Recommended Reading

This is an industry standard list of screenwriting books to master story and structure. (These are our Amazon Affiliate links; clicking below keeps Peace the Production Pup in her holiday finery.)

Recommended Viewing

These films and TV pilots will help you hone your story and structure skills. (These are our Amazon Affiliate links; clicking below keeps Peace the Production Pup at her bikini best!)

Write It, Pitch It, Sell Your Screenplay

A Hollywood Buyer’s Insider Guide to Getting Your Script Past the Gatekeepers. This is my newly updated and expanded version of The 1-3-5 Story Structure book! Having now headed a development department, I had a lot more to share about developing and analyzing your story, prepping a great pitch and selling your completed script or film—still from the buyer’s point of view.

Sell That Script!

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

Blake. Snyder. This was the first “modern” structure book to take over the industry. You will be expected to know what happened to “the Cat” and why you are required to save it.

Save that Cat!

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition

Chris Vogler changed my life at a casual professional lunch in a number of ways, including by connecting Greek mythology and Joseph Campbell (my high school and college obsessions) with modern film (my career passion). Do not dare write an epic screenplay without reading, re-reading and obsessing over this book, which all began with an infamous Hollywood memo that would make Jerry Maguire proud.

Start Your Journey!

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting

McKee (no first name required in Hollywood!) is the Godfather of Story Structure. His weekend “Story” seminar is a rite of passage for development executives, including me. While this book is a staple, if you can afford to attend the live event, I would champion that over this extremely lengthy book.

Study Classic Structure

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

Syd Field is an industry staple, and his book is on every film producer’s shelf who grew up before Twitter. Make sure it’s on yours, as wellit will help connect you to the buyers you are pitching to.

Build Your Foundation

The 1-3-5 Story Structure Made Simple System

The Nine Essential Elements of a Sellable Screenplay I wrote this book to help screenwriters understand how to get past studio gatekeepers, like me, doing weekend coverage on a huge stack of scripts. The book has sold all over the world, been taught in film schools nationwide and was the first story structure book integrated into Final Draft’s software. Frankly, it all still blows my mind. Who knew I’d head a development department myself a decade later? That’s what inspired the updated version!

Master Story Structure!

When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally
The quintessential romantic comedy. Which famous line was pure improv?


The “coming of age story” blueprint.

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption
Drama—and book adaptation—at its finest.


A beautifully crafted, surprisingly funny example of an effective “reverse arc” (see The 1-3-5 System).

Breaking Bad (pilot)

Breaking Bad (Pilot)
The one-hour drama’s tribute to theme, character arc and spine.

The Walking Dead (pilot)

The Walking Dead (pilot)
Watch it without the volume, and you still will grip the arms of your chair. Unbelievable execution of story.

Two Broke Girls (pilot)

Two Broke Girls (Pilot)
A sitcom daringly tackles dual protagonists—or does it? Discuss.

Recommended Reading

This is an industry leaders’ list of books for reality and digital products and careers. (These are our Amazon Affiliate links; clicking below keeps Peace the Production Pup in the studio.)

Recommended Viewing

These TV and digital series will help you create and execute sellable content. (These are our Amazon Affiliate links; clicking below keeps Peace the Production Pup in the front row for sunrise yoga.)

The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System

Ten Steps to Creating and Pitching a Sellable Reality Show. This book has been called the “bible of the biz” many times! I wrote this as a step-by-step reality blueprint, as a reality showrunner and production company owner who regularly took partner pitches. It now is taught in media programs across the U.S. (including my own course at NYU).

Get Your Show Started!

Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market

Troy Devolid is a fellow reality veteran who presents a comprehensive overview of our industry for both creating content and executing a career. We are regularly partnered as the “top two reality books” on the market.

Produce Your Project!

The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

This is the book that made me shut down my production company and launch a digital firm overnight. If you are in digital and social media, read this book; it is the Genesis of our movement and explains the digital revolution that exploded ten years ago.

Lay Your Digital Foundation

YouTube Creator Academy

create-digital-content-productiondYouTube still dominates the digital content world, and they’ve got an entire online experience to train you in best practices for planning, producing and promoting online content. I’m excited to include this great digital resource on Recommended Reading list.

Create That Content!

The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

Guy Kawasaki is the #NerdNation King of start-up pitching, marketing and design. He also is one of the best purveyors of his own personal brand in the digital space, and this book spells out his strategies.

Start Your Art

Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars

Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars
Arcing Format. An unrepentant, addictive makeover/self-improvement format. How do you keep audiences watching the same participants without competitive elements? Strictly follow every rule of story and cast for high drama!

The Dog Whisperer

The Dog Whisperer
Self-Contained Format. Look no further for a perfect talent-driven execution that has aired more than 10 successful years. Most scripted projects can’t touch that track record!

America’s Next Top Model

America’s Next Top Model
Arcing Competition. With over 50 international versions, there remains no competition for Tyra Banks’ tour de force format. ANTM, you are still in the running for America’s Greatest Reality TV Export.


Self-Contained Competition. 24 seasons and counting, this is the go-to show for standalone/self-contained competition formats. From the participants to the judges to the host, it is a symphony of fulfilling reality flavors. (And…I just “got chopped.”)

Deadliest Catch

Deadliest Catch
Docudrama. No offense to the many wild Wives’ shows, but this exemplary docudrama adds the critical elements of stakes and jeopardy for the full, gripping story package in this occupational reality show.

The Nightly Show

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Talk/Strip. This newcomer to late-night combines a simple format, engaging host and strategic casting (with a twist!) that made it okay to skip The Daily Show and head straight for Larry Wilmore’s dessert.

Funny or Die

Funny or Die
It’s a digital content network. It’s a comedy video platform. It’s a production company with multi-platform deals. It’s an EMPIRE.

BuzzFeed Violet+Yellow

Buzzfeed Violet+Yellow
Because these “awkward” slice of life videos are as addictive as their listicles. Because they beat everyone else to Facebook video algorithm domination, with a perfect match of content to platform (EVERY introvert shared this series with their extrovert friends/nemeses). Because it’s great content, production value, storytelling and marketing that has set a standard for everyone else doing short-form digital content.