Jani's Top 10 Photography Books Getting Started With Filmmaking

Jani's Top 10 Photography Books Getting Started With Filmmaking

'When I first started studying filmmaking, I would buy numerous books only to learn that most of them weren't that great. Now, as someone with a bachelor's degree from one of the best universities focusing on film production, I can tell you which books out there are worth reading if you want to have a fast start to your filmmaking career.

For this recommended reading list, I have carefully selected those books that offer the most comprehensive education on each area of filmmaking, whether that is directing or editing. By reading these books, you will instantly make yourself a more skilled and knowledgeable filmmaker.'

Filmmaking is as much about the practical as is the theoretical, so it is important that you are balancing your time learning and investing in knowing more about the world of filmmaking. Thanks to Jani of JP Harrow Portraits, you can easily pick up a few books from sites such as Amazon and Waterstones to really tighten up your skills.

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Jani Ahonen
Photographer and Filmmaker
  • Steve D. Katz
    Film Directing: Shot by Shot - 25th Anniversary Edition

    Jani Ahonen

    As crazy as it sounds, there aren't that many books written about directing that cover the whole process a director goes through when making a single film.

    There is so much more work directors have to do than just direct actors, which in reality is just one small part of what they do. Directors have to communicate between different departments on what kind of film they are looking to create so that everyone from the art department to the film editor knows exactly what type of film they are working on.

    This book simplifies the steps a director goes through when making a film and is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand the role of the director.
  • Steven D. Katz
    Film Directing: Cinematic Motion

    Jani Ahonen

    Author Steven D. Katz is most known for his two books: 'Film Directing: Cinematic Motion' and 'Film Directing: Shot by Shot' and I would recommend any aspiring filmmaker to read both.

    Unlike Shot by Shot, this book focuses on the beautiful craft and collaborations between the director and the cinematographer. As a director, you must learn how to communicate your visions to your cinematographer in various forms. 

    Starting from storyboards to visual movement charts, the director needs to accurately describe how they want the camera to move during each scene. All of this preparation work needs to be done before filming starts because setting a camera for each scene takes a lot of time and can't quickly be changed.

    This book will force you to think like a cinematographer and develop your creative thinking about how each scene can be brought to life using camera movements and different blocking techniques.
  • Judith Weston
    Directing Actors

    Jani Ahonen

    Anyone embarking on their journey to become a film director will, without a doubt, eventually come across with Directing Actors book written by Judith Weston. Her book is the most well-known and comprehensive book ever written about how to work with actors. 

    Directing Actors, first published back in 1996, is still recommended for all directors out there no matter whether you are a director for films or theatre. Even those who aspire to become an actor can gain valuable information by reading this book. 

    Weston has taught acting for most of her life, and her past directing students include such well-known directors as Alejandro Iñárritu, Steve McQueen and Taika Waititi. This book is really like the bible of directing actors. I have never come across any serious director who hasn't at least partially read this book. 

    Hence if you wish to become a successful director who can easily communicate with their actors to get the desired performance out of them, you need to read this book!
  • Judith Weston
    The Film Director's Intuition

    Jani Ahonen

    This Judith Weston's second book from 2003 focuses on breaking down the various elements from the written script and what techniques you can use to bring out the best possible performance from the actors. 

    Unlike Weston's first book, Directing Actors, this one dives more into the creative side of a director's brain and forces you to ask questions that can bring out a new meaning to a scene you are working on. 

    Having a better understanding of the themes in the written script will instantly open up new possibilities for how you can make your next cinematic scene appear even better. 

    This book builds on the foundation laid in Judith Weston's first book, and hence you should read this book after you have already finished reading Directing Actors.
  • Walter Murch
    In the Blink of An Eye

    Jani Ahonen

    When it comes to editing your first film, one of the most recommended books in the area of editing comes from Walter Murch. 

    This particular book was also on my reading list while I was studying at the University of Westminster for my BA Film and Television Production course. From all areas of filmmaking, editing might be the most difficult one to teach in the form of a book since editing is all about seeing moving pictures. 

