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Recommended Book List

Recommended Reading:

I've assembled a list of the most influential books I have read in my career, beginning in film school at UCLA and Art Center, or the ONLY recommended text book at CalArts to the books I encountered at work and through friendships in the industry.

Film Making - 

by Francois Truffaut 

My film history teacher at CalArts turned me on to this book. I've been returning to Hitchcock for inspiration on almost every project I've been involved with. 

Any book-length interview with Alfred Hitchcock is valuable, but considering that this volume's interlocutor is François Truffaut, the conversation is remarkable indeed. Here is a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on two cinematic masters from very different backgrounds as they cover each of Hitch's films in succession. Though this book was initially published in 1967 when Hitchcock was still active, Truffaut later prepared a revised edition that covered the final stages of his career. It's difficult to think of a more informative or entertaining introduction to Hitchcock's art, interests, and peculiar sense of humor. 

The book is a storehouse of insight and witticism, including the master's impressions of a classic like Rear Window ("I was feeling very creative at the time, the batteries were well charged"), his technical insight into Psycho's shower scene ("the knife never touched the body; it was all done in the [editing]"), and his ruminations on flops such as Under Capricorn ("If I were to make another picture in Australia today, I'd have a policeman hop into the pocket of a kangaroo and yell 'Follow that car!'"). This is one of the most delightful film books in print. --Raphael Shargel

The Five Cs of Cinematography
by Joseph V. Mascelli

The Five C's of Cinematography is one of the three most important books on cinematic technique ever published -- American Cinematograper

This book was recommended reading for me in Cinematography class at UCLA.

The Five C's is the most widely respected book on cinematography ever published. With the aid of hundreds of photographs and diagrams, it clearly and concisely presents al of the essential concepts and techniques of motion picture camera work.
Used copies of this timeless, long-out-of-print volume, which was first published in 1965, have been fetching hundreds of dollars per copy from students and teachers of cinematography and filmmaking. Now it is published for the first time in a paperback edition.

The five C's, and some of the related subjects this book covers, are: 

Camera Angles -- Objective, Subjective, Point-of-View, Subject Size, Subject Angle, Camera Height

Continuity -- Cinematic Time and Space, Filming Action, Master Scenes, Screen Direction, Transitional Devices

Cutting -- Types of Editing, Cross-Cutting, Cutting on Action

Close-ups -- Over-the-Shoulder, Cut-in, Cutaway

Composition -- Compositional Rules, Compositional Language, Types of Balance, Attracting or Switching the Center of Interest.

What an Art Director Does
(An Introduction to Motion Picture Production Design)
by Ward Preston

Recently, in my career, I have had to explain to a number of people (who did not study film or animation) what an Art Director and Production Designer does. Many people on a film (most from the management side) have no idea how important those roles are in a live action film or an animated film. This book is good to have around for those discussions.

What an Art Director Does is a comprehensive introduction to film and television art direction and production design. Starting with a brief history of the field, Mr. Preston's lively, well-written text leads the reader through the ins and outs of all the responsibilities and duties that fall on the art director's shoulders. A wealth of information on preparing script breakdowns, research, design and presentation, scouting and working on locations, set design and construction, working as part of a team, and much more is coupled with examples drawn from the author's own experiences. This book is a must-read for all aspiring production designers and all filmmakers who desire a firm understanding of the physical process of film production.

Screenwriting - 

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting
by Robert McKee

I met Robert McKee at his lecture offered by DreamWorks for it's employees. The notes I took on that day have stayed with me since. 

Robert McKee's screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience. 

In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the "magic" of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee.

The Power of Myth
by Joseph Campbell 

Recommended by Robert Mckee, referred to by Lucas, Spielberg and Scorsese and talked about at almost every story meeting!

 The Power of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people--including Star Wars creator George Lucas. To Campbell, mythology was the “song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” With Bill Moyers, one of America’s most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging interviewer, The Power of Myth touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to John Lennon, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit. 

This extraordinary book reveals how the themes and symbols of ancient narratives continue to bring meaning to birth, death, love, and war. From stories of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome to traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, a broad array of themes are considered that together identify the universality of human experience across time and culture. An impeccable match of interviewer and subject, a timeless distillation of Campbell’s work, The Power of Myth continues to exert a profound influence on our culture.  

Art - 

The Dore Bible Illustrations
by Gustav Dore

I discovered Gustav Dore in our family Bible when I was 9 or 10. It was a book I returned to again and again throughout my childhood for the drama and the intense compositions. 

