Film Talk

Back to Film Talk...

Books that have helped you progress as a cinematographer/ filmmaker (8 replies and 9 comments)

BradleyRoberts
7 months ago
BradleyRoberts 7 months ago

Hi everybody,

I was wondering what books have helped you progress in your craft.

These books can be about anything from cinematography to art, photography to architecture. I'm just wondering what books have helped you and what you learnt from them. 

dmullenasc
7 months ago
dmullenasc 7 months ago
t.s. Linzey
7 months ago

Masters of Light crushed--ha, yes that is one that is most certainly easy to 'wear out.'

rlandry1
7 months ago
rlandry1 7 months ago

Masters of Light by Schaefer and Salvato

Sidney Lumet's Making Movies

Laurent Tirard's Moviemaker's Masterclass

Arnheim's Film as Art

David Mamet's On Directing Film

The Projections Volumes

Film Sense and Film Form, both by Eisenstein

Cinematography for Directors by Jacqueline Frost

Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time

American Cinematographer Manual

Fellini on Fellini (collection of interviews and articles written by Fellini)

Scorsese on Scorsese (interview format)

Woody Allen on Woody Allen (interview format)

Kazan on Directing (currently reading)

George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones (currently reading)

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Making Short Films by Thurlow

David Bordwell is a very interesting writer/critic you may know him through his very widely used text book, Film Art: An Introduction. He also wrote another really fascinating book called Narration in the Fiction Film

dmullenasc
7 months ago
dmullenasc 7 months ago

If you want to learn about how movies were made in the past, specifically the connection between new tools and new styles at the time, then I suggest "Film Style & Technology: History & Analysis" by Barry Salt.  Just skip the first chapter where he rails against French film theory and jump into his decade-by-decade breakdown:

https://www.amazon.com/Film-Style-Technology-History-Analysis/dp/0950906654/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501608775&sr=8-1&keywords=barry+salt»

dp01
7 months ago

Top recommendations thus far.

I agree with: Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers (Néstor Almendros and Gordon Willis chapers are wonderful) and Sidney Lumet's Making Movies (the camera chapter... just brilliant).

Also check out: Stanley Kubrick: Interviews and the five C's of cinematography (have no idea why this hasn't been mentioned...)

I've wasted a lot of money buying books, but If I had to start over learning the craft of filmmaking again I would suggest less than ten books. The above should cover most basics, but also include:

- Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting: A Step-by-Step Guide from Concept to finished Script
- Writing the Blockbuster Novel (not screenwriting specific but if you want to learn the craft of writing then this is the book... all my favourite films seem to come from Novel adaptions: Shining, Godfather, Clockwork Orange etc)

I know this is writing, so I apologise but to use a quote from Gordon Willis: "A good story will survive bad photography; a bad story will not survive with good photography. There's not much you can do with a bad story".

I'm a firm believer in understanding all elements of the film business, so I hope this helps. Good luck to you.

Best wishes, David

t.s. Linzey
7 months ago

Nails it: "A good story will survive bad photography; a bad story will not survive with good photography. There's not much you can do with a bad story".

dmullenasc
7 months ago
dmullenasc 7 months ago

If you're going to get "The 5 C's of Cinematography", you might as well get Alton's "Painting with Light":

https://www.amazon.com/Painting-Light-John-Alton/dp/0520275845/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501729105&sr=1-1&keywords=painting+with+light+by+john+alton»

A small book that I'm found of, because it's about working practices of 1960's cinematographers in the British film industry, is Russell Campbell's "Practical Motion Picture Photography":

https://www.amazon.com/Practical-motion-picture-photography-textbooks/dp/0498078019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501729034&sr=1-1&keywords=Practical+motion+picture+photography+Campbell»

Being a book lover, I'd never say that you should limit how many books you read, though these days it's not necessary to own a physical copy. I just read four books about the making of different movies and they were all on my Kindle.

dp01
7 months ago

Thanks for the recommendation. Just ordered "Painting with Light". Looking forward to reading it.

Mike
7 months ago
Mike 7 months ago

Another interesting book is "Are they really so awful" a cameramans chronicle. It's about the experiences of Christopher Challis. ISBN 1 85756 193 7. It's mostly about the British studio system it does include Hollywood too. He highlights the Influence and power of the unions and management of the 1960's. The disrupting influence of "drama queens" on set throwing tantrums and Directors not knowing what they are doing. Not naming the culprits, he does mention the picture and you have to work out the rest! Very little technical imformation as its mostly about human nature but still interesting.

rlandry1
7 months ago

The Third Man????

t.s. Linzey
7 months ago

Ooo, maybe so as Welles would have had a difficult time not directing there (and I strongly feel he WOULD--sorry no option for italics/emphasis--have directed a better film. But, then again, I am hopelessly biased with anything Welles (and Toland...imagine HIM shooting The Third Man? POW!).

Roger Deakins
7 months ago
Roger Deakins 7 months ago

Wow! I must start reading some of these books!

In the end a book will only tell you how someone else has done it. It is quite different when you get out and do it for yourself.

t.s. Linzey
7 months ago

Ka-POW! So true (and maybe with having only played with one book on the subject, I do not feel so badly--there is hope! =) ). Though I LOVE books, I keep finding myself feeling that I had better get my arse in the studio and MAKE art rather than feel the seconds ticking away while I read about how others became 'successful' at their given craft... Wait, I am having that very feeling NOW--studio time! =)

rlandry1
7 months ago

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” -Otto von Bismarck

“Bad artists copy, great artists steal.” -Pablo Picasso

This second quote, seems harmless, but I feel it implies something more sinister than what most might think.

Of course, I'm referring to the word choice, "steal;" which, despite whatever assumptions one might make, the action of stealing is immoral and unethical.

That, said, do these words suggest that one must stoop to lower, more primal urges, in order to achieve what he desires?

Look at the stories we tell in our films and novels. It's almost certain that the protagonist will inevitably have to question his own moral code, and often be forced to take on the mask of a devil, the lesser evil, in order to achieve his or her ultimate goal.

serious
7 months ago

Ha! Very humble not to mention Contemporary Cinematographers, which features a Roger Deakins section! Picked it up at Strand for a reasonable price last time I was in NYC.

Honestly, I've felt Masters of Light to be too dated and not detailed enough to crib ideas from. I apply the same appraisal to the Kris Malkiewicz books (though they've been updated by David's & others contributions).

Alcott's is interesting for the counter-intuitive approach to creating depth in B&W.

To me, the best volume on Cinematography as a reference source of applicable techniques is the wonderful New Cinematographers by Alex Ballinger*. The Savides chapter led me to personally build and use "covered wagons," which are batten strips diffused with muslin. That book is kinda like a "master class" in cinematography techniques.

* - edited. stated the wrong book before.

Wouter
7 months ago
Wouter 7 months ago

I read Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time, which I really enjoyed. 

Mike
7 months ago
Mike 7 months ago

Roger,

I am surprised that you have not written a book. Would make fascinating reading and there is an established loyal fan base so would sell like "hots cakes". James could 'ghost' write it and also include her own experiences in it as well. It is time consuming and will take up a lot of your time, possibly a year but it's worth a thought.

A good well presented book has a life span of over 100 years so that's another reason for doing it. 

Back to Film Talk...