How To’s

3 Filmmaking Lessons from Animals with GoPros

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Animals with GoPros may not have gone to film school or won any Oscar awards, but they may have something to teach us about filmmaking.

Filmmakers strive to create visual experiences that are both relatable and impacting. Usually, the this is accomplished by weaving a story told through the eyes of different people. But what about seeing the world through the eyes of an animal?

With the help of technology, scientists are now able to attach cameras onto wild animals in order to learn more about them. For the first time, we can see how animals behave and survive while completely free of human influence.

The following are a few lessons aspiring filmmakers might be able to learn from watching footage recorded by animals with GoPro cameras:

1. The Perfect Location Is Out There

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It’s one thing to envision the perfect location in your mind, and quite another to actually find it. The fact is, one of the biggest (and most enjoyable) challenges in filmmaking is finding a location that not only serves the needs of your story but can also accommodate your production. Many filmmaker are forced to alter their scripts when the perfect location eludes them.

But sometimes, the answer may be to not give up too soon. When the National Geographic Society attached their Crittercams to a wild animal, they obtained more than just information on the animal itself; they collected environmental data and were continually astounded by the gorgeous locales these animals find. If you fail to find the perfect spot for a particular scene, don’t let it be because you cut your search short.

2. Perspective Is Important

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Imagine walking through a field where there’s only waist-high wheat as far as the eye can see. The golden colors contrast with the bright blue sky and white clouds, creating a gorgeous view. Now imagine that same field as a small animal, or even a child. The tall, seemingly-endless fields of wheat may evoke a sense of claustrophobia or fear of never finding your way out — or worse, the fear of running into a predator.

The lesson is simple: there’s power in perspective. Every future filmmaker should work to understand why each of the common camera shot types are important and how to best utilize them to tell their story. The best filmmakers know which shots work best to instill a specific emotion into their audience. Read our camera shots piece to learn more about popular camera shots and why they are useful.

3. Understand Social Interaction

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If there’s one thing you’ll discover by watching GoPro animal footage, it’s how social most species of animals are. From whales and penguins to wolves and gorillas, animals all over the planet interact with one another to the point where they even form their own societies! Vampire bats, for example, have colonizes ranging in the thousands that still manage to maintain a basic social structure and hierarchy.

The lesson to learn from animals? How people interact matters. Social context matters. The story beyond an individual character matters. This is why most movies receive a negative reception usually also have a cast of actors who are terrible at displaying genuine emotion. In other words, they fail to convince because you can tell they’re pretending. It’s when actors interact with one another and their world in a moving and believable way that you have viewers completely entranced by the characters. To achieve that as a filmmaker, it’s important to root your story in an environment and social context that audiences can understand.

Have a favorite animal movie or life lesson? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Plan an Effective Shooting Schedule

How to Plan an Effective Shooting Schedule

Given that it can quite literally make or break a production, the value of a good shooting schedule cannot be understated.

“But I’m not working on a multi-million dollar shoot,” many students of filmmaking cry. Or they protest, “I don’t have time to plan everything in advance.”

Herein lies the rub: whether you’re working on a summer blockbuster or a $500 short with a couple of friends, planning a shooting schedule will not only save you a lot more time than you put into it, but it’ll also make the experience a whole lot easier (and, ergo, more enjoyable).

You probably don’t have the luxury of a three-month shooting window. If anything, the more pressed for time you are, the more you need a shooting schedule.

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Don’t make the mistake of heading out to set determined to work it out as you go. A good shooting schedule will reflect in the quality of your finished production, so here’s a helpful guide on how to implement one.

Tips on Planning a Production Schedule

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to go ahead and assume you’re scheduling for a short or feature film (though much of the advice applies to TV scheduling too).

Get Everyone on the Same Page

You’re busy. Your assistant director is busy. The sound guy is busy. The cast are all off on other jobs.

We understand it. You’re busy.

All the more reason why it’s imperative to try and get as many of the pre-production staff as possible into an initial meeting, where you can discuss scheduling. And yes, this meeting in itself can be a feat of scheduling!

The aim here is to cut down on the amount of information you’ll have to relay to people not present for the initial meeting. There’s nothing worse than setting a preliminary schedule only to have to start from scratch when you later find out the cinematographer is unavailable for your proposed shooting week.

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Thankfully, in this day and age it’s easier to keep people in the loop…

There’s an App For That

Alongside the staples like Skype and Google Docs (if you’re not using cloud sharing in pre-production, start!) you’ll want to invest in a few killer scheduling apps. The main ones to check out are:

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ShotPro ($40) – more for pre-visualization than scheduling, but this will help you tie together your workflow ahead of the shoot.

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Shot Lister ($20) – available on iPad and iPhone, the Shot Lister app has long been a go-to for even professional filmmakers who want to compile a schedule for an entire crew (with the ability to edit in real-time.)

Read more: NYFA’s essential iOS & Android Apps for Filmmakers

Along with your favorite storyboarding and screenwriting suites, those two apps alone will take the sting out of the scheduling tail. With these downloaded, let’s move on…

The Fun Begins

With as much of the pre-production crew in one place and a blank calendar in front of you, it’s time to start … but where?

