard): “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We can’t montage our way to success. We have to live every moment between now and then. And what we do with those moments is everything.
On Directing Film by David Mamet is a short book, just over 100 pages; but it contains everything Mamet knows about directing films, which he admits isn’t much. But then, that’s his whole point. Directing is a craft made up of a few simple tools mastered painstakingly over time. And one of those tools — maybe the most important one — is understanding how to craft scenes. “The unit with which the director most wants to concern himself is the scene,” Mamet explains. “Make the beats serve the scene, and the scene will be done; make the scenes, in the same way, the building blocks of film, and the film will be done.” To put it gently, some of Mamet’s perspectives can be polarizing, but asking them can challenge your own perspective on what makes an effective scene.
“Every story worth telling in some way mirrors our lives…” That’s how David Corbett opens his now canonical book The Art of Character, and after chatting with him, we understand why. According to David, our ability to understand the characters in our stories is directly related to our ability to understand ourselves. He calls this “the intuitive bridge.”