books

8 Books Every Screenwriter Should Check Out

Screenplays, whether for short student films or Hollywood epics, typically follow a fairly rigid format. However, the art of screenwriting, and what you’ll learn in screenwriting school and by workshopping your scripts with your instructors and fellow students, comes down to mastering all the nuances that reside within that format.

A great supplement to the hands-on, intensive training you’ll receive at screenwriting school is of course a good book—after all, who better to write about writing than, well, writers?

screenwriting competitions

There are countless books on screenwriting so it can be hard to choose ones that are worth your time and that will complement your in-class training. Here are a few tried-and-true books that won’t waste your time:

The Tools of Screenwriting: A Writer’s Guide to the Craft and Elements of a Screenplay
by David Howard and Edward Mabley

David Howard and Edward Mabley get to the very core of screenwriting with this book, focusing on the principal elements of a script, like plot, structure, dialogue, setting, character development, and imagery, and how they specifically relate to the medium as opposed to other forms of writing. By using specific examples found in famous scripts like Citizen Kane, E.T., and The Godfather, they show how these elements look when masterfully applied.

The 21st Century Screenplay: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Tomorrow’s Films
by Linda Aronson

While many, if not most, books illustrate screenwriting through the traditional three-act structure, with some going as far as telling you where story beats should be page by page, The 21st Century Screenplay focuses on breaking the rules once you’ve mastered them. By using popular, contemporary examples of Hollywood films that employ various types of alternate screenwriting techniques, including–Pulp Fiction, Memento, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind–the book shows you how to write unconventionally in a way that makes sense and doesn’t alienate your audience.

Psychology for Screenwriters: Building Conflict in Your Script
by William Indick

One of the first things any writer is taught is that conflict is the core of drama, so it goes without saying that a good screenplay needs good conflict. Psychology for Screenwriters focuses on this specific goal, instructing writers how to better understand human behavior to drive their script, and providing readers with theories of personality and psychoanalysis, along with writing exercises, guidelines, and a ton of examples from classic movies.

The Nutshell Technique
by Jill Chamberlain

Unlike most screenwriting books, which teach you the beats of a story linearly, producer Jill Chamberlain (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Crimson Peak), offers The Nutshell Technique. The heart of her technique involves eight core elements of a story that all tie into one another. Cracking the code will crack your story, and Chamberlain demonstrates this with infographics that break down the stories of famous scripts like Pulp Fiction, Casablanca, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine, using her patented technique.

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting
by William Goldman

Screenwriting legend William Goldman is behind some of the biggest and best Hollywood movies of all time, and readers were eager to read his insights when he first published Adventures in the Screen Trade in 1983. However, instead of getting a step-by-step writing manual from one of the masters, they got a personal, fascinating look at the mechanics of how Hollywood worked, from the Golden Age studio era to its transition into New Hollywood and beyond. The book is considered a must-read not just for aspiring screenwriters but anyone who ever plans to step foot in the Los Angeles movie-making machine.

Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
by David Mamet

David Mamet made his name on his unique style of dialogue-heavy writing, including his Oscar-nominated screenplays for Wag the Dog and The Verdict. His book, Bambi vs. Godzilla, offers an insider look at Hollywood written with his trademark subversive wit, but with a focus on screenwriting, including who in the studio system actually reads your script. It is incredibly informative, but not afraid to have fun, asking questions like “How is a screenplay like a personals ad?”

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!
by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant

Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant met in film school, where they and their friends co-founded the comedy group The State, which spawned a generation of film and TV stars like David Wain, Michael Ian Black, and Ken Marino. While also starring as sketch actors and on shows like Reno 911!, Lennon and Garant became successful Hollywood screenwriters, penning many big budget action-comedies and other films, including Night at the Museum and Baywatch. The book offers insight in how to make blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood while also keeping the reader entertained with the hilarious joke-writing skills they bring to their comedy careers.

5 Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

Graphic Design is one of the most exciting fields to work in these days, and while there are plenty of YouTube tutorials to supplement your graphic design studies, it still pays to read good, old-fashioned, books on the subject.

Graphic Design

Here are some of the books (whether it’s in print or on your e-reader), that every graphic designer or aspiring graphic designer should read:

Thinking With Type
by Ellen Lupton

Perfect for editors, typographers, writers, publishers, and students who want to learn the best use of font for branding and other uses, this beautifully written visual guide provides the latest information on style, font licensing, captions, lining, and details such as the use of small caps or enlarged capitals–all neatly organized in three chapters that are easy to consume. 