Nowhere but in the Bible were dramatic textual material and the artistry of Gustave Doré more perfectly matched. The Book of Books seemed to unleash a new power of creation in Doré not apparent in his previous work. In the Creation scenes, the horrifying visions of the Flood, the battle sequences with their monumental crowds, the plates depicting the life of Jesus — many of which have now become the standard iconography — and finally the vision of the New Jerusalem, Doré reached the fullest expressions of his extraordinary talent.
This book collects all 241 plates — long out of print — that Doré executed for the Bible. In these plates, reproduced from outstanding early editions, the artist not only captures the dramatic intensity of the Scriptures, but sustains it longer than any other single artist was able to do. In addition, Doré reimagined all the scenes, so that what he produced was not a mere reworking of what centuries of other artists had already done, but a new and fresh visual interpretation of the Bible.
Each plate is accompanied by the verses from the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible that the scene depicts, and an Introduction by Millicent Rose covers Doré's life and art in general. This is a sumptuous book that everyone, from those interested in Scripture to lovers of great art, will be proud to possess.

Figure Drawing For All It's Worth
A Book of Fundamentals For An Artistic Career
by Andrew Loomis
Andrew Loomis was born in 1892. After studying art he moved to Chicago, eventually opening his own studio, working in editorial and advertising for most of the top clients at the time including Kellogg's, Coca Cola, Lucky Strike and more. He also became renowned as an art teacher and his instructional books on Realist illustration and art are acclaimed classics in the field. He died in 1959.

Having stood the test of time, it was first published in the 30's, this book teaches you all that is there to figure drawing. Andrew Loomis is one of those rare, gifted artists who can articulate as clearly and truthfully using words as he could with lines. Using very simple tools to define the structure of the human body, essentially the skeleton as the foundation, he teaches how fantastically easy it is to draw the human body from any angle, in any action, and of any type.

This is not one of those 'feel good' books that teaches you to do 'yet another thing'. This is a grand text. absolutely dedicated work, you can see the earnestness in Loomis' anxious words about getting across the details to the reader. 

Design -  

Dream Worlds
by Hans Bacher

This book is an invaluable resource for any production designer. It talks about how to go about setting the style and look for animation.

When it comes to color, composition and design, Hans is in a class by himself. Look through the pages of Dream Worlds and be inspired by Han's high standards and his art. It is a feast for the eyes.

Every example included in the book serves to emphasis design concepts. The clear and simple explanation provides another perspective into looking at storyboards, into understanding what the scene means and how it contributes to the story.

Ed Emberley's Big Purple Drawing Book
by Ed Emberley

Good design doesn't have to be complicated to be sophisticated. I saw my friend Chris Sasaki referring to this book one day at Laika and I've been a fan ever since. Emberley's simple way of building a character from basic shapes should be the foundation of any designers initial drawings. You can see the inspiration in such movies as Up! and Monsters University. 

Using just 8 shapes and objects, Ed Emberley shows would-be artists how to draw a variety of animals, people, insects, and more, and everything is PURPLE! This hefty 96-page book is packed with fun things that kids-and not a few adults-really want to draw. Easy and fun, the book provides hours of art-full fun.


The Noble Approach
by Tod Polson and Maurice Noble

I had heard of Tod Polson from none other than Maurice Noble, himself! I had the honor of meeting Maurice a number of times in the late 90s, when he was working on his Noble Tales and development projects at Warner Bros Feature Animation. Maurice referred to Tod as his "son" and passed the wealth of his knowledge on to him. Many years later, I would collaborate with Tod on designs for "The Book of Life". 

Tod Polson was a protégé of Noble's who has finally realized his generous teacher's dream of putting all of Noble's notes and theories on animation design in book form. You'll first learn about Noble's history and find out how things were like in the ever-evolving Golden Age of animation, and then how things got so bad that Noble was afraid the wisdom he mistook for common knowledge would vanish into the ether - hence why he wanted his thoughts recorded in the first place!

If you want to know how Noble did it and how you can possibly instill some of his own virtues into your work, don't just watch the films. Let Polson take you on this very intimate journey and show you how Noble took care to make sure his design met the needs of every single element of an animated film and not the other way around. More importantly, the book is lavishly and colorfully illustrated to appropriately aid the instructions, driving home every point clearly and beautifully.

 Animation - 

The Illusion of Life
by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

This was the only text book required at CalArts when I attended in 1989. This was considered the "Bible" of animation, and probably still is!

A classic. Great history, characters and timeless techniques. Comprehensive analysis of traditional animation concepts that largely translate to the digital world.

Setting The Scene
The Art and Evolution of the Animation Layout
by Frasier Maclean

Setting the Scene: the Art of Animation Layout takes center stage for the first time in this gorgeous, full-color volume. Animation fans and students can finally take a behind-the-scenes peek at the history of layout, the process by which artists plot scenes and stitch together the many elements of animated works. With in-depth text by veteran animator Fraser MacLean, this extraordinary book features previously unpublished art from major studios archives including Warner Bros., Pixar, Walt Disney, and more as well as interviews with some of the biggest names in animation and a foreword by Academy Award winning director Pete Docter. From the genre's earliest pioneers to the digital world of contemporary cinema, Setting the Scene provides an enchanting journey into the history of animation.

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