5 Must-Own Books About the Art and Creation of Great Films

There are very few things I enjoy more than sitting at my desk and opening a good film or film art book. I’m a sucker for “making of” books that focus on the design of a film, as well as those that provide a tell-all experience about what went down during the creation of certain movies. As an artist myself, I love seeing the process that goes into the creation of some of my favourite films. From their posters to the journeys each film went through, to details about how the adventure came to fruition. So, in that spirit, I thought I’d talk to you Council of Zoom readers about the books I hold very close to my heart and think you all should check out. So, here are my five must-own film and film artbooks.

5) Color of Pixar (Tia Kratter, Chronicle Books)

Tia Kratter’s The Color of Pixar is one that I really love to sit down and go through. The book splendidly illustrates the importance of colour in Pixar’s output. Each page shows one colour and its use in specific scenes found in two different films. A foggy white shows how a frame from WALL-E looks almost identical in one found in Up. Going through every shade of colour around, Color of Pixar really shows how the use of specific colours are able to make each scene more emotional and lasting.

While the description of the book might make some think that the approach could grow tired after a while, it never happens. What makes Kratter’s approach so effective is her 19-year role as Shader Art Director for Pixar and how that experience taught her that colour is as important as performance.

4) The Official Making of Big Trouble In Little China (Tara Bennett & Paul Terry, BOOM! Studios)

The first part of a two-book series, Tara Bennett and Paul Terry’s The Official Making of Big Trouble In Little China is the perfect example of allowing your reader to revisit what made a film so magical, by leading them through the story of the film’s creation. Featuring a foreword from John Carpenter and an afterword by Kurt Russell, this one follows the film’s origins as a western before being rewritten by The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension’s W.D. Richter into the film we all know.

Chapters focusing on the film’s lead characters and what each actor brought to their roles is a bonus. But the real gold nuggets in this book are when Carpenter talks about his experiences making the film. It’s obvious that he had a love for the material and giving fans a movie that is, above all else, fun.

Paired with The Art of Big Trouble In Little China (also written by Bennett and Terry), the two-book series really brings a new life to a film that we already have a massive amount of love for.

3) Alien Vault: The Definitive Story Behind the Film (Ian Nathan, Epic Ink)

The moment you pull the black-and-green book from the hard casing it’s contained in, you know that you have something special with Ian Nathan’s Alien Vault: The Definitive Story Behind the Film. Not only an artbook but a collection of artefacts, storyboards, memos and so much more. This one features a foreword from Veronica Cartwright and feels about as close as you can get to being in the production meetings for the Ridley Scott horror classic. Even before turning the first page, you’re greeted with a taped pouch, containing schematics to the Nostromo and the initial concept art of the film’s facehugger by legendary artist H.R. Giger.

The book itself tells the story of how Alien came to be and leads its reader throughout the film’s production and beyond, all while showing various drawings, paintings, memos and so much more. Alien: Vault can’t be defined as just a “making of” or artbook, but something of a hybrid, much like Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror flick.

2) The Thing: Artbook (Steven Hoveke and John J. Hill, Printed In Blood)

This is an interesting one, in that it isn’t quite about the production or the design of the beloved John Carpenter classic, but a 400-page book of artwork inspired by the film. Featuring 375+ pieces of art, from artists like Tim Bradstreet, Gary Pullin, Dan Brereton, Kelley Jones, and many more, The Thing: Artbook shows how influential the 1982 film was for so many artists and creative types.

What makes this one so enjoyable is seeing so many different styles of art, all based around the same film. There are beautifully haunting watercolour pieces, cartoon-like takes on MacReady and his torch, and to be honest, some of the most gorgeous pieces of art around, all within the pages of the massive art book. The Thing: Artbook also features an introduction by Cabin Fever/Hostel director Eli Roth, complete with childhood drawings of The Thing that the filmmaker did after initially watching the film (bonus points for Roth misspelling Michael Myers’ last name in his introduction). If that’s not reason enough to pick this one up, it’s closed out with an afterword from the man himself, John Carpenter.

1) Drew Struzan: Oeuvre (Drew & Dylan Struzan, Titan Books)

To say that Drew Struzan has made an impact in the world of film art would be a massive understatement. By far one of the greatest poster artists of all time, Struzan’s work defined how we saw so many of our favourite films growing up, having painted the posters for the Back to the Future and Star Wars franchises, the iconic artwork for John Carpenter’s The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China, Stephen Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones films, and so many more.

Drew Struzan: Oeuvre collects Struzan’s most iconic film posters, along with his influential work in music, publishing, commercials and even a nice section on his personal art as well. Co-Written with his wife Dylan Struzan, the book reminds us all of how iconic poster art can be. Seeing the imagery that we all know and love, collected into one coffee table book, is one of the coolest things around. Plus, having a pretty nifty foreword by George Lucas is never a bad thing. Definitely a must-own.

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