These books are all a must when it comes to learning about storytelling and directing.
“Making Movies” by Sydney Lumet
If you want to find a wealth of sage advice about directing movies, here’s an immanently readable and anecdotal page turner by one of the greats in the business. Master craftsman Sidney Lumet gives up so many hard won secrets that would otherwise require volumes of texts on the subject. It may not spend a lot of time on the finer details of the decision-making craft that is directing, but he offers a clear perspective and set of values that every filmmaker should heed.
“Film Directing Fundamentals” by Nicholas Proferes
I had the great privileged of having Nick Proferes as a professor at Columbia University. He taught Directing I and Directing IV with a stoic passion that scared most of us. This textbook reflects the years of teaching experience he obtained while shaping minds at one the top film MFA programs in the nation. I can say from experience that the book very clearly and accurately articulates a practical process to visualizing and preparing how to tell stories for the cinema. From “detective work” on the script to staging and the remarkably useful “prose storyboard,” no other book on the subject is so direct and useful.
“Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach” by Paul Joseph Gulino
Gulino credits the development of the sequence approach to Frank Daniel who brought this approach to Columbia University (1978-1981) and then on to USC until his death. Ironically, Columbia University no longer teaches this approach and wasn’t until Dan Ko (cinerrative contributor and college alum from USC) brought it to me was I enlightened to its narrative strategies. Think of it as a much more practical approach than the typical three act structure.
“A Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing”
by William Ball
Working with actors can be a challenging and complicated process. I’ve studied under some very talented teachers such as José Quintero at University of Houston School of Theatre and Philip Seymour Hoffman at Columbia University. What they taught me was a simple approach to helping the actor do the best work they can do. I really thought I was given secrets to success as a privilege of learning from such incredible teachers. Then I read this book. It’s all there! Ball’s experience comes from the theatre, but the approach is the same. From managing trust with actors to uncovering the dramatic potential in the text, Ball clearly explains the process in an engaging and articulate way.