From the bottom up. Start by “lining” the script. Go through every single line of the screenplay and mark down every actor, extra, prop, costume, vehicle and special effect you’ll need, then compile that information into one long list.

From here, the next logical step is to transcribe your list onto breakdown sheets. These are key items in the planning process, giving you an at-a-glance look of what is needed for each individual scene.

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Breakdown sheets are fairly self-explanatory and easy to fill out. And as luck would have it, we’ve got a breakdown sheet template you can download!

Filling the Calendar

With a breakdown sheet for every scene, you can begin organizing the shoot itself. Start by grouping together scenes that can most easily be shot back to back, in one location. Disregard the chronology of the script; very few productions film in order from the beginning of the screenplay to the end. It’s all about efficiency.

Another golden tip is to aim to do all of your exterior scenes, as well as anything involving extensive special effects or crowd work, at the start of the shoot. If the weather conspires against you or anything else goes awry, you’ll be able to reschedule for later on. Leaving exteriors to the end of your shoot schedule is a sure way to tempt fate.

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Be prepared to cut shots, too. While you should try and shoot scenes from multiple angles wherever possible to give you extra options in the editing suite, don’t be under the illusion that you’ll have time to shoot everything on your storyboard. Always be on the lookout for things that can be sacrificed.

And lastly…

Add 10%

It’s a rule that has served many a filmmaker over the years: whatever time you think you need, add 10 percent.

That applies to the number of days on the schedule and to the length of each individual day, because there’ll always be something that crops up: setting up or breaking down the set taking longer than expected, a sudden rain cloud halting production for half an hour, an actor wanting to experiment, or simply forgetting to budget time for lunch and breaks!

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Scheduling a film shoot can seem like a herculean task, but tackling it one little bit at a time will help you conquer the dragon with as little headache as possible.

Best of luck, and don’t forget to offer your own advice learned along the way in the comments below!

Writing a Film Business Plan: What Should I Include?

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Film business plans. Whether you’ve learned how to make one in film school or not, it’s likely that it’s an essential aspect of your production that you could be overlooking at your own risk.

Those involved in making movies tend to be creative folk and view spending hours pouring over figures on a spreadsheet as anathema to the craft. Even some of the pros dread this unavoidable task… and don’t think that you’re not “pro” enough to get away without doing one.

Even if you’re operating on a micro-budget, it’s still a good idea to get to grips with the best practices of compiling a solid film business plan. It’ll help keep you right on path, it’s good practice for your future career, and it might just help you see the bigger picture and drive you to finish the project.

Today, we’re going to take the sting out of the tail by offering some guidance on how to get started.

You’ll also be pleased to hear that it’s nowhere near as arduous a task as it may seem, which brings us onto our first business plan tip:

However You Start, Make Sure You Start

As is often experienced in screenwriting, putting pen to paper in the first place is usually the hard part. Once you get going, you find your brain kicking into high gear (sometimes to the extent that it’s hard to stop typing!)

The same is true of film business plans. Initially, you might feel like the proverbial rabbit in headlights with no idea how you can possibly account for what you might be spending in the future. However, by starting with the very basic and known figures you do have, you’ll slowly begin to break the back of the spreadsheet and the rest should follow naturally.

And remember, you can always go back and revise things, so don’t be afraid to start jotting down random numbers with the intent to refine them at a later date.

Consider Your Audience

Not the movie’s audience; we’re talking about the people who are most interested in your film business plan.

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Don’t make the classic mistake of assuming investors and potential production collaborators want to see every dime and nickel accounted for, because they really don’t.

What they want you to answer as concisely (and accurately) as possible is this: How are you going to sell the movie, and what will be the return on investment?

And that’s it. Everything else is secondary.

Of course, you’ll probably want to keep a more detailed plan for your own reference and that can be produced if requested, but strip out extraneous details that won’t be of interest to an investor (they don’t want to know the hourly rates of every show runner working on set; they just want to know how much it’ll all cost.)

There are a few more sub-sets of this question that you’ll probably tackle along the way, including:

  • How are you spending the cash?
  • Why is this film sellable right now?
  • What is your sales/marketing strategy?
  • What share of the proceeds will you receive?
  • What share of the proceeds will investors get?
  • Are there any perks to investing in this film?

Thinking about these questions will get you ready to pitch your movie efficiently at the drop of a hat, and will help shape your business plan as you put it together. There are a number of other questions over on the Raindance website which you can expect investors to ask, so do check those out.

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And on the topic of how to go about answering a potential investor’s concerns…

What Should I Include?

The following is by no means exhaustive (and not all of it may be necessary for your particular business plan), but here’s the meat and potatoes that most filmmakers use to convey their pitch:

Outline: A very brief summary of the screenplayideally just your loglineand some key figures regarding financial requirements. Bullet points regarding your previous work (or any notable team members) may be of benefit but only if they really are selling points, otherwise, brevity is preferred.

Shooting Schedule: A detailed plan outlining every expected cost behind each scene of the screenplay, including any props needed, cost of travel to locations, and compensation to crew members. A highly important part of the business plan which you may want to work on with the rest of the team, this will be the foundation of an accurate budget projection.

Production Budget: The shooting schedule total, plus the overall production expenditure of the movie.