A Smile in the Mind
by Beryl McAlhone 

London-based writer McAlhone has a special interest in design that makes this an essential and resourceful book. Highlighting esteemed works from international designers from Japan, Europe, United States, and Great Britain, this entry takes you through hundreds of visuals and illustrations that will no doubt inspire the reader.

Multicolour
by viction:ary

A marvelous source for both amateurs and masters, Multicolour showcases an expansive library of themes, titles, and more. Like many of the books on graphic design, turning each page offers an emotional voyage of color that is as much fun for your eyes as informative for your brain. The palette series includes black & white, gold & silver, neon, and its most recent, pastels.

Logo Modernism (Design)
by Jens Müller

This book focuses on the architecture, art, and product design, of the modernist movement that had its peak from 1940 to 1980. Using around 6000 brand names and their history, Logo Modernism is an incomparable resource for designers, publicists, and brand specialists, as well as those who have a passionate interest in the social and cultural history of 20th century corporation and consumerism. 

Drawing Type: An Introduction to Illustrating Letterforms
by Alex Fowkes

An impressive showcase of the work 72 typography creators who have designed a diverse array of fonts for posters, packaging, boards, and more. At the end of the publication, a notebook can be found suggesting exercises that graphic designers will find incredibly useful.

5 Books on Photography Everyone Should Read

While there are plenty of YouTube tutorials and other digital media on every minutiae of photography, sometimes it helps to turn to good old-fashioned books. Whether it’s on equipment, fundamentals, or specific artists, there are countless books every photographer can learn from. Here are just a few you should check out next time you’re at the library or browsing through Amazon:

Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment
by National Geographic Society

Women of Vision showcases the stunning work of women photographers from the first decade of the 21st century, from the Iraq War to the Jersey Shore and everything in between. The riveting results of photo assignments presented here are introduced by National Geographic editor-in-chief Chris Johns, with a foreword by journalist Ann Curry.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer
by Vivian Maier

Many people discovered photographer Vivian Maier through the 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier, but this book allows you to spend as much time as you need with each of her indelible images. The street photographer with a one-of-a-kind point of view only became well-known posthumously, but her work is now immortal in the pages of this work.

Yonkeros
by Jaime Permuth

For those looking for a more specific collection of photos, look no further than Yonkeros, a series of works by New York Film Academy instructor
Jaime Permuth documenting the “Iron Triangle,” an area of New York filled with scrapyards. The photos bring to life an overlooked world where first-world trash is recycled and handled by working class people who live and work in the Iron Triangle.

The Lens: A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer
by N.K. Guy

This simple yet informative book is a straightforward guide for all types of photographers looking for the right lens for the right image. While it may not serve as a beach read, it’s a great reference to keep on your shelf that you can turn to when planning your next shoot.

The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative
by Michael Freeman

Once you’ve mastered the technical fundamentals of photography, you’ll still need to learn how to present your art in a meaningful and engaging way that does your images, and your story justice. The book is a thoroughly modern one, working in how digital media, online galleries, tablets, and the trend of photo-essays all come into play when figuring out how to showcase your work in the contemporary scene.

photography tips and hacks

Keeping photography books in your library is always a good idea–but of course everything starts with a solid background in the art and craft of the medium. If you’re interested in studying photography, check out the programs New York Film Academy has to offer here

5 Cinematography Books Filmmakers Should Check Out

While there are plenty of YouTube videos and other visual aids to supplement your cinematography school education, there’s a tried-and-true source that works even when the wi-fi is down—books.

What’s great about books is that you can study each page at your own pace, and often books on cinematography come with simple yet informative visual aids. Also, if they are still in print, there’s a good chance they’ve had the time to prove themselves a useful resource.

Here are some books on cinematography you can check out:

Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
by Blain Brown

A lot of the core tenets of cinematography have stayed the same for the last 100 years or so, but with the advent of digital filmmaking that is no longer the case. Blain Brown’s definitive 2016 book covers a broad range of cinematography topics and includes much of the modern, digital equipment and techniques that come along with them. This book makes a great basic blueprint for you to familiarize yourself with the craft before honing your skills in a hands-on cinematography program. In general, you should always try to get the most updated print; currently, Brown’s book is in its third edition.

