Independent Ed By Edward Burns
In 1995, Edward Burns became an overnight success. He was the new golden boy of the independent film scene. Well, thats only half true. It's a famous story, Burns was working as a PA for Entertainment Tonight's east coast operations and one day when Robert Redford was being interviewed for a film he directed, Edward managed to hand a rough cut copy of The Brother's McMullen to him as he was getting on an elevator. Months later he found out he made it into the Sundance Film Festival.
Independent Ed recounts the endless commitment Burns has to making films by any means possible. Did you know he had the first exclusive premiere on iTunes with the film "Purple Violets"? Fifteen years after McMullen he was once again making ultra low budget films in 12 days with Nice Guy Johnny and Newlyweds.
Lessons learned include finding your niche, being 100% committed, and make something because you have something to say and not because you want to be rich. Oh, and you are going to need a lot of help from people along the way. This book is a must read.
Getting Away With It By Steven Soderbergh
"The highlight of the trip was having Gus Van Sant drive me north to see some landscape while we talked about Kubrick movies. He's about to jump into a movie called Good Will Hunting which was apparently written by a couple young actors," - Steven Soderbergh's Getting Away With It.
Getting Away With It is a story of a procrastinator. A book split in half with an interview of director Richard Lester, and the other half made up of diary entries from Steven Soderbergh before he hit the big time with Traffic and Erin Brockovich. While I didn't care for his interviews with Richard Lester, I found the diary entries very insightful. Similar to Edward Burns, Soderbergh got noticed by the indie film world with Sex, Lies, and Videotape and then struggled for the rest of the 1990's to find an audience until he was given the opportunity to direct Out of Sight.
You get a glimpse at a young filmmaker who struggles to find motivation to get even paid gigs done and second guesses his every decision. Even after "success", he can't seem to make the films he wants and certainly can't find an audience for the ones he does make in the late 90's. Soderbergh even makes a comment about giving up at one point, that it might not be worth the struggle.
On Directing Film by David Mamet
I first read On Directing Film in a film class in college. It has had a lasting effect on me. It taught me immediately to keep things simple… even if I don't always do that. Backstory is relevant, only the protagonist's immediate goal is important. This was all handy at one point when I pursued screenwriting right out of college when I moved to Los Angeles.
David Mamet's philosophy is simple. Keep it simple stupid. Don't be descriptive, cut the narrative, and only the story remains. Do this and you will leave the audience wanting more. You can break directing down into two things, where to put the camera and what do you have the actors do. As an animator, you decide where you want the camera and what you are going to have that cube do in the scene.
A story is told with cuts in film and Mamet suggests watching animated films to learn about shots. He made this comment before the birth of commercial CG animated films, so he's describing a time when an animator had to decide on the camera angle before he started to draw the shot. There was no 3D camera to move around after the fact.
The take away from the book is to be prepared. Think about what you are going to do before you start. Mamet says you should get into a scene late and leave early. Keep this in mind the next time you are setting up your motion graphics scene so you aren't animating and rendering more than what is needed.