Marketing Plan: The movie’s target demographics, how you’re going to get it in front of them, and how much that advertizing will cost, as well as conversion rates between how many people you’re expecting to reach and how many of those will go see the movie/buy the DVD.

Distribution Plan: The costs, profits, and expected reach of physical media sales (and the same for online streaming.) If you have details regarding the profits you’re hoping to make from rights sales, this is the place to add them.

Revenue/Profit Projections: Based on extensive market research (rather than guesswork or comparing your film to something similar that was released back in 1992), here you’ll get the chance to really hook the investor by outlaying expected profits and how much of those they’ll receive.

Letters of Intent: A hugely valued part of the business plan which can really pull an investor. Don’t just stop at crew members; letters of intent from other investors really inspire confidence, and don’t forget to also hit up relevant insurance companies covering the production.

31-365 (Year 8) Accounts

You’ll want to close the package off with your executive summary—one or two pages delving more extensively into why the screenplay is a winner, the talent working on the movie and why the investor would be a fool to miss out (although not in those words, obviously!)

In Conclusion…

Rather than seeing your film business plan as an unavoidable headache, instead see it for what it is, i.e the tool you need to attract funding. Sounds a lot more alluring that way, doesn’t it?

Stay focused and get your film business plan nailed down as a matter of priority. The sooner you do, the sooner you can focus on the task at hand: getting to work on your big idea.

Best of luck!

Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Find A (Good) Film Producer

Or, more importantly, how do you find the right producer for your film?

It’s a daunting prospect for any filmmaker, let alone for independent filmmakers who may not have a huge collection of previous box office successes with which to market themselves. And in this scenario, finding a good producer is even more importantwhile just about any producer may be able to get a production financed, will they be able to go the extra mile and market it successfully to the right audience?

Getting the movie made is only half the job, and getting it seen is arguably the more important half.

And of course, this is a two-way street. Simply finding a producer who you feel would be perfect for the project is no guarantee that they’ll want to get on board; as writer and director Ryan Koo puts it, “Finding a producer is like dating: you need to spend some time getting to know the other person, and you’re not going to like everyone you meet. Nor is everyone going to like you back.”

Assuming you’ve already crawled through IMDB and the like to construct a longlist of possible matches, here’s the NYFA guide to:

Finding the Right Film Producer

Super producer Kathleen Kennedy.

Super producer Kathleen Kennedy might not be the right producer for your microbudget feature.

The operative word here is ‘right’, and ultimately, only you can decide on who qualifies for that distinction but the following tips will at least help you begin whittling down the list in search for ‘the one.’

Avoid Pigeonholing

If you’re looking to craft a movie which centers around the theme of, say, addiction and substance abuse, don’t discard any and all producers who have never tackled the topic before since it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to undertake it.

Also consider that just because a producer has worked on a number of titles similar to your own doesn’t mean they’ll want to retread the same ground againin fact, the converse is usually true.

Finding a Kindred Spirit

Given all of the above, it’s often wise to ignore producers who have worked in similar genres or themes and instead focus on those who share the same essence (for what of a better word.) Do they draw from the same influences? Approach storytelling in a similar manner? Do the kind of work you admire as an independent filmmaker? If their previous work makes it clear that they share the same sensibilities as you when it comes to making movies, you’ve potentially got a match.

Do Your Homework

This will come naturally in the process of finding out if they appear to be on the same page as you creatively, but you’ll also want to dig a little deeper and find out where they are in their career. It’s not uncommon for new filmmakers to make the mistake of trying to contact those who have retired from the industry, and it’s also a poor use of time to reach out to someone now working on multi-million dollar productions expecting them to drop everything to work on a micro-budget movie. The same goes for most producers who are working full time for a particular studio.

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Tyler Perry’s Atlanta-based Tyler Perry Studios offers opportunities for filmmakers from the area.

Location, to a lesser extent, is also a factor for considerationwhile the producer being based on the other side of the planet isn’t necessarily a locked door, it makes sense to focus your search (at least initially) to your local area.

Word of Mouth

Tying into the idea of casting your net locally, never forget the power of a personal recommendation. Proportionately speaking, most matches between directors, screenwriters, and producers are forged thanks to personal introduction and very few arise from random emails fired into the aether.

Attend Film Festivals

Don’t feel like you’ve got any contacts to hit up? Get yourself to as many film festivals and screening events as you possibly can, and that’ll soon be rectified. You’ll be surprised at how many golden opportunities arise in extremely strange ways…casually mentioning you’ve got a killer screenplay about the civil war to a key grip at an after party who then goes on to mention it to an agent who just so happens to have a client looking for a writer who’s got a killer screenplay about the civil war, et cetera.

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A group of producers at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival’s Producers Reception.

These million-to-one occurances happen nine times out of ten in an industry as close-knit as filmmaking, so get out there and start making ripples (while being courteous to everyone you meet, given that you don’t know who may be the catalyst to turn one of those ripples into a wave.)

And most importantly of all…

Be Courteous to the Producer

As a screenwriter or director, you’ll no doubt be familiar with that dreaded line: “Oh, that’s neat! I’m something of a writer myself…will you read my screenplay?”

Effectively this is what a producer gets on a daily basis, ad nauseum. And while it is his or her job to read and select screenplays, it doesn’t negate the fact that when you email a producer you’re asking them to give their time for free.

