Bibliography and References – Best Filmmaking Books

What follows below is a partial list of filmmaking books I have read throughout the years. Most of them were influential in helping me decide what kind of content I should include here on the Elements of Cinema. This list is by no means complete; more books will be added as I continue researching.

Important: although all of these books were part of my formation, please be advised they vary tremendously in terms of depth and detail. For instance, the book The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video is an amazing read for someone who has never read a cinematography book and doesn’t know simple things like the aperture or shot sizes. In other words, this specific book is more on the basic side. Conversely, The Filmmaker’s Handbook has so much detail and information that reading the whole thing is almost impossible. It is a dense read. Before buying a book, please read the reviews carefully so you can get a grasp what kind of book it is, as well as its target audience.

The books listed here link to Amazon pages. If you make a purchase through Amazon, the Elements of Cinema may earn a small commission AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU. It is a great way to support the site and help us help you with more content and lessons. :) Thank you!

Should you want to go more in-depth on a certain topic, you can send me an email or buy some of these exceptional titles for an amazing read:






Sound Design


* Books that appear in more than one category.


It is worth reminding you that I also went to film school, and some of the observations or insights you will find in this blog sprouted up from class lectures and discussions with classmates, not always from books.  Also, of course, a lot of the knowledge comes from the Elements of Cinema Podcast where I interview pros from the industry and pick their brains.

The list above is provided for your reference in case you want to dig deeper on a certain subject. I urge you not to study filmmaking in a vacuum, alone. Whether you want to be the writer who sits behind a desk churning pages day in and day out, or the director who coordinates several departments and personnel, it is paramount that you understand how the business and the art co-exist. Use the reading material as a spring board for your “adventures” in filmmaking, and always, whenever possible, refer to more than one source.

Logline Examples

loglineYesterday I answered a question about loglines. So today I wanted to give you some examples of loglines. Why, you ask.

Well, reading loglines is an interesting exercise because — if you don’t know how the movie unfolds — you are forced to imagine where the story might go.

Also, more importantly, observe how these long three-act feature movies  can be summarized in two sentences or less. As a writer, you will have to do the same for your story. A logline is an important “elevator pitch” if you are pressed for time.

Logline Examples from Produced Screenplays

logline-examples2THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

RUSHMORE – A precocious private high school student whose life revolves around his school competes with its most famous and successful alumnus for the affection of a first grade teacher

THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS – A press agent, hungry to get ahead, is pushed by a ruthless columnist to do cruel and evil things, and is eventually caught in the web of lies that he has created.

BIG NIGHT  – Two very different brothers promote their struggling 1950s New Jersey Italian restaurant by inviting Louis Prima and his band to take part in a sumptuous dinner there.
[Read more…]

Logline, Premise, and Synopsis

A couple of days ago Fiiya submitted the following question:

Can you explain the difference between a logline, premise and synopsis?”

Sure thing, Fiiya! Thank you for your question. Here you go:


logline premise synopsisFor the purposes of conducting business in Hollywood (selling a screenplay, pitching a TV show, negotiating distribution) a Logline is a one- or two-sentence summary of your script. If absolutely necessary, you can do three sentences, but it should be as short as possible. It is designed to concisely introduce all the important elements of your story like the main character and conflict. Here are three examples for your reference:

A man with no name and a man with a mission hunt a Mexican bandit for different reasons. – FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Sergio Leone, 1965)

Naïve Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to. – MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger, 1969)

A self-centered hotshot returns home for his father’s funeral and learns the family inheritance goes to an autistic brother he never knew he had. The hotshot kidnaps this older brother and drives him cross-country hoping to gain his confidence and get control of the family money. The journey reveals an unusual dimension to the brother’s autism that sparks their relationship and unlocks a dramatic childhood secret that changes everything. – RAIN MAN (Barry Levinson, 1988)

Notice how loglines do not spoil the ending. Their purpose is to hook and intrigue the viewer so they accept to read your script or watch your movie. In practical terms, think of a writer who wants to have his or her script read by an agent or producer, or a filmmaker who wants to sell the distribution rights to a studio. To convince them to read/watch it, in addition to the right connections and the ever-elusive opportunity, an amazing logline will help!
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EOC 007: Lindsay Adams and “How to become a Production Assistant in Hollywood?”

Production-Assistant-CareerHello CinemaNation!

In this episode of the Elements of Cinema Podcast, I interview Lindsay Adams, a production assistant originally from Stillwater, Oklahoma.

