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Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence – Lane Shefter Bishop

This is a brilliant book focused on one thing: writing the best logline possible.

It’s common to see back cover blurbs like “the only book you’ll ever need…”, but in this case, I think it’s really safe to say this book covers the art of writing logline to the fullest. The author clearly defines what a logline should be, and what it isn’t, and breaks it down into 3 big questions: who is the protagonist (really), what do they want, and what’s at stake. There are tons of guidelines and tips on crafting the perfect single-sentence pitch, backed up by years of experience.

The book goes further than most by offering not only real world examples, but full-on exercises for readers to work through, with answers and explanations. There’s also a “Logline Cheat Sheet” towards the end of the book that I can see referencing for the rest of my writing career.

“Clearly, the payoff is that a successful logline not only sells the creative work upon completion, it also keeps the creator inexorably on-point throughout the process. That’s why I always tell people to try to design their logline first, while they are fleshing out what they want to write, and then get started on the bulk of their masterpiece.”
― from “Sell Your Story in A Single Sentence: Advice from the Front Lines of Hollywood”
I would add this to the list of “must have” books for creative writers, both for learning how to talk about and sell your writing, and for better focusing your writing on the core of the story.

Making It Big in Shorts – Kim Adelman

This book has a great cover and seems well-structured, which is why I didn’t hesitate much in buying it. I really wanted a great book on making short films. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

In reality, the book seems like a collection of blog articles turned into a book. There are some decent tips in this book, but no topic is really covered in any depth. At the worst, there are are some “false starts”, like the section on “Foolproof Formulas” which could have been a great source of inspiration, but ends up reading like a comedic listicle of things you could try and why you shouldn’t. There’s also a section on “How to be a Good Director” in the chapter on essential how-to’s, where two of the six tips are “Be an Egoist” and “Wear a Baseball Cap”.

All-in-all, I can’t recommend this one.

Splatter Flicks: How to Make Low-Budget Horror Films – Sara Caldwell

This is a well-written start-to-finish guide for aspiring horror filmmakers. I’ve read this book twice and will probably read it again.

Published in 2006, this book does begin to show its age a little towards the end, but it’ still very relevant. While author Sara Caldwell does have a few credentials of her own, this book really shines due to the input from moderately accomplished filmmakers whose films you can actually find and watch. Splatter Flicks contains plenty of tips and anecdotes from directors who successfully turned a few thousand bucks into distributed films, making it both educational and inspiring.

In my opinion, a great how-to book in film or music can’t be something you just read straight through; rather it should entice you down little rabbit holes that expand your experience beyond what a few hundred or so pages can cover. I found myself putting the book down regularly to check out a film or book referenced within, and the “Notable Directors of Horror” sidebar towards the middle of the book is an education unto itself.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in making low-budget genre films.