Becoming a full-time filmmaker is a dream of many, the film industry can be a tough cookie to break into though, so in this article we thought of sharing some tips on how you can get started in becoming a filmmaker.
By the end of this article you will not become a filmmaker, but with these following steps, you’ll get a great start.
1. Starting from zero
The first step to becoming a filmmaker is through networking and meeting the right people. Networking can be accomplished through social media, attending filmmaking events & festivals. “But we can’t go to events during the pandemic!” – Well, granted however be aware that there are many online film festivals happening around the world, it might be more challenging to network, but presence is key. Remember, you just need ONE right contact to get started. Start making connections and see what opportunities are available for you. There are many paths for a filmmaker, some people have an innate desire to be creative, while others prefer more technical roles. It’s important to know that there is more than one path for those interested in starting out into this field.
Do I need some kind of a film degree?
Film schools can also be a place to gain more knowledge about the industry. Once you’re in, it’s important that you make a good impression by paying attention, showing interest in everything happening around you. Remember, the people you meet with at film school will probably be the same people that share your name and contact with others. To answer your question however, you’ll quickly realize that a film degree is not necessary, but it can be a good way for people to get started, and the formal education will not only help you develop your talents as a filmmaker, but also give you some good insight about how this industry goes about.
2. How to land your first job?
First of all, don’t expect that your first projects will be (or should be) on major feature films or high-end TV series. Those jobs go to individuals already well known by those making hiring decisions at production companies or studios, instead try investing your time and energy in short films, student films, or small-documentaries. Take the initiative and find someone you know within the industry who might be willing to take a chance on an eager but inexperienced filmmaker. Even if it’s just for an unpaid position like interning at their production company, equipment rental house or on set, this is your best bet for getting all the important knowledge and connections you need. Ok, now you have landed your first job – that was quick, wasn’t it?! Whether it’s paid or not doesn’t really matter at this stage, what’s important is that you leave a good impression of yourself and gain knowledge and experience.
Though it may seem like common sense to many, there are some things you should know that will make for both a better experience and get you noticed by the right people.
- Follow carefully your superior’s instructions.
- Be on time, ALWAYS! Oh yes, no late video gaming the night before the shoot.
- Help other crew members when they need help, but don’t overstep into their areas of expertise.
- Don’t rush – you’re probably dealing with very expensive gear so take your time.
- Health and safety on set is super important! Leave nothing in the middle of a walkway that could make someone trip.
- If you’re on set at night, it’s always a good idea to carry a head torch. REMEMBER to switch it (and keep it) OFF when cameras are rolling.
- Don’t stand in front of camera, even if it seems that no one is around. Cameras are generally giving out image signal to video village. It’s frustrating to be seeing your ass-crack when the director is trying to show something to someone on their monitor.
- Avoid talking to the actors. Even if they’re friendly blokes.
- Ask questions if anything’s unclear. (Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but take care not to bombard everyone with them. Asking a question at the right time is key – so know your place and time)
- Keep a notebook and a pen in your pocket, it’ll come in handy.
- Keep your ears open for useful information and keep a list of what needs to be done. (You see how quickly it became handy?)
- Ask for help with anything that seems too heavy for you and never feel embarrassed to ask. Remember, film-production IS a team effort.
3. How do you actually make this as your career?
Great, now that you have solid connections and experience, how can you make this a full-time career?
First, you will need to know what type of filmmaker you want to be. Ask the question “Do I want to become a director, a cinematographer, maybe an Assistant Director or a Camera Assistant?”, “Where does my passion lie?” You might find that you prefer pre-production or post-processing roles over on location work as a filmmaker… If you’re still unsure, don’t stress – try to intern in as many departments as possible, this will give you on-set experience and will help you choose the department you love working in the most. Once that is figured out, then it’s time to start working your way up. Make sure you’re well educated on the roles you apply for, learn about what is required for your desired position and if necessary, take classes or workshops on things such as cinematography, directing techniques etc. You will need some form of credentials in order to move up from a PA/internship level (which might be where you start).
But what if I want to work on smaller productions and shoot my own projects?
This certainly isn’t the only way to get about becoming a filmmaker. Get creative, create cool stuff and get noticed. Networking is still a very important part of the business.
Once you have a couple of projects under your belt, start shooting your projects and build up your reel. As long as you’re building meaningful relationships with the right people, it will only be a matter of time before this becomes your full-time profession.