One of the main things I’ve realized once I’ve got into Film School is how many people are not that interested in studying their own field of work. That may sound crazy but you will be shocked of how many people have never heard of so many important things or how lack of information they have when it comes to the history and study of their majors. People used to say that what you learn in college is what you make yourself learn and now that I am a senior I can say that’s 100% true. My first two years of college were literally watching all the films I could and reading everything I thought it was interesting, which is still something I keep doing but I must admit I’m really proud of what I’ve read and watched. With that, I’ve decided to list some books that I think were incredibly important for me as a filmmaker to understand the concept of film and the art of filmmaking.
I must admit I didn’t read this book but I have a really good reason for it. This book was what my Audiovisual Language class in Brazil was based on, and since I had an amazing teacher to explain what this book is about, I just didn’t feel that it would be informative to read it when I had the opportunity to do so because I’ve already known everything thanks to my class. But still, Film Art: An Introduction by David Bordwell is practically a book that every film school requires for student and that’s because it’s practically a bible of what film is and how someone should read, interpret and analyze film.
It was with a class based on this book that I’ve realized that I was liking a lot of shitty movies for the wrong reasons and I’ve started to see beyond what the movie shows, and this includes since avant-garde films to major blockbusters from nowadays. I’m personally a type of person who likes all kinds of movies, but understanding why you like them and what makes them good, different, challenging or just funny, it’s incredibly important. And the number of people who don’t know why they like the films they like is what makes a lot of filmmakers make bad films. One thing I hear a lot from people when I ask if they like a certain movie is “the movie was well done”. That’s not a good thing. A lot of pretty things can be bad and movie is just another example. So I say Film Art: An Introduction is a must for any filmmaker or cinephile.
This book might sound silly or really commercial but is actually very helpful. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die is more like an encyclopedia of cinema than actually a list of films you should watch. First of all, because there are a lot of great movies missing and some not really great movies are on the list. Not mentioning they keep taking incredible films from the list to put others through the new editions that come out every year. But the thing is, the books have probably the most important or significant movies that all cinephiles or filmmakers should watch, from 1890s to 2013. With that, you not only have 1001 films but hundreds of directors, actors, and movements you can search about that are related to films you’ve liked, making the book itself a guide of study for everything that is out there.
This book actually helped me a lot, making me find out about a lot of films and directors that I’ve haven’t even heard of before. And if you study the book well, you might find yourself thinking in a conversation or while checking a website “I’ve seen this film on the book”, and when you realize, you will know the existence of several important films even if you haven’t watched them. And trust me, the important thing is to know them because when a certain movie starts to appear on several articles, you will find yourself interested enough to watch it. Not mentioning counting how many films from 1001 you’ve watched is pretty fun.
After I’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of films, I’ve started to think as a filmmaker and tried to figure it out my creative process and that’s not something someone can teach you – except other directors. And Moviemakers Master Class by Laurent Tirard is probably the best book I’ve read because it’s literally a conversation with about 20 famous directors like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Lars Von Trier, Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, David Cronenberg, among others; that answers five key questions of filmmaking.
The result is incredible because all directors talk about their creative process, how they like to make their films from the pre-production to post-production, revealing a lot of insecurities, secrets and work process. And since the questions are all the same you can keep track of what they are talking about even if each of them says something different. And the coolest part about the book is that you relate to them so well and you can see they are not so sure about what they are doing as well. There are three major things that practically all directors said which is: filmmaking is a never-ending process of learning, the best way to learn about films is watching films and you make the movie for yourself and no one else. So for the filmmakers or cinephiles out there, I think this book is way better than other books that focus entirely on one director. Those books usually talk about their personal lives and achievements, but Moviemakers Master Class talks just about their own creative and work process. It’s literally a moviemakers master class.
All stories I wrote for film usually came from a strong single piece, like a scene from a movie, a video clip, a photograph from an artist. And I believe that’s how it works for artists. People see what they like and they want to do something similar. And according to Austin Kleon, that’s the art of stealing. On Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon makes a fun book that can be read in one sit but it’s incredibly helpful to understand and organize your thoughts and creativity. Through 10 steps, Austin shows how you work your creativity on your daily life which is something artists do all the time, like getting sources of what you like and using it in your art. The concept of stealing might sounds horrible but is actually something that art is based on. Film came from photography, which came from a painting which came from drawings. According to Picasso, art is theft. And that’s because art is mainly referential and this is something I’ve learned on my first day of college with a crazy teacher who said 2+2=5. That’s because a piece of art, like a film, is built over several ideas that came from several movies. A director that clearly does this is Quentin Tarantino who mixes B-old-Japanese-movies with western’s from the ’70s and some French new wave dialogues. Do you know what’s the meaning of this? Theft. Because two different ideas make one new and original idea. If you like or understand the concept of what I’m talking about, Steal Like An Artist is an incredibly funny book to read. Not mentioning is really helpful.
I believe with those books your life as an artist or just a curious person will be way more enlightening. And of course there are several books that I haven’t mentioned that helped me a lot, but they are focus on subjects that I particularly like, as the Three Essays On the Theory of Sexuality by Sigmund Freud since I love subjects of psychology and sex; a Brazilian book called “No Silencio da Noite: Film Noir” that is an amazing resume from a bunch of famous noir books; and one book I love called “House of the Psychotic Women” which is based only on crazy women on film. So what I’m trying to say is, find a subject that you like and go look for it! There are books about anything! Everything specific that I’ve wanted to know I’ve found. And I keep looking and finding it.