You may have already figured out that they’re a good match for you, but you should strive to make it as easy as possible for them to do the same. A full script is industry standard, but becoming increasingly popular is the idea of a “presentation package.” This typically includes a director’s statement, mood reel, any stills or promo shots available (compiled into a ‘cookbook’), and all related contact info and social media links…and definitely make sure you’ve got a strong logline!

This generally only applies to outreach that has been previously welcomed; with unsolicited inquiries, a simple two-paragraph email explaining the movie and why you’re contacting that particular producer is preferable. No need to send the full screenplay until it’s invited.

Above all, keep your initial contact brief, to the point and free from any kind of gimmickry. Even if things fall through, if your professionalism leaves a lasting impact it may earn you a coveted recommendation.

With a bit of luck and perseverance, you’ll hopefully find a perfect match with your producer-to-be. Best of luck!

PS: Before you write a single email, be sure to get intimately familiar with what a producer actually does! Our previous guide on the topic is a great place to start your research.

Learn more about the School of Producing at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Market Your Film On Social Media: 8 Rules To Live By

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Few words strike quite as much dread in a filmmaker’s heart than these, save for perhaps “film business plan,” but today we’re going to cut through the noise and help you get to grips with this essential task (even if you’re fresh out of filmmaking school.)

Each different social media platform comes with its own best practices and foibles, but here are eight surefire tips that work across the board when it comes to marketing your film using social media.

1. Be Personal

Unless you’ve been entrusted with running the official Twitter feed for Sony Pictures, you don’t need to adopt an ultra-formal tone.

People are more likely to respond positively to other people rather than corporate entities. For that reason, it’s even preferential to write in first person on social media (unless it’s a large group project), but at the very least make sure people know there’s a real person behind the account, and who that person is via the bio.

2. Give Something Back

You don’t want to lose the followers you’ve fought hard to attract, and you want to attract as many as possible.

To facilitate this, make sure you give something back to those who do take the time out to follow you—either physically via giveaways, or with exclusives to behind-the-scenes footage, cast interviews, desktop wallpapers and movie poster downloads… anything really, as long as your feed isn’t full of requests asking fans to do things for you (or repeated pleas for more followers.) That’s not likely to get the casual browser to hit that “follow” button.

3. Cast Takeovers

This idea works particularly on Twitter, in which you have one of the cast members take control of the movie’s official account to host a Q&A with followers. It may sound daunting, but trolls are few and far between (and there’s a mute button for that reason.) 99% of the time it’s a really fun experience for everyone involved, generates a lot of buzz, and lets fans know you’re keen to connect with them on a personal level.

4. Share Smart Content

Obviously sharing thing that will inflame the imaginations of your followers is social media 101, but how best to find said content in the first place?

Don’t overlook Google News; set up a few notifications for topics related to your movie, and you can be among the first to share it the second something intriguing lands in your inbox.

And an even better tactic is to share content you’ve created yourself—if that blog post, infographic, quiz, movie poster, or other piece of interesting content is hosted on your movie’s official website, you’re sending people in the right direction by sharing it!

5. Consider Outsourcing

If the thought of juggling myriad social media accounts and put into practice all of the above sounds daunting—or you simply don’t have the time—then don’t throw out the idea of hiring an expert if you’ve got the budget for it. After all, your time probably is better spent doing what you do best. That said…

6. Ask Questions

Before you let anyone near your social media accounts, draw up a long and detailed list of questions that they should be able to answer in full, especially when it comes to which films they’ve worked on before (they could be the best social media managers on the planet, but if they don’t know a lick about movie marketing, they won’t be much good to you.) Even once you’ve found someone you can trust implicitly with representing you and your movie online, do check in from time to time and make sure everything is going in the right direction.

7. Plan Your Budget

You may be thinking that you can skip budget planning if you’re going DIY with your social media management, but you’ll still be selling yourself short not to allocate some funding in your business plan for exposure.

You can get very far without spending a dime as long as you’re willing to pour a lot of time into it, but eventually it’s a case of diminishing returns. Consider throwing just a little money behind paid ads and sponsored posts (particularly on Facebook, through which it’s becoming increasingly tricky to reach even your own followers.)

8.  Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Marketing your film on social media might sound like a mammoth task, and if you look at it on a macro scale, it can be.

But don’t let hesitation keep you from getting your hands dirty. Unless you’re explicitly going out to spam and harass people (don’t), there’s not a lot of harm you can do by getting out there and experimenting. Conversely, you’re hamstringing yourself if you never actually start…

… so fire up the social machine, treat people like fellow human beings, have fun and good luck!

Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How NOT To Make A Movie: 5 Tips Every Amateur Ignores

Over the past year, we’ve shared a lot of great tips for those who are just getting started with filmmaking as a hobbyist, along with more advanced advice aimed at those who have already graduated from filmmaking school.

However, there are some fundamental nuggets of wisdom that frequently go ignored by newcomers (for reasons that nobody can quite figure out), setting back their progress by a considerable amount. Here are five of the most useful filmmaking tips that should never be overlooked, no matter your current level of experience.

