3 Books Every Filmmaker & Storyteller Must Read
The Books That Changed My Perspective
I'm a big reader, which is pretty ironic because I'm not the best reader and have struggled my entire life with reading. But at a young age I loved getting lost in some amazing stories. I would lay down day dreaming about being a X-Men super hero, or a professional skier, those were the good old days. What's crazy is how I used to take my parents old VHS cameras and make stop go animation films with my brother. It was a blast learning how to make our own little films. I remember we made a film with our couch becoming a monster and eating our friend. The couch would spit his "shoes" out to let the audience know he was done eating someone. haha We were constantly learning new ways to make our little films.
Now days, I have turned to courses, YouTube, blogs and tons and tons of reading. I try to read two books a month, which I have successfully done for the last several years. Out of the dozens of books I've read, these three are my top picks for filmmakers and storytellers. These three books go into the psychology of storytelling, the how to's of writing stories and screenplays, and the practical applications of story. They also show why we, as people, write and edit our own stories. So here are my top three.
1. THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL BY JONATHAN GOTTSCHALL
Are you the type of person that is always asking questions? Or are you always wanting to know the "why" behind stuff? Because that's me to a T. I was the kid in calculus class asking the teacher, "Why are we learning this? When will I ever use this in life?" Teachers love that. This book is directed straight to those type of people, the "why" type of people.
Jonathan explains the psychology of stories, and how they guide us as humans. His example he gives are those types that will turn on a giant "lightbulb" in your head. I warn you, get ready. This book is directed towards the person wanting to find out the deeper relationship between stories and humans.
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
2. STORY BY ROBERT McKEE
Story, story, story! If you've never heard of Robert McKee in regards to storytelling and screenwriting, then google him and be amazed. Robert is pretty much the Godfather of storytelling, and that is what this book is all about. This book is not a light read, it is for the person wanting the structure and to really dive deep into writing and constructing a story. There were many times while reading this book, that I had to google specific words Robert was referring to.
One thing that this book did for me, is that it made me think about where I need to go with my filmmaking and storytelling, and why I needed to go there. I recommend this book to the person wanting to kick things up a notch. Also, check out some of Robert's YouTube videos, they are great.
"True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure."
3. A million miles in a thousand years by donald miller
Out of these three, this book has been my favorite. Probably because it causes so much empathy while reading it. Donald takes you on a very personal journey through his actual life. After writing a monologue, two filmmakers approached Miller wanting to make a movie about it. After Miller agrees, they wanted to make some changes to the story because they needed it more interesting and unique. This caused Donald to start looking inward to his personal story. He could either just keep writing stories, or he could go out and live them.
I love this book because it puts everything you know about storytelling into real life. You will be able to relate, and you will see first hand how "story" changes lives.
“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
Overall, these three books can change your filmmaking and storytelling careers, but only if you want them to. Choose one and read it, and more importantly... STUDY IT. Then, go apply the things you learned and you're good to go.