Film School Reading List

citynugget

Member
I am curious about the recommended readings for grad students. Are there any books suggested in your curriculum? Any books on editing, producing, or screenwriting that you highly recommend?

I read Essentials of Screenwriting by Richard Walter (UCLA) this year and have been disappointed by most screenwriting books thereafter.

Would love to read more books written and/or recommended by film school professors.
 

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WriterK90

Active Member
Supporting Member
The last book I read (okay, listened to. It was an audible book) was Dialogue by Robert McKee.

Check out the reviews. It's a little more specific than you may be looking for but I really enjoyed it and will listen to it again soon.
 

Chris W

As You Wish
Staff member
Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger was a good one for me. :)
 

Septopus7

Moderator
Staff member
Supporting Member
I don't read a lot of filmmaking books (most of 'em are Save the Cat type trash), but Sidney Lumet's Making Movies is essential. You know, because it's Sidney Lumet. And he himself is essential.
 

Septopus7

Moderator
Staff member
Supporting Member
Save the Cat is a rigid, impractical rulebook for something that shouldn't have one. Was assigned it in undergrad, and really did not glean anything from it, nor even find it to be all that enthralling a read.

I wasn't huge on them either but, if you want to go in that direction, books like Robert McKee's Story are at least a more practical, more open exploration of the form. But, overall, not big on the "storytelling as instruction manual" genre. Which is why I enjoyed Making Movies so much-- more a memoir sprinkled with advice rather than anything else. And it's advice from Sidney Freaking Lumet, a master of the form. Not the guy who wrote "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shot."
 

Cdemon

Active Member
I just started it but “The Art of Dramatic Writing” by Lajos Egri has been mentioned a lot by various people who are working writers via podcasts etc. so far it’s good- some of how he says things is a little too all this- but I think that’s true of any book on... and I think the core of it is good so far (maybe 50 pages in). Also, Aristotle’s Poetics. “Write Screenplays that Sell, The Ackerman Way” has some useful stuff- I haven’t read all of it but most of what I’ve read gives good tips (I agree nothing really is a rule). I particularly like the chapter on Snowplowing a script. It was recommended to me by a few professors that taught in UCLA’s MFA.

Above that read some great screenplays- Alien is a great one. It shows really good movement within scenes. Misery is also good- it’s gripping and much more novelistic than people tend to want from screenplays.

Anyway, that’s a lot already. Mostly, it’s all practice but hearing how people think can be helpful so reading is always good.
 

alanray

Active Member
Haven’t really done a lot of actual reading. Most of everything I know has been mostly screamed at me and engendered in me by constant pleas to stop writing garbage
 

Cdemon

Active Member
Oh yes. The pleas for less crap. 😂
Ultimately constant writing is really the way anyway. So those pleas for less crap that make us write more are probably way more effective! 😳🥺😂
 

Isabehl

Member
Supporting Member
We read excerpts from Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald in my screenwriting class. I found it invaluable and bought myself a copy! (that being said, I found a free pdf available online here via the University of Washington :))
 

kid_a2

Member
I am curious about the recommended readings for grad students. Are there any books suggested in your curriculum? Any books on editing, producing, or screenwriting that you highly recommend?

I read Essentials of Screenwriting by Richard Walter (UCLA) this year and have been disappointed by most screenwriting books thereafter.

Would love to read more books written and/or recommended by film school professors.
Honestly would spend more time reading screenplays themselves and learning from that.
 

Septopus7

Moderator
Staff member
Supporting Member
Would agree with the sentiment of @Cdemon @kid_a2. The internet has made getting a hold of these screenplays so simple, with thousands available to download with a simple search. They are invaluable and, frankly, puts the whole "craft" into perspective for me while I read them. Crafting a full blown film is such a daunting, seemingly impossible task, but just reading the pure words on the page gives me the impression that "hey, I can do that." Not sure if that's just me, though.
 

Cdemon

Active Member
@Septopus7 i feel that way too- (admittedly some days more than others!) but yeah- it’s good to see where things begin both great works and just regular works.

Also, for those in town, you can go to the WGA Library and look at a ton of scripts that aren’t available online for free as well. You can’t check them out but you can check them out for the day while you’re there. Very cool and relaxed place. Also right across from The Grove and other places so plenty of food nearby for between scripts.
 

kid_a2

Member
Would agree with the sentiment of @Cdemon @kid_a2. The internet has made getting a hold of these screenplays so simple, with thousands available to download with a simple search. They are invaluable and, frankly, puts the whole "craft" into perspective for me while I read them.
Agreed. I think it's much more valuable to read what people are writing, instead of having someone tell you how to write.

I've also found it useful to try and find scripts for movies that are considered bad, because you can learn a lot from that too.

It's also an interesting exercise to read a script of a film you haven't seen yet first, and then watch it afterwards.
 

Cdemon

Active Member
Yes! Bad scripts can sometimes teach you the most. It’s easier to ID what’s not working and try to not do that sometimes than to see all the finer points of what makes a piece work.
 

AkilRashad

Member
I am curious about the recommended readings for grad students. Are there any books suggested in your curriculum? Any books on editing, producing, or screenwriting that you highly recommend?

I read Essentials of Screenwriting by Richard Walter (UCLA) this year and have been disappointed by most screenwriting books thereafter.

Would love to read more books written and/or recommended by film school professors.
I only recommend Aristotle's Poetics and Robert Mckee's books. Other than that? Read read read read read screenplays. Print them out. Annotate them. Break down scenes, sequences, etc.
 

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