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Must Read books for aspiring directors?

DH Kang

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Didn't go to film school (too poor).


I was just wondering if - besides watching tons of dvds with director commentaries -

there were any "must read" books people can recommend

for an aspiring director who needs to

learn his "fundamentals of film making"


I ve read Stanislavisky books - anything else I should look at?


Also, are tutorial CD's on how to direct like "www.directamovie.com" (Googled and found it)

any good? I figure I might as well give one a try if it's actually good.

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Directing is a very personal thing, and though it's worth looking at how others you admire go about it (watch all those DVD extras), ultimately it's very much about you and what you want to say. I'd say read books on editing and acting: to me directing is editing, only in your head.


Edward Dmytryk's written very excellent books on both, and William Goldman's Adventures... is chock full of pointers. When the Shooting Stops... by Ralph Rosenblum is a great memoir by an influential editor (they're all obsessives!) and The Technique of Film Editing by Ken Dancyger is also very good, and has tips on directing. Check out his seminal book on screenwriting.


To direct actors, you really need to understand what they are doing. Michael Caine, Simon Callow, and Peter Barkworth have all written excellent acting memoirs full of tips and insights that are now required reading on many acting courses. Impro by Keith Johnstone is a work of absolute genius! Avoid the sequel.


I'd agree about reading up on psychology. Freud and the Post Freudians by J.A.C. Brown is a good primer, and Susan Balckmore's Theories of Consciousness will leave you wondering if your most cherished notions of who you are are just neat tricks for getting through the day. :(


All the above are bite sized and easily readable. :D

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HI DH. This is coming from someone who will read five books on film chemistry vs put a friend up against a wall and throw a light on them and see what ya get. Personally besides some basic books I think yer better off grabbing a friends hd/dv camera and go out and make a short film and learn from there. See what works - what doesn't.


That said the below books have been indispensible for me.


The Five C's of Cinematography, by Joseph Mascelli


Kazan A Master Directs, by Jeff Young.


Tarkovsky;s Refelctions in Time.


And lastly I would listen to Gordon Willis's commentary for, Bright Lights, Big City.


Save Tarkovsky's book for last. The rest of the items above have been the best of hundreds of books I've read. All the best.


PS as for writing - just try and feel it and try to dip into the unconscious when you can. A writer once said that the best writers don't know what they're doing. I agree with that. They write from a deeper place. The more personal the more universal I would say. And lastly vomit it all up before you start re-writing. All first drafts are not very good. It's the re-writing that makes us look smart. And lastly don't judge the work when yer writing. And write at least five minutes every day. As Mailer said professional writers write on even the bad day. No life is too busy you can't write for five minutes. Even if you work in the coal mines you can still write five minutes. Cause if you write everyday then the voices in yer head can't bully you. "You'll never be a writer, director, etc."


Anyway - some thoughts before I've had my morning coffee.

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  • 8 months later...

Kubrick: The Definitive Edition


I read this book until it fell apart, then I kept reading the disconnected pages. I think there is a lot of misinformation about Kubrick and how he directed but reading his interviews gives great insight into how he really worked and thought. Almost every great piece of "directing advice" i know came in some form from Kubrick.

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First, read THIS: http://realfilmcareer.com/forum/index.php?topic=1834.0


Then, read EVERY PAGE of this site: http://www.wordplayer.com


I also recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Movie-Producer-Handb...m_syf_dtl_pop_2


And this (to help you understand the career aspects of the job you would like to have): http://www.amazon.com/What-Really-Want-Set...5862&sr=8-1


And browse through the suggestions on specific Directing books here: http://realfilmcareer.com/forum/index.php?topic=9.0


And the books and movies listed here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguide..._res_rpsy_alt_1



Plus, as mentioned, instead of concentrating on "filmmaking," think of yourself as a Storyteller first. Of course you want and need to learn the nuts & bolts of the filmmaking process, but a background in subjects like History, Sociology, Myth, Art, Political Science, Literature, Theater.... any and all of these concentrations will round out your basic knowledge of the world, it's history, and the people in it which will make you a better storyteller. In addition, as a Director, COMMUNICATION skills and interpersonal skills are vital, so take courses that help you in that respect.


