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The Drama Class Presents: 9 Books That Should Be On Every Writer's Shelf

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

Enjoy a curated list of books recommended by Kat Montagu, award-winning screenwriter and Senior Instructor at Vancouver Film School.

Whether you've been working on your writing craft your whole life or you're just starting your journey, you need to stay sharp! With all the choices in classes and reading materials out there, it can be difficult to know what's good and what's not.

That's why we asked the expert! Kat Montagu is not only an award-winning screenwriter, but we are excited to offer TWO of her screenplay workshops!

Here are Kat's nine books she recommends for writer's to have on their bookshelves....

#1 - "The Dreaded Curse: Screenplay Formatting for Film & Television" by Kat Montagu

A screenwriter and story editor herself, award-winning writing instructor Kat Montagu needed a simple up-to-date format guide in the Hollywood-style; so she crafted the tale of two feisty young witches cursed by a ghost of a dead screenwriter. When he steals their car to make it to L.A., the chase is on and only the arcane knowledge of screenplay formatting – Feature Film, Multi-Cam Sitcom, Single-Cam Half-Hour, and One-Hour Drama – can help them. Demonstrating the elements of screenwriting from "inside the format" engages you in an accessible way, reminding you that story is at the heart of the form.

#2 - "The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script" by David Trottier

Among this book's wealth of practical information are sample query letters, useful worksheets and checklists, hundreds of examples, sample scenes, and straightforward explanations of screenwriting fundamentals. The seventh edition of The Screenwriter's Bible is chock-full of new examples, the latest practices, and new material on non-traditional screenplay outlets.

#3 - "The Complete Film Production Handbook" by Eve Light Honthaner

The Complete Film Production Handbook by Eve Light Honthaner is a comprehensive step-by-step guide covering the essentials of the business, from checklists and sample pre-production and post production schedules to contracts and company policies relating to insurance, talent management, and even customs and immigration details. The book has everything you'll need (including standard production forms, deal memos, release forms and checklists) to set up and run a production – from finding a production office to turning over delivery elements.

#4 - "Contracts for the Film & Television Industry" by Mark Litwak

Contracts for the Film and Television Industry is an invaluable collection of sample entertainment contracts accompanied by legalese-free discussions of their concepts and terns.

Completely revised and greatly expanded (adding 18 new contracts) – the third edition of this popular and essential handbook is the ultimate entertainment-law source for independent filmmakers, who, armed with this book, can save themselves thousands of dollars in legal fees.

#5 - "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller" by John Truby

John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood's most successful films, including: Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek.

The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all of his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, this book draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby's own unique approach for how to build an effective, multifaceted narrative.

#6 - "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers" by Christopher Vogler

The Writer's Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that's made this book a true classic for screenwriters and playwrights. It also provides valuable information about basic screenplay structure and character archetypes. After reading this book, you'll truly understand the art of storytelling. Required reading for movie executives, fiction and non-fiction writers, scholars, and fans of pop culture all over the world.

#7 - "Writing Screenplays That Sell: New Twentieth Anniversary Edition" by Michael Hauge

The acclaimed guide to writing and selling screenplays to today's film and TV markets.

Whether you're an aspiring artist looking to break into the business or a seasoned pro looking for tips to boost your skills, Writing Screenplays That Sell is the most complete guide available on the art, craft, and business of writing for movies and television. In this concise, expert, and comprehensive manual, Hollywood story editor and producer Michael Hauge walks you through every step of writing (and selling) successful screenplays.

#8 - "Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath" by Dr. Linda Seger

Subtext can be the most important element in text and in a performance. It's an unseen force that speaks directly to the reader's unconscious, deepening meaning and understanding. Great subtext reveals more than simple dialogue and action and is at the heart of the best books and films. It is what glues us to the screen.

Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath goes far beyond dialogue, action, gestures, genre, and images. Written by veteran script consultant Linda Seger, this revised edition has been expanded to be relevant to all screenwriters and fiction writers alike. It adds new examples with chapters on analogy and love and provides deeper explanations of how rich subtext will make your writing leap off the page.

#9 - "Writing a TV Movie: An Insider's Guide to Launching a Screenwriting Career" by Roslyn Muir

Writing a TV Movie is a screenwriting how-to book that reveals the structure and content differences between feature films and TV movies. Written by award-winning screenwriter Roslyn Muir, this book offers clear and simple advice for beginners and experts alike on how to master the unique nine-act structure of the popular TV movie thriller and rom-com genres. It gives excellent tips on how to write and pitch a TV Movie script to producers and is an exceptional resource for screenwriters, teachers in screenwriting classes and workshops, and industry professionals alike.

Writing a TV Movie: An Insider's Guide to Launching a Screenwriting Career also features interviews with professional screenwriters: Melissa Cassera, Carley Smale, Kraig Wenman, Keith Shaw, plus Kelly Peters and Amy Taylor.

Check out the deeper dive into this book on this blog post!

Focus on the process, not just the product...

All of these books are not only super informative, but they're also fun to read! Whichever book you end up choosing, enjoy working on your projects (mistakes included) rather than stressing about what it's "supposed to be".

For more tips and tricks, check out !


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