(Note: For many, many years I relied on the best little production company directory in the world: The Pacific Coast Studio Directory published out of Pine Mountain, California by Jack Reitz. It was updated twice a year so that the information was as accurate as any publication could possibly be. And it was found on every Production Coordinator's desk in Los Angeles, at least every one that I'm aware of. It was our Industry Bible. Now, all of a sudden, emails are returned and an automated operator reports that the phone number is no longer working. I can only assume one thing: our darling Jack Reitz may have gone to the big directory in the sky. I pray that's not the case. If anyone knows anything about the situation, would you pass it along to me? It breaks my heart not being able to pass along this resource to every aspiring screenwriter in the world.)
Books--that's a touchy subject with me. I never meant to write a book myself, but Paul Mason, Senior Vice President of Production at Viacom, had read the workbook I was providing my workshop students and said that I "owe it to new screenwriters to tell them how it really is." I responded, to be honest, with, "Paul, there's so much misinformation and junk out there, I don't even want to share a shelf with them." And I meant it. Most of them are written by people trying to pay their rent, and they just don't know. Grrrr...
Anyway, Paul promised to line edit my book if I'd write it, and then Donald Gold, Producer of "Miami Vice", "Diagnosis Murder", a couple of Burt Reynolds' Movies-of-the-Week, and many more successful shows, said he'd line edit along with Paul; so I wrote the thing.
Donald wrote a book of his own about a year later--he and Paul, actually. It's called "Selling to Hollywood" and tells you everything you'll ever need to know in order to produce your own independent film. It has forms in it--like the kinds of insurance forms you'll need, WGA (Writers Guild of America) forms, and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) forms--just everything. Donald shows you step-by-step how to find the money and then set up your production office. He also tells you that you need to rip a few heads off in order to find a distributor (Uh, rip off heads in the movie, not in real life) and that's where he and I differ. Whereas I love "Babe", "Chocolat", and "Driving Miss Daisy", he adores--well, films that rip off heads. Anyway, I agree on everything else he says and he IS the master of the little picture. Paul, on-the-other-hand, has been responsible for the distribution of more independent, low budget films than maybe anybody else in the industry.
As for other books I recommend, they make up a small list--that's for sure--but here goes (I'm open to your recommendations, however, so let me know if I've missed a jewel somewhere along the way):
K Callan's "The Script is Finished, Now What Do I Do?", Sweden Press, is right up there with anything by Syd Field, as is the always fresh "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman (Skip his second book, though).
For pure writer's inspiration, I love Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones". Even her newer books can't equal that one.
Director Sidney Lumet's "Making Movies" is very good and informative for writers wanting to understand the business, as is "Hello, He Lied" by Linda Obst and "They Can Kill You But They Can't Eat You" by Dawn Steele.
You see, in truth, no one can teach you to write. Callan's book is good for resources and funding. The others tell you about the business of being a screenwriter, but the bull about story arcs and so forth are, in my humble opinion, nonsense (Where's the arc in "Forrest Gump", fer cryin' in the beer?). You're a big person. You know what makes a good story. So, tell your story. But don't even think about commiting it to paper until you understand the Film Industry! I hope that's what my book does: help you market what you write. Writers write, but professional writers become educated about their chosen craft.
Wanna-be writers also read about writing. A wise writer grabs up any book with a title that begins with "The Making of ...", again, to become acquainted with the business of making fims. Also, if you want books on how to budget an independent film, how to produce an independent film, etc., in addition to Donald's book, go to The Writers Conference Room on this site and click on "Textbook Land". They have all kinds of film making books.
So much for my two cents. Now, go for it. Read a little, write a lot. And good luck! Esther