I'll toss in one more book that could be helpful: http://www.amazon.com/Power-Myth-Joseph-Ca...2647&sr=1-1



That should keep you busy. :)

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  • 5 months later...
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I recommend getting a well versed understanding of literature, some philosophy, and history.. but I'm not director. Also a backing in Art/Music/Theater will help a lot not so much with actors but with "creating" the film.

Completely agree. A lot of directors, particularly directors of commercials, completely miss this ultra important factor. So, they go to film school or go through the broadcasting department at a university, and are given the basics but nothing more; i.e. "Basic shot workbook/syllabus; what is a medium shot, what is a TTT shot, what does tight mean, what does wide mean..." That kind of thing. No joke. I've seen them in years past by videographers that went to big name campuses and carried around exactly what I described.


If it's a good film school like USC, UCLA, SF State or NYU, then you'll get an okay dose of what works, and what doesn't. But making a good film is about bringing your knowledge of the arts to bear. And a lot of kids just don't have that. Innate talent will only take you so far, and ultimately will fail you in the end without formal training and a healthy database to back it up.


It's like the teenager who sees a lot of junk films, makes it to the core program, then thinks he can crank out great stuff, but completely fails and doesn't understand why. So he winds up shooting schlocky horror flicks or porn, and that's if he's lucky.


Otherwise, if he's a bit more competent than that, then he'll wind up shooting industrials, and maybe the occasional offbeat indy. From there he can move up the food chain.


Just my take.


p.s. today's film industry is primarily all about market appeal. Based upon what I've seen on the screen, and this is just my personal opinion, it seems like the only thing that matters now is if your technically competent, because the money-people'll hire other personnel to make up for any artistic short comings any of the crew have. And this usually means a test market audience to tweak whatever film that's in the works. Ergo, the director probably doesn't have a whole lot of say anymore, and much less so the people working for and with him.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 4 years later...

to become a film director you need to know all that basic acting terminology and other part of filming.

Basically,directing film needs much time to study the script inside and outside.which you make up your crews and actors and actress what they are going to do.directors need much attention when given out dialogues to characters.specifically;directing film makes you great

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Michael Mann



Scorsese on Scorsese



Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze



The rest should be some technical or applied aesthetics books (like Cinematography or The Visual Story.) And as Adrian pointed out, just read non-film related stuff. Everything from The Easter Rising to The Divine Comedy.


And watch as many films as possible.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

In addition to the other suggestions, these are two of my favorites:






When i first read the topic I came here to post this book, so good. Better if you've seen all his films as well it's an amazing 'fly on the wall' listening to two great filmmakers talk properly and in-depth about their craft, no other book for me comes close to being both informative and inspiring.


Though not books, I would recommend David Fincher DVD commentaries, Gone Girl and Dragon Tattoo are highlights for me, both incredibly informative on a technical level, as well as about character and working with the actor to get what he wants, and hilarious at times, he's one of those guys I can't stop listening to. (If you're a fincher fan)

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

I've read this book some years ago which I found very useful, bearing actual reference to a classic movie: Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious.



it's a very discreet and plain book: the author just breaks down one or two scenes from the movie and tries and anylize how staging and camera work are made in order to express what the scene is about.



And then in the following chapters the contrary is done as wekll: you begin from a given short story and you are guided through a step-by-step construction of the shooting, always with regards to camera movement and some staging.


I may miss something but this is what I remember as the main focus.


it's called Film Directing Fundamentals by Nicholas T. Proferes. Focal Press edition.



I am not a director so my POV is very limited but I like this kind of more practical/exercise approach; and I think that while a more speculative one, like the ones mentioned before, will broaden your mind and give you a larger perspective on the job, being able to identify and exploit some basic tools of your routine is something very helpful too.



Then you can may be check out any cahiers by russian director Sergej Ejzenstejn



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