1. Don’t Scrimp on Audio…

Spending the lion’s share of your budget to shoot on high quality (and really expensive) film stock will probably go unnoticed and unappreciated by 99% of the people watching the finished product. Shoddy audio quality, on the other hand, will ruin the watching experience for the same 99%.

audio mixing tips

Even if the audio sounds okay-ish in your studio cans while you’re in the editing suite, it doesn’t guarantee the same audio track won’t sound dreadful through massive speakers during a public screening, or even just a mid-grade TV.

Certain audio problems can be a real nightmare (if not impossible) to fix in post production, so don’t hamstring yourself from the get go—invest in good audio equipment before shooting, or hire a sound engineer who has their own and knows how to get the best out of it. A great sound editor who can make the final mix balance beautifully will also pay dividends in the long run.

2. …and Definitely Don’t Scrimp on Acting Talent

From the start, we need to state two things: filmmaking should be deeply enjoyable, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t become friends with those who you work with.

While keeping this in mind, however, you should also exercise extreme caution if you limit your casting choices to solely your close circle of friends. You’ll end up giving them unnecessary passes for their less-than-impressive work, unless your friends happen to be professional actors in the first place (in which case, capitalize on your good fortune!).

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Sure, hiring people who are trained in the field may cost you a bit, but again you won’t regret investing in real talent. A really good way to keep overheads low, without sacrificing on quality, is to buddy up with some acting school graduates—chances are they won’t charge an arm and a leg, are actively interested in expanding their body of work, and have a lot of talent ready and raring to go.

3. Listen to Outside Perspective

Okay, it’s admittedly paradoxical to list advice about taking advice on an article discussing advice newbies don’t actually listen to. However, not taking on board constructive criticism is one of the most common pitfalls a headstrong filmmaker fall afoul of.

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Don’t let this be you. If your DP, or lead actress, or any other professional you’ve hired has an idea on how a particular aspect of the production under their remit should be handled, take it on board. Same goes for any feedback you get from test screenings.

4. Don’t Just Make it Up As You Go Along

On a movie with a huge budget and in a world where time costs money, everything is planned to the Nth degree ahead of the shoot. Meetings with the director of photography are held ahead of time, extensive rehearsals with the actors are conducted, locations are scouted, the script is all but finalized, shot lists planned, and storyboards drawn up.

Why should your production be any different?

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Good planning costs nothing, so don’t just turn up on set and expect to get good results by muddling through the day. This often-ignored fundamental of filmmaking feeds into our final piece of advice…

5. Take Yourself Seriously

Again, filmmaking should be inherently fun (even if you’ll encounter moments in which you’ll want to tear your hair out!), but just because it’s fun doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat your own efforts with reverence.

It’s very common for new filmmakers to denigrate themselves, thinking that just because it’s their first short or that they’ve “only got a tiny budget,” their output doesn’t matter. It does, and you should treat your work the same as if you’d been commissioned by Hollywood to produce a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster.

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In short, don’t compare your chapter one with someone else’s chapter twenty. Put your heart and soul into it no matter what your limitations, and take pride in your achievements.

Best of luck!

 

9 Essential Books on Filmmaking and Directing

Even if you’re at the top of your game or currently getting hands-on at an intensive filmmaking school program, it can pay dividends to do some additional learning behind the scenes.

Thankfully, for those who live and breathe the craft, there are more than a few excellent books in which to immerse yourself and get even further ahead of the game…

… in fact, it could be argued that there are too many to choose from. With this in mind, join us as we separate the wheat from the chaff with:

9 Best Books on Filmmaking and Directing

The following is a summary of the best filmmaking books written by filmmakers, for filmmakers. Naturally, any list of this kind features a certain level of subjectivity, but all of the below are industry renowned titles and come highly recommended.

The Filmmaker’s Handbook

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The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age (2013 Edition) by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus

A staple of filmmaker’s bookshelves for well over a decade, the latest edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook has revitalized all of the essential knowledge which it has become known for and brought it right up to date. If you don’t own this book already, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

On Directing Film

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On Directing Film (1992) by David Mamet

David Mamet is heralded for both his on-stage work (for which he has won Pulitzer and Tony prizes) and also his work on the screen, having ratcheted up a couple of Oscar nominations. As such, Mamet has more than a few nuggets of wisdom to share throughout the pages of On Directing Film, making it a mandatory read for directors… or really, anyone working in film.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (1999) by Peter Biskind

While not a manual on filmmaking, Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders is essential reading in order to fully understand the foundations on which modern-day Hollywood was built. We could have chosen any title by this highly engaging cultural critic – Down and Dirty Pictures is also highly recommended – but Easy Riders is a great place to start.

Directing: Film Techniques & Aesthetics

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Directing: Film Techniques & Aesthetics (Fifth Edition, 2013) by Michael Rabinger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier

Another must-read for either those at filmmaking school or looking to make a career hop over to the director’s seat. What isn’t covered on the profession in this book could probably fit on the back of a postage stamp. From start to finish, this truly is one of the most comprehensive books ever written – and frequently updated – on the art and science of directing.

