The Movie Brats: How the Film Generation Took Over Hollywood
Michael Pye & Lynda Myles (1979)
Fascinating account of the rise of the "cine-literate" generation of filmmakers. Covers Francis Ford Copppola, George Lucas, Brian DePalma, John Milius, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg up to the tail end of the 1970s. See also Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (1998), considered to be a more gossipy account of the major filmmakers of this era.
The inside track:
Adventures in the Screen Trade
William Goldman (1983)
The ultimate insider's book. It's so revered that even today, you will rarely find a book on screenwriting that doesn't point you in its direction. Don't overlook it.
Naked Hollywood: Money and Power in the Movies Today
Nicolas Kent (1991)
A companion book to a BBC series which took an in-depth look at filmmaking from several perspectives. Much like the series, one part focuses on writers, one on directors, one on agents, and so on.
Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes
John Pierson (1995)
It was only a matter of time before someone told the inside story of the "independent" film business, and Pierson does it with uncompromising gusto. Nobody else seems willing to try their hand at this subject, probably because Pierson did it so well. If only he would get a follow-up out there. Also the only book which collectively takes a look at the heirs to the thrones of the Movie Brats, namely Spike Lee, Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith (to name a few).
In the trenches:
She's Gotta Have It
Lee has published a book for nearly every one of his films, detailing the process of creation and production. This first book reveals the trials Lee went through to make his first feature. Includes fascinating diary entries revealing the orgins of the story and characters, as well as the trials of financing an independent feature.
Rebel Without A Crew
Diary form story of how Rodriquez learned the process of filmmaking and developed his first feature, El Mariachi. A very honest and open attitude makes this a great read. Rodriguez brings home the idea that anyone can learn how to be a filmmaker.
Ron LaBrecque (1988)
Details the tragedy that occurred during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie and the subsequent trial. Director John Landis came under fire for this accident which killed actor Vic Morrow and two children.
The Devil's Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities
Goes to Hollywood
Julie Salamon (1991)
An unparalleled amount of access to the development and production of Brian DePalma's Bonfire of the Vanities resulted in this fascinating account of a disaster-in-waiting.
The Battle of Brazil
Jack Mathews (1987, revised 1999)
This is a legendary "David and Goliath" story of director Terry Gilliam versus Universal Studios over his film Brazil. An uncommon and unforgettable tale, due mainly to Gilliam's unconventional attitude toward his battle with the studio. The hardcover edition is long out of print, but a revised softcover edition, bringing the story up to the end of the 90s, is available.
Just for fun:
Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary
Roger Ebert (1999)
Some people never learn. But hopefully, some aspiring filmmakers will read Ebert's little compendium of clichés and find out how not to make a movie.
In addition to the previously mentioned Adventures in the Screen Trade, check out the following to guide and inspire you if writing is your passion:
The Screenwriter's Problem Solver
All by Syd Field
If there's one person whose name is inextricably linked to screnwriting, it's Syd Field. Field's Screenplay is the number one instructional resource for beginning screenwriters, used in many writing courses around the world. The Screenwriter's Problem Solver is a more recent (and more thorough) guide to screenplays, designed to come into play when a writer has hit a specific problem. Four Screenplays analyzes four diverse films and interviews the writers, providing helpful instruction along the way on topics such as action writing, adapting from other sources and writing character.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Luckily for the aspiring filmmaker (especially the writer), the 1990s saw an explosion of screenplay publishing. A quick note of books to avoid. In my personal opinion, any book that merely acts as a transcript of the film as finished is worthless. Nearly any film ever made is available for viewing at nearly any time via videotape, so a paper copy of such doesn't really serve a purpose. In addition, these printed transcripts often ditch the writer's original prose in favor of basic descriptions of the action on screen. Just about any person who would read a screenplay in book form is interested in the development needed to bring the written word to the screen, and deserves an unabridged version.
Books in the Premiere Magazine Movie Script Library are transcripts. Other books walk a thin line between transcript and screenplay. Michael Tolkin's collection of 3 Screenplays: The Player, The Rapture, The New Age has been modified, by the author, to reflect the final films. Similarly, Alan Ball's published screenplay for American Beauty intentionally reflects the finished film rather than the screenplay that went before the cameras. And there are some rare cases, such as Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy, where a full script does not exist until the film is finished (Leigh creates his scenes with the actors and conforms the "screenplay" at the end of the process).
You might notice a bias below to more recent films. While I'm all for studying the classics, young aspiring filmmakers are most likely to be interested in the contemporary works. They're also easier to find in print.
Two Screenplays: Clerks and Chasing Amy
If there's one thing director Smith has been recognized for, it's his writing. The first book presents the full screenplays to his most acclaimed works, as well as some additional material for the true fans. The second is a paperback-sized companion to his most recent film, containing the full shooting script, includng scenes which were excised to bring the running time down from three hours.
Good Will Hunting
Ben Affleck & Matt Damon
The Academy Award winning screenplay is a great read as well.
The Fisher King: The Book of the Film
Richard LaGravenese (1991)
A very complex and emotional screenplay from LaGravenese, presented very lovingly in screnplay form, supplemented by interviews with director Terry Gilliam, actor Robin Williams and some comments from various crew.
Terminator 2: The Book of the Film
James Cameron & William Wisher (1991)
The ultimate script-to-screen book, it assumes some intelligence on the part of the reader. This book provides tons of photos and storyboards to supplement the screenplay. In addition, there are copious annotations in the margins and thorough introductory materials. Cameron also did a book like this for his Academy Award winning Titanic.
Don Shay (1984)
The template for the Terminator 2 book, providing great insights from the key cast and crew members. The entire original screenplay is included, annotated to describe which scenes were modified or deleted, illustrated with lots of photos and behind-the-scenes artwork. Although out of print, a lot of material from this book was adapted into the DVD of Ghostbusters.