I have to say I love this pattern I’ve noticed from most of my guests who were not born in Los Angeles and had to move here to follow a dream. Those kind of journeys are always more exciting, and we salute Lindsay for her zeal and passion that brought her to Hollywood.

Here’s the interview:

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VIDEO ESSAY: What’s the Theme in Fargo

Hello ladies and gents, how’s everyone doing?

I spent the last two weeks working on the video essay below, and I’m so excited to be finally sharing this with you! Not only was this a lot of fun (though time-consuming), I do see tremendous benefits for you — the future filmmakers and screenwriters of the world. This is a new series and — time permitting — I hope to be able to create other video essays like this one regularly.

The topic I chose for this essay was theme. Though I’ve talked about theme before, I thought it would be insightful to pick one movie and one theme, and show how that movie surveys the theme. The film I chose for this was Fargo, and the theme was… well, watch the video, will ya?

SPOILER ALERT: This video essay spoils major plot points in Fargo

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Shot List


I just finished a 6-month course on filmmaking, and I have to shoot a short film. I  have quiet a hard time coming up with a shot list, please help me on this. How can I come up with a shot? I really want to do it myself and be bold to say I did this… – Peter


Hi Peter, thanks for your question. I hope the following article will help out you, as well as anyone else interested in learning more about the shot list. Since not everyone may understand what you are asking, let’s take a few steps back and tackle this  from the beginning.

If you haven’t done so already, go a head and read the following material:

Now without further ado:

What is a shot list: Definition & Purpose

A shot list is a document that lists and describes the shots to be filmed during principal photography. There isn’t a set format for the shot list, but here’s one way you can do it:

[Read more…]

The Elements of Directing (Directing Index)

Directing may appear easy from the outside. But a film director is a highly-skilled artist who understands in-depth every aspect of film production. It is said that a film director should be the first and last person on a set. Though an exaggeration for sure, the intent behind the saying is to communicate that a director has to be completely aware of everything that is happening on their set.

The ideal film director must be creative, resourceful, charismatic, and savvy of his craft and the business. They understand the story, the camera, and the actors. They know how to delegate. They know how to express their wishes to cast and crew without stepping on anyone’s toes and without sounding bossy or arrogant.

Below are some lessons and tips for future filmmakers:

Articles and Lessons:

Blog Post:

Further Reading:

More lessons and articles coming soon! Want updates, then sign up for the Elements of Cinema newsletter or like our page on Facebook, or both!

If you wanna request a topic, drop us a comment below or send us an email.

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The Elements of Editing (Editing Index)

Editing is the heart of post-production. This is the phase in which the “disjointed” mess of principal photography (aka footage) is sorted out and pieced together. Because so much of the narrative is shaped at this stage, editing is considered the third and final revision of the story (script is first, filming is second, editing is third). For this reason, directors and editors have to become best buds during the process.

The following lessons and articles will teach you some basic and some advanced principles about this craft. I have ordered them based on what (I think) you should read first:

More lessons and articles coming soon! Want updates, then sign up for the Elements of Cinema newsletter or like our Facebook page, or both!

If you wanna request a topic, drop us a comment below or send us an email.

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The Elements of Screenwriting (Screenwriting Index)

It’s been said time and time again that the screenplay is the most important part of a movie. After all, that’s where the story comes from. And it’s the narrative with all its elements that make people laugh, cry, fear, etc. Below you will find some basic, some advanced concepts about the art of telling stories:

Articles and Lessons:

Related Blog Posts:

More lessons and articles coming soon! Want updates, then sign up for the Elements of Cinema newsletter or like our page on Facebook, or both!

If you wanna request a topic, drop us a comment below or send us an email.

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The Elements of Cinematography (Cinematography Index)

cinematography-cameras-lightsCinematography is one of the most involved aspects of filmmaking. Arguably, it also the most important. Writers and directors be damned, without the camera, cinema would not exist. And it’s how the camera is manipulated or utilized that different forms of cinema are created. From documentaries to experimental, style and substance start with the camera.

Cinematography is the art of filming moving pictures. It all starts with a camera, of course, but this department utilizes a plethora of equipment and techniques to create the look of a movie.

More lessons and articles coming soon! Want updates, then sign up for the Elements of Cinema newsletter or like our page on Facebook, or both!

If you wanna request a topic, drop us a comment below or send us an email.

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