Equipment Guide for Making Digital Films How to Make the Lowest Budget Digital Film A Relatively Safe Explosion Special Effect Technique How to Shoot Someone without Dangerous Squibs.  

Books on Movie Making
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If you can only afford seven books these are the books to have in order of importance.  
And I'll start with my April 2007 digital eBook. If you can only afford one get this one. I put everything I wish I'd known when I started out in it. Digital Filmmaking 101--this inspiring instructional book is so much fun you'll wish there were more like it. Film Directing Shot by Shot  has everything you'll need for learning how to set up shots--this book is cram-packed with material, so much so, I still have some to read--but everything I've learned about shots I got from this book.  Maybe more important than the first two is The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook because if you don't have a marketing plan what are you going to do with your movie--every review about it is a rave--Bosko makes the selling of your movie sound like fun--and it would not be a bad idea to read this before you make your movie.  Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices  is another inspirational gem--though it covers film more than dv--it includes essentials not covered elsewhere.  I read a very silly review of this book that said Rick Schmidt had never made a movie of note so didn't have the right to write such a book--who cares, Rick is an excellent teacher. And I'm including Lighting for Digital Video, a book I just purchased, because I realize my own failings in my first movies as far as lighting went.  This is almost an advanced book--you'll be using the glossary if you are a beginner--but it is the best book on lighting I've seen. And also Producing Great Sound for Digital Video for the same reason.

This is my new E-book. With everything I learned making Knaptid. Sort of a what not to do. If you can't afford much this 49 cent book will help you get started.

Okay now for next level of books.  The IFILM Digital Video Filmmaker's Handbook (with dvd) is pregnant with material and was the first book I read on digital filmmaking ( and I understand there is a new edition).  Of equal interest and covering the same material with slightly better graphics is The Digital Filmmaking Handbook (with cd).  The cd includes samples of special effects software--and book shows how to create many effects. I find, however, I refer back to the Digital Video book more often for references--as it names microphone brands, etc.  One problem with these books is by the time they are printed some of the technical material is already dated.  So I recommend Filmmaker magazine which is a must just to keep up with the ads for the latest equipment.  (Macintosh user magazines also have great equipment ads, including cameras, best to browse them on the magazine rack--don't buy a camera without checking the prices at the discount houses advertising here.)

   For loads of additonal information read What They Don't Teach You At Film School which discusses such things how your feelings might affect your promotional efforts--but don't take any love advice from these ladies.  If you are going to try film festivals then read The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide and with this book buy the latest edition if you can afford it so you get updated festival info--you can also check out "" for current festival info.   For special effects get Secrets Of Hollywood Special Effects and/or Creating Special Effects for TV and Movies. (There is far less overlap in these two special effects books than you would imagine-only the pyrotechnic sections come close to repetition.)  but skip firing squibs off on actors go to

 for a great alternative.  I included my own how-to version of this technique as an added feature on my Knaptid--4 Days After the First Abduction DVD listed below.

Other books of interest are The Guerilla Film Makers Movie Blueprint
covering many aspects of moviemaking--though with a very British slant.  And for reading in the loo--303 Digital Filmmaking Solutions with 303 short sections that you can use as a reference or just read when you have time to kill--it is loaded with tips such as letting actors wear (wireless) mics in the screen test to foresee problems such as the actor obviously talking into the mic.  Another gem I discovered in my public library is Making A Winning Short--this author is inspiring as well as informative.


I was at a lecture by Lew Hunter and happened to mention to the woman sitting next to me that I used Lew's book SCREENWRITING 434 in the fiction writing classes I taught, because both the fiction and screenwriting students loved it.  Turned out it was Lew's wife, and I got to meet Lew. There are so many screenwriting books--and when I was teaching I got free samples of all of them --but I have to pick this one--it just gets your mind going on what "you" can do.
Robert McKee's book I believe is the bestselling book on screenwriting.  I found it too much for those who want to dream and intellectualize about screenwriting--than for those who want to screenwrite.  Syd Field is terrific.  His books were my only guide when I made my first major sale to the television show WISEGUY.  The ARTIST'S WAY is  not for everyone.  I assigned it in my adult writing classes at the Univeristy of Montana along with SCREENWRITING 434.  About a third couldn't get into ARTIST'S WY.  However, it inspired me to write often enough to actually start selling fiction on a regular basis.  This is not a book about writing (though Cameron is a filmmaker), but about getting yourself to actually do whatever art you want to do.  And if my classes are typical it will work for 66% of you. 

For inspiration there is, of course,  Rebel Without A Crew.  But I loved The Making of The Wizard of Oz and what the poor witch and her double suffered for special effects is frightening.   Inside Giligan's Island is a hilariously funny book on how to play it tough and win in Hollywood--a great read.  One DVD you should see is American Movie though, personally, I find the profanity overdone.

I've chosen Final Draft to replace WordPerfect on my Mac. Since my first sale to Wiseguy (you can catch my single contribution to the show as the extra feature on Wiseguy Sonny Steelgrave and the Mob I've been using WordPerfect with macro's I created for screen formating--unfortunately WordPerfect doesn't work well with Macintosh OS X. I've been using an old Mac Performa for writing.  So I exported my lastest effort from WordPerfect as a text file, then imported it into Final Draft on my iMac, and, I only needed a few minor adjustments for the script to be formatted perfectly.  Final Draft is amazing!   If you can't afford Final Draft or it's equivalents I suggest you do a seach for "screenwriting software" on the internet. There are some inexpensive programs out there.  I picked this Final Draft 7 Bundle for all the extras.

If you buy Apple Computer's wonderful Final Cut the tutorial will get you started.  But if you're lucky enough to also be able to afford Photoshop you'll want to read Photoshop for Digital Video.  You will need to have Photoshop to be able to use this interactive book. (Tip: Buy an earlier version of Photoshop and upgrade--you'll save a bundle.)

Finally, for director commentary's on filmmaking on dvd I recommend El Mariachi and my own Knaptid-Four Days After the First Abduction.  For Knaptid the commentary is directed at filmmakers instead of a general audience and I’ve tried to include as much of what I learned while making the film as possible--such as what to do when your actress can't drive standard shift and it's the only car available. The Knaptid DVD also includes a four minute tutorial on how-to realistically fake bullet hits on actors without dangerous squibs.  You'll find a link to Knaptid as well as my other movies at ""  One fictional movie about moving making also stands out Living in Oblivion.  In fact there is a lot of info in this movie for first time producers, directors, etc.  Like picking up the cast to make sure they arrive on time.

Some more books on directing..

Knaptid Promo Photo

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