Getting ready for Film School MFA - Books & Films

Maybe current students can help out with this one. What books or films do you suggest we read/watch before starting grad school?? About film directing, screenwriting, producing, creative writing. (If a thread about this topic already exist, could someone point me in the right direction?)


Active Member
Awesome thread idea! This happens to be one of the topics I want to write an article for on the site, but not sure when I'll get around to it so here are my top 5.

1) Getting it Write: An Insider's Guide to a Screenwriting Career by Lee Jessup
2) Getting It Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Handbook by Joshua Friedman
3) Fearless Negotiating by Michael Donaldson (all his producing and legal books are fantastic)
4) lots of produced scripts. Many are published but you can also find the online fairly easily if they were ever award nominated. Don't read transcripts, only read the actual script.

Movie wise, I'd watch lots of documentaries about films. This is a pretty great list to check out. The 15 Best Documentaries About Making a Film
Hearts of Darkness and Lost in La Mancha are two of my personal favorites.


MFA Screenwriter @UCLA
As I can only speak for screenwriting...
  1. Come up with tons of ideas! For both feature and TV. Drama and comedy. Life at grad school happens f a s t. You may write or develop 2-5 feature/TV ideas in a single quarter. Help future you out by developing the habit of 1 idea a week, if not 1 a day. It doesn't have to be good or thorough either. Just a few words is fine.
  2. Read lots of scripts. Read feature scripts and TV scripts. Read scripts from the Black List and whatever else you can find. Read good, professional scripts and not as good scripts. Think of what they did well and what they could improve upon.
  3. Watch some movies and TV shows. Mix it up between the classics and new stuff. Start keeping a master list of good writers / directors / editors / cinematographers that you enjoy and why.
  4. Write! Or maybe not! TBH you don't have to write a lot this summer. If it's stressful, you have 2 more years to be stressed so don't really worry about it. A lot of writers I know didn't actually do that much writing between getting accepted and starting the program. I didn't. But if you are super eager and never wrote a feature or TV pilot, you can give it a go :p


Active Member
Oh! I'll also add the Scriptnotes Podcast! It's fantastic. Writer or otherwise, I highly recommend listening to it to learn about storytelling and the film industry as a whole.
I suggest watching video essays as well. The best ones out there really teach a lot about the craft of filmmaking and analysing the stylistic choices of different filmmakers.
Some channels I recommend:
- Lessons for the Screenplay (for writing)
- Channel Criswell & Every Frame A Painting for Film Form/Aesthetics
- Nerdwriter for a variety of topics, in the "Understanding Art" section.

Also check out Nofilmschool's best video essays of 2016 and this reddit compilation of the best video essay channels out there.

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