How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000

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How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000 (And Not Go to Jail) by Bret Stern (2002)

Coupled with one of the more authoritative, traditional tomes on filmmaking listed here, Bret Stern’s very liberating approach to the topic will have you on the road to becoming an indie maverick in no time. How To Shoot a Feature Film For Under $10,000 is guaranteed to revolutionize your approach to problem solving (and hopefully make you a much better filmmaker in the process.)

On Film-Making

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On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director (2005) by Alexander Mackendrick, edited by Paul Cronin

Alexander Mackendrick’s seminal volume on the craft of filmmaking has long been an industry standard text, and one that has helped countless individuals find their own cinematographic eye and achieve success in directing. Following the great director and teacher’s death in 1993, the various handouts he would give to his students were collated by Paul Cronin and presented in this book (with a foreword from Martin Scorsese.)

In the Blink of an Eye

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In the Blink of an Eye (2nd Edition, 2001) by Walter Murch

As a thought-provoking treatise on the practicalities and aesthetics of cutting film, In the Blink of an Eye is a book everyone who works in editing should read. Don’t be put off – this isn’t a technical manual on the hows of editing, but more of a meditation on the whys.

Making Movies

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet (1995)

Legendary director Sidney Lumet didn’t see filmmaking as magic, so this magician was more than happy to share his secrets. Lumet wasn’t just a visionary–he was very much a workman, and believed having a clear, firm control of his set would lead to a smooth production that would allow everyone, from crew to cast, to do their best. The five-time Oscar nominee backs up his ideas with sample shot lists and schedules and other practical templates filmmakers can use to this day.

Rebel without a Crew

While Mexican director Robert Rodriguez is now more known for his blockbuster epics like Alita: Battle Angel and the Spy Kids movies, Rodriguez first rose to prominence with his independent film El Mariachi, which he shot with only $7,000. One way he saved money was by serving as his own editor, cinematographer, writer, producer, director, and film scorer–roles he still fills for many of his much higher-budgeted films to this day. His guerilla-style, ultra low-budget take on indie filmmaking is detailed in his book Rebel without a Crew, a must-read for filmmakers who don’t have millions of dollars at their disposal to make the movie of their dreams.

Rebel without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez (1995)

Read any other excellent books on filmmaking that we should be checking out and including here? Don’t hesitate to drop your suggestion in the comments below, and let’s chat books! And check out NYFA’s filmmaking programs to learn more about movie making.

How To Become A Filmmaker: 5 Golden Rules

There’s no one ‘true’ path that can lead you to filmmaking success, but there are certainly a lot of best practices that can make the road a lot less bumpy.

If you’re at the beginning of what might feel like an impossible journey, don’t be daunted. Plenty of budding filmmakers have stood in the exact same place and gone on to great heights. Here’s five good rules of thumb that will get you on your way.

1. Don’t Go It Alone

There are more than a few hobbies you can take up solo, such as painting or writing.

Filmmaking is not one of them.

Technically speaking, it’s not impossible to handle all of the duties incorporated with making a film yourself, but you’re likely to find it a frustrating experience and not one that results in stellar work (which is why it’s hard to name any features which have a one-person film crew.)

How to become a filmmaker

A far more productive approach – even on ultra-indie, zero budget projects – is to find a few people who are as passionate as you. It doesn’t even matter if none of you have any experience; you’ll learn by doing a lot quicker with more people on board, and also have a great deal more fun doing so.

But what about taking things to the next level? For that, it’s important to recognize that:

2. Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

While anyone can be a filmmaker simply by virtue of picking up a camera and shooting film, becoming a professional filmmaker is a different thing altogether.

In an ideal world, those born with natural talent would be noticed right from the get go and thrust into the limelight. Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world, so it’s important to have your own long-term plan in place. That may mean spending a lot of time working low-end runner and camera jobs before being given more senior roles, although attending filmmaking school and gaining recognizable qualifications in the field can put you way ahead of the game.

filmschool tips

In short, lucky breaks will undoubtedly come your way but don’t hang your hat on the hopes that they’ll arrive any time soon. Focus on honing your talent and putting in the hours, and the opportunities will fall into place naturally.

With that in mind…

3. Revel In The Small Victories

It’s always easy to compare your Chapter 1 with someone else’s Chapter 20, but ultimately it’ll get you nowhere.

Your career in filmmaking will, hopefully, be a long one and filled with many ups and downs along the way. Be sure to not give yourself too hard a time when things go wrong, and remember to enjoy those blissful moments in which everything comes together… even if it’s something as simple as having a choice of filter pay off in the final cut.

4. Don’t Just Shoot. Read.

These days, even being extraordinarily talented at the art of filmmaking isn’t enough. To really succeed in the industry, you also need to keep on top of the industry itself, and that includes all of the goings on in terms of trends, business developments, and who all the movers and shakers are.

film industry blogs

Reading the trade publications – things like Variety, Hollywood Reporter or TV Week – are a great place to start, but they aren’t exactly cheap. However, you can always make your own RSS feed using an app like Feedly to create a morning reading list of free blogs that cover industry news.

5. Be Kind to Others

The last bit of advice – and one that anyone can live by – is a fairly easy one to put into practice.

It may feel like Hollywood is a gigantic behemoth of an industry, and in terms of the money it generates, it is. However, it’s a surprisingly small place when it comes to making a name for yourself; it’s a community of sorts, and one in which your reputation is your main calling card. Karma spreads wildly, both good and bad, so be sure to put your best foot forward going in.