FilmCraft: Cinematography
by Tim Grierson and Mike Goodridge 

By working on set with state-of-the-art equipment, cinematography school is a great way for you to master a complicated craft. However, the value of some books is how they can hone in on very specific projects or people, and use these examples to explore the practical techniques you’ve learned. FilmCraft’s Cinematography book is a prime example of this—by looking closely at iconic films like Psycho, Chicago, and Hero, and through discussions with veterans of the art form like Vittorio Storaro and Christopher Doyle, this book lets you see cinematography in action.

On Suspiria and Beyond: A Conversation with Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli
by Luciano Tovoli

Even more specific is On Suspiria and Beyond, a book that focuses on one specific director of photography, Luciano Tovoli. By devoting an entire book to an interview with Tovoli, you can get firsthand knowledge from a veteran who has worked with such esteemed and talented directors as Dario Argento, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrej Tarkovskjj, Julie Taymor, and many others. Tovoli was passionate about the use of color and goes into vivid detail about specific sequences from his work on the mind-bending horror film Suspiria. This book looks at cinematography in a hyperfocused manner you won’t find elsewhere.

Painting with Light
by John Alton

Academy Award-winning director of photography John Alton (An American in Paris, The Big Combo) first published Painting with Light in 1949, but his writings on the art form still hold a lot of weight. Once you’ve mastered the tools and craft in cinematography school, Painting with Light will help you explore how to use image making to determine the visual mood of a film, incorporating lighting, camera techniques, location choices, and more. As a plus, the book is not afraid to use non-technical language, so even beginners can delve into Alton’s work, perhaps as a precursor to taking cinematography classes.

Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers
by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salivate

This book features fifteen conversations with modern cinematographers to give a firsthand look at how directors of photography work on set and approach their jobs. Authors Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato are both film critics, while the newest edition of Masters of Light features a preface by veteran cinematographer John Bailey. This is a must read for anyone looking to get inside the heads of contemporary cinematographers.

6 Essential Books on Musical Theatre

While books have seemingly taken a backseat to everything from YouTube videos to audiobooks, they are still an invaluable resource to supplement your musical theatre education, especially when it comes to the history of the stage and the biggest names behind the biggest works.

Musical Theatre

Here are some must-read books for musical theatre performers–both informative and a great way to pass the time when you’re resting your voice. 

Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden

Recounting the development of the American musical comedy genre, this history is as entertaining as the song-and-dance productions it describes. The book features musical legends including Florenz Ziegfeld, Harold Prince, Bert Lahr, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Victor Herbert, Liza Minnelli, and Stephen Sondheim, and explores shows with staying power like Anything Goes, Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Follies, and Chicago, to offer a rich account of a beloved but often overlooked American staple.

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops
by Ken Mandelbaum

This book explores the various how’s and why’s that led to dozens of Broadway musicals that seemed like surefire hits to flop hard at the box office. Mandlebaum is both objective and generous though, finding the positives where he can in shows whose failures could have simply been a product of bad luck and timing. Published in 1992, the book doesn’t describe the infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, but after reading it, you may have an idea of why even Marvel failed on Broadway.

The Vocal Athlete
by Wendy D. Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg

Musical theatre can push the human voice to its limits, and The Vocal Athlete is written specifically to help performers meet the high demands for a sustainable career on stage, providing ideal tools and exercises to help preserve vocal wellness. When it comes to taking care your most important asset, you’ll want all the help you can.

How Sondheim Found His Sound
by Steve Swayne

This highly-praised book is a biography of one of Broadway’s biggest icons–Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist behind works like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Sunday in the Park with George. Knowing Sondheim’s work and what makes the artist tick is key to understanding the very nature of Broadway, and Swayne’s book is a perfect way into his world and understanding how one of the greats came to be.

The Complete Phantom of the Opera
by George Perry

The Phantom of the Opera has cemented its place in Broadway history as an iconic musical, but its roots go much farther than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 masterpiece. This definitive account of The Phantom of the Opera recounts the history of the work from its historical origins to Gaston Leroux’s classic novel that inspired Webber’s version, as well as the story’s other incarnations in between. All of this is supplemented with beautiful photography that include images from the production itself.

Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway
by Ron Fassler

Up in the Cheap Seats is a truly original take on Broadway, looking at it as a fan from the ground up, or rather in Fassler’s case, from the cheap seats down. By imbuing the history of Broadway and hundreds of its productions from the personal point-of-view of an actor in his youth, along with the dozens of people he met along the way backstage, the book gives a memorable but relatable and unique take on the musical theatre scene from a heartfelt place of true love.