How To Start Your Career As A Filmmaker
Breaking into the film industry is notoriously difficult. It’s one of the most competitive worlds out there; thousands upon thousands of filmmakers are jostling to make their mark, and producers will only bankroll projects they think are worthwhile. However, there must be a route into becoming a filmmaker, otherwise nobody would be able to get into the industry. With the right combination of hard work, talent, and luck, you can become a filmmaker and get your start in this famously difficult media landscape. Here are some tips and tricks on how to start your career as a filmmaker.
Look for funding
There are funds available for filmmakers to help them with expenses and costs. If you’re looking to break into the film industry, then it’s a good idea to look up these funds, which can assist when it comes to paying for cameras and other equipment, for example. If you don’t qualify for the funds, or if you’d rather not rely on external assistance, then you can always fund your projects yourself, of course. These days, it doesn’t cost much at all to get started; even £1000 loans can cover the cost of a smartphone with a good camera and a piece of editing software!
Have killer ideas
To become a successful filmmaker, your “content” – that is, the films you’re making – needs to be on point. Just like any other creative industry, the content is the thing by which you will be judged. You can have the best marketing strategy or sales pitch in the world, but if the thing you’re selling isn’t up to scratch, that will quickly become apparent to anyone who you’re pitching to. Run your ideas past others and talk to your friends about them; that way, you can eliminate the ones that probably won’t work and focus on the ideas that have real potential.
Create for fun
Filmmakers should be paid for their work. If you talk to someone about making a film for them and they’re not going to compensate you for what you do, then you need to walk away. With that said, it’s still important to love what you do as a filmmaker. There will likely be long stretches of time when you’re either not working or simply building your portfolio, and these times can feel unrewarding and difficult. A real love of the craft will get you through more often than not during these drought periods, so just keep creating and looking for that next opportunity.
Actively pitch your work
Pitching your films is a vital skill if you’re a filmmaker. You’re not just a creative; you’re also a salesperson, and you need to know how to sell your work to brands, businesses, or producers who might be interested in it. Write a short, 150-word treatment describing exactly what your film is going to be about and why people should want to fund it. If you’re pitching to brands, you need to tell them how your work is going to augment their marketing strategy. If it’s a creative work you’re pitching to a producer, be sure to focus on its unique selling point and position within the market.
Filmmakers these days are nowhere near as constrained by a lack of equipment or funding as they used to be. If you can’t fund your projects, don’t worry; there are more democratised tools for producing movies now than there have ever been. When projects like Marble Hornets can accrue millions of views despite having basically zero budget, you know you can create your idea in some way, shape, or form, even if you don’t have the cash to back it up. Uploading to YouTube, filming on your phone, and editing using free software like Lightworks are all great options for the no-budget filmmaker.
Work where you can
Building experience in the film industry is vital, and it doesn’t matter where you get that experience from (up to a point, of course). Working commercially – for brands or businesses – might seem a little degrading from a creative perspective, but it’s an excellent way to get valuable experience you can then use to prop up your own projects. It’s more important to have a recognisable name in your industry than to hold fast to your principles, although there are certain inviolable lines you should establish for yourself; after all, some experience won’t be valuable for your chosen career path.
Don’t let setbacks get you down
Everyone is going to experience some kind of setback or problem on their journey to becoming a successful filmmaker. The measure of success isn’t in whether you have those setbacks, but in how you deal with them. Treat every single project as a learning opportunity; even if a particular job turns out to be a total disaster, you can learn something from it that you can use next time. Maintaining as much of a positive outlook as possible is what differentiates successful filmmakers from less successful ones much of the time.
Build a network
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This might sound like a cliche, but a lot of the time, it’s true, especially in the film industry. Try to build a network around you of like-minded individuals and those who you know will be willing to take a chance on indie filmmakers. Networking is critical in every industry, but especially in movies, where that one chance connection could land you the job of your dreams. Always keep your work up, but make sure to hand out business cards and tell everyone you meet to contact you if they spot a filmmaking opportunity they think would be right for you.