More than anything, pay it forward. If someone drops your name and hooks you up with a sweet filmmaking gig, don’t forget to do similar favors to others.

filmmaking community

It’ll cost you nothing, and either way, the filmmaking community is a great one…

… let’s keep it that way.

The Best Sites for Green Screen Video Footage

Using green screen — or chroma keying — is a great way of reducing costs and making your film project fantastic, even if (or especially if) you’re on a budget. It can also make it possible to create footage and effects that wouldn’t normally be possible without an extensive amount of travel or costly set design.

best sites for green screen footage

We’ve previously covered the best practices of chroma keying as part of our broadcast journalism resources, but that leaves the question of where to get green screen footage from. Luckily, there are many companies out there that will provide you with whatever green screen footage that you need, from exotic locations to stock animal footage and beyond.

Some offer one off-sales while others run via a membership scheme, and there are even some sites which provide green screen footage free of charge. We’ve gathered 11 of the best sites for green screen video footage:

The Best Sites for Green Screen Video Footage

11. Motion Array

Motion Array offers over 160,000 stock videos, with various pricing plans available. Video footage includes everything from beautiful landscapes to office backgrounds.

The free option offers 1GB of storage while the $29/month plan offers 10GB and the $192 annual plan offers 20GB. 

10. Shutterstock Video

With over 2 million royalty-free videos and one of the most popular names on this list, Shutterstock makes for a useful site to use when thinking about greenscreen. The company has a wide range of categories to choose from including aerial shots, celebrities and time-lapse footage.

best sites for green screen video footage

You can either choose to download a single video at a time or you can select a bundle:

Low definition starts from $79 for 5 videos, standard definition starts from $299 and HD videos starts from $369. The site does offer 4k quality videos, but these are not currently included in a bundle and cost $299 per video.

9. Hollywood Camera Work

This site provides some free VFX Plates to download and test. It’s especially useful for film school students as there are some interesting shots that can be used to hone your skills, such as an embassy shoot out or an F15 fly over. It also has different effects like sunglasses reflections.

Hollywood camera works

There are some caveats for allowing you to use the clips, like linking back to the website rather than the video page and not hosting the videos yourself, but other than that, they are free to use.

The videos have been uploaded in HD at 1080p and 720p and the aspect ratios are provided. The site also confirms what ratio has been used so you can get the perfect shot.

8. Green Screen Films

free green screen footage

Green Screen Films offers an alternative if you are looking to use the footage for a commercial. It provides you with stock footage that can be used with the background of your choice, and there’s a range of options to filter through (including business, touch screen, and animals.) There is also the option for the site to create a video of your choosing.

Prices range from $19 for web quality to $129 for HD Broadcast.

7. Video Blocks

Video Blocks gives you the option of using one of their backgrounds or providing your own background for the footage provided. The stock green screen footage ranges from live dancers to studio sets, with clips being 100% royalty-free (and there are no hidden fees).

Green Screen royalty free

Users have unlimited downloads and the videos are regularly updated. Additionally, there are long term contracts, so you can keep the downloaded content indefinitely.

6. Dissolve

This site is for more professional projects, providing high-quality footage that can be used in advertising, corporate videos, and more alongside green screen footage. The site also provides great usage ideas to help you along.

stock footage

At $50 per clip, this site may not be for the filmmaker on a budget, but the quality of the clips is outstanding.

5. iStock

iStock is a popular site now run by Getty Images, and with that provides the type of quality you would expect from the stock conglomerate. It allows first time users to download one video for free, but thereafter charges for each download.

istock green screen

You can either chose to purchase credits at a cost of $30 for 3 credits or you can subscribe for a monthly discount. While pricey, the videos you purchase are royalty-free.

4. Pond 5

Pond 5 offers all sorts of stock photography and green screen footage. Like some of the entries above, it provides the video.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 19.43.36

The downloads are all royalty-free and you can search for the video you want using filters to whittle down the options. Prices are on a video by video basis but at $69 per download, the downside is that Pond 5 is fairly expensive.  

3. Green Screen Animals

Green Screen Animals offers what it says on the tin – videos of animals that you can superimpose onto any background you wish. Whether it be a roaring lion or an American bullfrog, this site can provide you with your exotic animal requirements.

green screen animal

Pricing varies quite a bit, but as an example, the cost of using the bullfrog video for an advertisement is an eye-watering $2,700 (which reflects the uniqueness of the footage).

2. Dreamstime

This site provides a wide variety of professional SD and HD royalty free footage, including 2D and 3D animation, travel footage, and animal footage. The pricing is based on a credit system, with SD quality costing 15 credits and 4k resolution costing 90 credits.

green screen stock footage

Although this is a British site, you can buy credit packages through PayPal for as little as $15.73 for 11 credits.

1. Footage Island

Footage Island is a YouTube channel that provides totally free footage for various projects, both personal and professional – perfect for those creating projects at film school. The uploader provides a wide range of handy green screen essentials such as flag animation, logo animation, surveillance security camera overlays, and things of that ilk.

youtube green screen

If the above sites are too expensive then you can always learn How To Create a Green Screen on a Budget. Know of any great sites for green screen video footage that we might have missed out? Help out the filmmaking community by letting us know in the comments below.

