When I started teaching about filmmaking I combed the web to find as many helpful resources for students as I could. I love a documentaries about filmmaking, I love showing videos in class and I listen to a lot of podcasts. On this page you’ll find a lot of educational material that any film student or filmmaker is sure to enjoy.
I have a few YouTube playlists that I regularly update and add to. Think of it as a free, online film school made of the best educational and instructional videos on the web.
- Cinema Technica: This will let you dive straight into hands-on filmmaking tips and techniques. I shoot documentaries with a DSLR and this playlist reflects that, but watching these videos will make you a better filmmaker of any kind.
- Cinema Esoterica: This is a crash course in analyzing film and understanding the aesthetics of cinema. This will help you think critically about films and be able to describe why they affect us, which will improve your ability to write essays too.
- Cinema Politica: These videos will encourage you to think more critically about the institutions, ideologies and economics that govern how our media is made and how we can become more informed and ethical media makers and consumers.
- Filmmaker IQ: John Hess produces these fantastic video lectures covering the fundamental theories, science and techniques of filmmaking. These are excellent study aids that can refresh your memory before an exam.
These are interview-driven, talking-head documentaries that will help you to put a particular face to a lot of important names that you will become more familiar with during the course of your studies here in the department of media arts.
- The Story of Film: An Odyssey is an excellent 15-part documentary series about the history of cinema. It’s like having a well-narrated, comprehensive video textbook of film history.
- Ways of Seeing by John Berger is a four-part BBC television series and I consider it required viewing for anyone studying art of any kind. Many universities curriculums are built around this very important hypertext.
- For the Love of Movies is a good history of film criticism that will introduce you to some very important writers that framed our early understanding of film theory and appreciation.
- Cinematographer Style interviews some of cinema’s most celebrated cinematographers and directors of photography about their craft. The only down side is that it’s 100% interview without any film clips for context, which is odd.
- Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography is an earlier documentary about cinematography from the 90’s that focuses more on the history of motion photography but interviews some of the same people as Cinematographer Style.
- The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing is a documentary about the art and history of editing for motion pictures with lots of great clips. Very re-watchable.
- Side by Side is a documentary comparing and contrasting different perspectives on shooting on celluloid film versus digital video. Good follow-up to The Cutting Edge.
- This Film is Not Yet Rated takes a very critical look at the Motion Picture Association of America, the private organization responsible giving movies ratings like PG-13, R, NC-17 etc. It raises some interesting questions about industry censorship.
- Rip! A Remix Manifesto No matter how you feel about copyright, piracy and intellectual property this documentary is required viewing for all media-makers living in the digital age. Very important and challenging questions are asked here.
Filmspotting with Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen is the most enjoyable and intellectually satisfying movie review podcast I have ever come across. Students and teachers should aim for this level of discussion in the classroom.
You Must Remember This by Karina Longworth is beautifully produced and explores some of the most fascinating stories in the history of cinema. It is very well-written and the tasteful use of music, sound effects and voice-over is just wonderful to listen to.
In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch is a very short and very readable primer on editing. You may remember him from The Cutting Edge. This book is required reading for all students of editing. Make sure you get the second edition which includes his thoughts and very accurate predictions about digital filmmaking and editing. It’s the entire second half of the book.
Rebel Without a Crew is also very short and very readable. It’s the early filmmaking diary of Texas’ own Robert Rodriguez during the making of his first movie. Most of it takes place in Texas and I remember reading it as a film student and relating to it a lot.
Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist and one of my favorite authors. His writing is enjoyable, insightful and always a little ahead of its time. He’s made PBS Frontline documentaries like The Persuaders, Merchants of Cool and Generation Like. I’d literally recommend everything he’s ever written, but for today’s new media student I’d pick out these three:
- Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
- Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
- Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say
I could list so many more, but this page is mostly about materials that are freely available online. After you’ve bookmarked all this great stuff, go to the library and look for these too. These are my favorite books about filmmaking and media.
- Cinematography by Blain Brown
- The Short Screenplay by Dan Gurkis
- Film Directing Shot by Shot by Steven Katz
- Film School: A Practical Guide to an Impractical Decision by Jason B. Kohl
- What They Don’t Teach You at Film School by Camille Landau and Tiare White
- On Directing Film by David Mamet
- In The Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
- Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez
If you somehow found the time to watch, read or listen to half of the things on this page you will have (hopefully) learned more than enough to be a great filmmaker. These are just some of my favorite things that I’ve discovered after years of geeking-out about cinema. I really do hope it’s useful to your continued education.