When if comes to making a movie, you can never be prepared enough. No matter how much energy you spend trying to think of everything, something always comes up unexpected. Every prop, scheduling the shoot, or doing a shoot list with story boards, it's never enough. All serious filmmakers should have a shelf of resource material. In fact you might want both paper and electronic versions of the important ones.
The table below categorizes the books if you are looking for specific areas of the process. We decided to make one complete guide rather than break the guide up into sections. It is our opinion that the script is the place to start. Nothing works if you don't have an amazing screen play to begin with. Another tip we want to put in your mind is to make sure the editor understands story and has some experience with scripts before you hire them. In fact a good thing to start with is finding out if the editor has done any writing. Anyone can learn to do linear editing but not many people understand how to edit a story properly.
|Save The Cat||Script||Blake Snyder||Available||Check Price|
|Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting||Script||Syd Field||Available||Check Price|
|Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting||Script||Robert McKee||Available||Check Price|
|The Writers Journey||Story||Christopher Vogler||No||Check Price|
1 - Save The Cat - Blake Snyder (Movie Script)
This book tops our list not only because everyone in Hollywood uses it or knows it but also because we use it on every script we write.
In case you don't know who Blake Snyder is, here is the low down. He was basically a pitch guy. Two of his projects saw the light of day. Thing is he made a living pitching and selling story ideas to the studios. While he never had a huge hit or very many movies filmed he sold a lot of projects and had a lot of experience with the studios. What he noticed was that the executives always seemed to ask similar questions. He started to make a page of notes the night before so he was prepared and the answers would be fresh in his mind. Then he realized that these questions always seemed to be the same main beats of the story so he gave them names. He wrote a book and started teaching classes. Tragically he died suddenly before he was able to update his book with the beats that students always ask. There are actually 20 beats the last few really help with the third act.
Other than the beat sheet there are two other very useful elements to this book. The first one is the LogLine. He goes into how to create a great logline. Trust us this is a skill that every successful writer has mastered. There is a great podcast OnThePage in which they cover loglines a few times a year. Give one of the episodes a listen.
The other major topic he covers that makes this book #1 on our list of most useful books is what he calls "The Chairman Of The Board" in which he talks about planning a script using index cards and building a board with all the scenes. Getting structure is one thing but using this method you can really get the script perfect.
One of our favorite parts of the book is the chapter named: The Immutable Laws Of Screenplays. This is the part where he explains what Save The Cat is. He has a bunch of rules that he coined. He even references one he got from Stephen Spielberg called "Keep The Press Out." Remember in E.T. the press didn't show up to write about the tents that have over taken a suburban town.
He states that this was the reason he wrote the book in the first place. He wanted to get credit for coining these concepts. It's a shame that he didn't write an entire book on these principles and go into more detail for each of them. There are probably a bunch of great ones that he left out.
Review: This book is an easy read. If you try to write a script without reading this first we feel bad for you because your just wasting your time and creating more work for yourself. While we agree with the major complaint about the book that it sets too many parameters and can hinder the creative process. Our opinion is that you can use the book and deviate if the need arises. Better to have these tools and omit some rather than screw it up. Our other complaint is that this book is very condensed. It would be more useful if it was broken into a few volumes.
The most important aspect that you must learn if you want to work in the industry is the beat sheet. The concept of the beat sheet is simple and there are lots of resources online duplicating this information. The bottom line is that you must know what a beat sheet is if you don't want to be thought of as an amateur.
- Hollywood Standard
- Hollywood Standard
- Must Have Information
- Simple Easy Read
- Essential Resource
- Tools That Can Lead To Success
- Brief Coverage Of Topics
- Beat Sheet Forgets Act 3
- Focus On Commercial Studio Film