11 best books on filmmaking to add to your reading list

Filmmakers and film buffs alike tend to be more “visual” learners than readers, however, there is a wealth of film knowledge to be found in libraries and bookstores everywhere. 

From director autobiographies on screenwriting to handy technical guides, we highly encourage you to put down the screen and pick up the pages to gain deeper insight into the world of filmmaking

1. In The Blink of An Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing by Walter Murch

Written by veteran film editor Walter Murch, In The Blink of an Eye is a love letter to the art of film editing. 

From discussions on specific techniques to philosophical discussions on why and how editing works, this book checks all the boxes for anyone looking to explore the world of film editing from the perspective of one of the greats. 

2. Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez

In this autobiography about filmmaking on a shoestring budget, veteran director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids, and Machete) discusses his unique approach to directing film. 

This book largely focuses on the process of him creating his film “El Mariachi” at 23 with only $7,000 and has been a source of inspiration for many of today’s up and coming indie filmmakers. 

3. Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet talks all things directing in this masterclass of a paperback. Delivered with a signature wit and candor, Lumet walks readers through every stage of the directing process, peppering in personal anecdotes where they help to illustrate each different technique or thought process. 

A true bible for aspiring directors, this book allows you to step directly into the mind and memories of one of the greats. This book includes chapters on screenwriting, art direction, directing actors, directorial style, editing, music, sound design, and more.

  • Number of Reviews on Amazon: 721
  • Average Star Review (out of 5): 4.7
  • Link to Buy (Amazon): Making Movies

4. Shooting to Kill by Christine Vachon

Aspiring indie producers will love this no-holds-barred account by self-proclaimed “survivor” of indie producing Christine Vachon. She gives a bold and witty perspective on the ups and downs of independent filmmaking and what it takes to succeed in this space. 

Even if you’re not an aspiring indie producer, her candor and wit will keep any film buff entertained from page to page with her stories from the trenches of indie film. 

5. Something Like An Autobiography by Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa is still one of the most globally revered Japanese directors of any age, and this autobiography is a stunning glimpse into the thoughts and musings of a director truly in love with filmmaking and cinematography. 

Whether you’re a fan of Kurosawa’s work or just a film nerd, you’ll enjoy reading about the key elements that Kurosawa believed to make a great film. 

  • Number of Reviews on Amazon: 262
  • Average Star Review (out of 5): 4.8

Link to Buy (Amazon): Something Like An Autobiography

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6. Spike Lee’s Gotta Have It: Inside Guerilla Filmmaking by Spike Lee

Written as a companion to his hit indie film “She’s Gotta Have It,” this book outlines Spike Lee’s process as he wrote, directed, and starred in the film with only a shoestring budget of $175,000. It includes early journal entries, production notes, and even the entire screenplay of the film for readers to analyze. 

It includes accounts of every step of the process, from the earliest days of development all the way through awards acclaim, and is a fun and fresh read for anyone interested in filmmaking. 

7. In Her Voice by Melissa Silverstein

This is a first-of-its-kind book that collects the stories and experiences of a group of women directors and puts their voices front and center to tell them. It includes interviews with over 40 women directors from all over the world who produce both documentary and feature films. 

In a field where women are so deeply underrepresented, this book is as much a piece of advocacy as it is of history, shedding a light on the incredible work that women are doing to not only advance the industry as a whole, but also their place inside of it. 

8. The Filmmaker’s Handbook by Steven Ascher

Moving away from personal anecdotes and autobiographies, The Filmmaker’s Handbook is simply a book that every aspiring indie filmmaker needs on their shelf. It is a field guide to filmmaking, each step of the process laid out in accessible language that is easy to understand and grasp. 

It outlines common mistakes and how to avoid them, and offers a clear path forward for anyone brave enough to take on the process of making and distributing an independent film. 

9. Master Shots Vol 1, 2, 3 by Christopher Kenworthy

Similar to The Filmmaker’s Handbook, Master Shots Vol 1, 2, and 3 should be on the bookshelf of any aspiring cinematographer. It is specifically aimed at helping cinematographers refine their camera technique to get a “high-budget” look in a low-budget project. 

It is a masterclass in camera direction and is an absolute don’t miss, no matter what stage in your filmmaking journey you may be in. 

10. Hello, He Lied by Lynda Obst

Back into the anecdotal realm, Hello, He Lied is a funny and unique perspective from successful producer Lynda Obst of what it takes to really survive in Hollywood producing. 

She offers quotable advice and brings the reader inside the meetings both on-set and off that make or break a film becoming a reality. 


11. Film Lighting: Talks with Hollywood’s Cinematographers and Gaffers by Kris Malkiewicz

This one is for anyone who is passionate about the visual art of film, because it deep-dives into the role of light and the nearly infinite ways it can be used to tell a story within a frame. 

Using interviews with some of the top gaffers and cinematographers in the business, these first-hand accounts are an invaluable guide to how to effectively use light in your storytelling techniques and create stunning visuals that stick with people for years to come. 

So whether you’re a DIY filmmaker or an industry pro, there’s something for everyone in the pages of these and many more books on filmmaking. This list only scratches the surface so we encourage you to go out and deepen your filmmaking knowledge through these and other great books.

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