    Regardless of this, Murch has created an excellent book that is very easy to follow, and I still have this particular book sitting on my bookshelf today. This relatively short book is a great way to understand the basics of how scenes need to be cut and put together to make them work together as a cohesive narrative.
  • Roberta Munroe
    How Not to Make A Short Film

    Jani Ahonen

    Since your first film will likely be a short film rather than a feature film, it is a good idea to know what kind of films get more recognised at popular film festivals. In this book, Roberta Marie Munroe reveals what she has learned by continuously watching films that have been submitted at the Sundance film festival year after year. All successful films have some things in common, as do the bad ones. 

    As an aspiring filmmaker, you definitely do not want your film to belong to the latter group. This book was a real eye-opener for me when I first read it during my university years. My biggest regret today is that I wish I had read it earlier! While this book doesn't really talk about the actual filmmaking process, it talks about how we tell stories in short films and how some of those stories will make better films overall.

    Munroe's book is a must-read for anyone who might like to submit their film to a film festival one day. Just make sure you read this one before you start making your next film, as otherwise, you might realise too late that you have already made one of the mistakes Munroe talks about in her book.
  • Eve Light Honthaner
    The Complete Film Production Handbook

    Jani Ahonen

    Making your first short film might not require as much paperwork as a feature film, but as your film productions grow in size, the amount of paperwork starts to pile up. This book is possibly the most comprehensive book ever written about what a film producer has to do to produce a film. 

    It explains the steps you as a producer need to master from the first pitch meeting to what paperwork you need to fill out during casting. Whether you are acquiring rights for the music to use in your film, budgeting loans or filing location permits, this book will not only give you advice on how to do all that, it provides you with prewritten forms and templates for those situations as well. 

    In my opinion, there isn't a better producers handbook out there. If I ever need to find a parental consent form or a template for a script supervisor, all of these templates can be found in this book. The amount of templates and forms you get by simply owning this book is a true lifesaver since just one of these templates purchased alone can cost you more than this whole book.
  • John Alton
    Painting With Light

    Jani Ahonen

    If you want to create scenes that create an impact, you first need to understand how light behaves. This book from John Alton is an excellent book that will help you to modify and shape light for your next film production. 

    Lighting is often not given enough credit as all of the films and television series these days do it so well that we have learned to take great lighting for granted. But once you start making your first film, you will realise that achieving great lighting is a lot harder than you realise. You often need a significant amount of lights to create nice and balanced lighting, which can surprise many beginners. 

    While lighting technology has changed vastly since this book was written in 1949, its principles are still valid today. This book is a must-read for those who wish to become cinematographers and work in the camera department.
  • Gustavo Mercado
    The Filmmaker's Eye

    Jani Ahonen

    The art of composition is one of the best ways to create memorable scenes in films. Composition is all about positioning objects and subjects within a frame to create visually pleasing and stunning imagery. What is interesting with the cinematic composition is that when it is done well, it goes unnoticed. 

    It requires a trained eye even to notice the true craftsmanship that goes into cinematography and composition, and this book will help you to train that eye. This book by Gustavo Mercado provides plenty of examples in the form of screenshots from famous films we have all seen and how they have used composition to create those memorable scenes. 

    If you choose to read this book, I highly recommend you also to watch the films the book has shown examples of. This way, you learn the rules of cinematic composition a lot faster.
  • Francis Glebas
    Directing the Story

    Jani Ahonen

    When making a film, it is a great idea to create a storyboard that shows how all of the significant scenes will appear on camera. The storyboard is typically just a handwritten sequence of keyframes that will help everyone on the production team know what you want the audience to see in the final film. 

    As a filmmaker, you don't have to be talented or even skilled in drawing to produce a great storyboard. The whole point of the storyboard is just to communicate what you want the camera to show, not how good a cartoonist you are. Showing your visions on a piece of paper is a lot easier than trying to describe everything by using words. 

    At first, you might think storyboards are useful only for cartoons or animations, but that is incorrect. Storyboards are constantly being used in big Hollywood blockbuster films from Harry Potter to the latest Star Wars films. So, in short, there is no reason why your next film should not have any storyboards too. They do make the filmmaking process a lot easier.

    I really love this book by Francis Glebas because it has so many storyboard examples from various films we all are familiar with. All this makes it very easy for anyone to learn the best techniques to start drafting their first storyboards.

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