Interested in upping your game in the film industry? Check out New York Film Academy to learn more about the world’s most hands-on, intensive film programs.

How To Make A Website For Your Film

How to create a website for your film

It’s no surprise that in an age where everything is accessible through the touch of a screen, your existence is basically void without a website. So when it comes to promoting a film, sure, posters do a great job and have been a quintessential part of the process, but unless you’re identifiable on the Web, your audience reach will seriously suffer. I mean, there are only so many public bathroom doors and telegraph poles you can physically get to with hard-copy ads. Even if you had the funds to go as big as billboards, having a website instantly multiplies your chances of international stardom.

But don’t be discouraged by the technicality that goes into creating a website, because lucky for you, many wonderful tech-whizzes who’ve come before you have taken care of the hard part. Building one from scratch can be done without any HTML coding knowledge or graphic design skills. Here are 4 simple steps on how to get started:

1. Find A Web Host

Put simply, web hosting is when a company provides a location for you to place your website and makes it available to the world. Web hosts generally require a small monthly payment (usually around $3-$4 per month) but most of them also provide a service to register your domain name and easily install popular Content Management Systems (CMS) (we’ll explain what these are in a minute). Choosing a good web hosting service really comes down to your budget and how extensive your website’s requirements are, but your options are endless so a little research will go a long way.

2. Get A Domain Name

Your domain name is basically your identity or address on the Web e.g. thisisyourwebsite.com. It should be as simple, short and straight-forward as possible. Domain names can only be used once so when you register yours, you may have to try a few combinations to get something that hasn’t already been taken. Useful Tip: adding the word “film” or “movie” at the end of your film title is quite common as it’s simple yet still unique e.g. avengersmovie.com.

3. Install WordPress

WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), an application that allows you to build your website by essentially adding and managing content i.e. images, videos etc. The 3 platforms currently dominating the Web are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla but WordPress comes out at top as the most popular:

CMS Systems

And for good reason – it’s not only the easiest to use for non-tech-savvy individuals but it’s also free and offers tons of themes/layouts to choose from, along with great plugins that allow you to add all sorts of functionality (from search engine optimization to contact forms) without having to know any coding.

Almost all reliable web hosts have integrated a one-step WordPress installation option so just click away and you should be able to access your new WordPress site right away. The first thing to do after logging into WordPress is to choose a theme/layout to start building your site. WordPress usually has specific themes for specific website topics, including ‘movie website’ themes like so:

Avatar Website

Filmstar website

Twilight website

You can pay for themes that look fancier with greater functionality but don’t dismiss the free ones before checking them out – there are some killer free ones that still look high-grade and professional.

4. Add content & build pages

As complicated and high-tech as some big-budget Hollywood film websites may appear, they’re always short and simple when it comes to information and content pages. The standard things they’ll always include, however, are as follows:

  • A trailer
  • Release date information
  • Synopsis/storyline
  • Awards and nominations and/or critics’ ratings
  • Names of cast, crew members and all companies/studios involved
  • Images and videos of the main cast
  • Social media buttons and icons

Crash website

Boyhood website

Wolf of Wall Street website

Generally everything else is optional. It’s really up to you to add things like “About” pages or further information on the making of the film etc. Keep in mind, however, just as you would with a promotional poster, you don’t want to give too much away; focusing on powerful and artistic visuals is the key to instantly grabbing their attention and ultimately making them want to watch the film.

With that in mind, one thing you’ll most definitely want to get well-acquainted with is plugins. Plugins help you optimize the functionality of your site and make it look awesome whilst making life much easier for the user. Here’s a list of the Top 100 WordPress Plugins by Tom Ewer that should come in handy.

So there you have it! You’ll be well on your way to becoming a critically-acclaimed filmmaker in no time with your kick-ass website – with the added bonus of knowing you could always pursue graphic design or web development if that fails.

Best Websites for Promoting Your Film Online

So you’ve worked your way through film school, studied the craft from every angle and thrown everything you’ve learned at your debut film. Over the course of a few months, you see your creative vision come to life; the pieces slowly fall into place, and when they do, you have a polished film that you’re proud of and ready to show the world.

But that’s only half the battle. An arguably bigger challenge lies before you: actually showing it to the world.

best websites for promoting your film online

But don’t throw in the towel just yet. Scroll on and discover…

The Best Websites for Promoting Your Film Online

Filmmakers go to film school to study filmmaking – of course – and as a result are great at making films. On the other hand, the principles of marketing don’t always come second nature to creative types, but it’s an important side to the business filmmaking that can make or break a project.

Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to give your film the marketing push it needs thanks to these five great film promotion websites.

1. WithoutABox

WithoutABox is a widely renowned service that comes with a number of features, including avenues for self-distribution and a space to upload trailers and promo packages. But the biggest pull for filmmakers is that the site makes it exceptionally easy to submit to over 850 of the main film festivals around the globe, filterable by location, genre and entry fee (with prices ranging between no cost at all and $75.)

Film festival submission list

Signing up for the site itself is totally free, and it’s as useful for those who have finished screenwriting school as it is for filmmakers.

2. Short-Filmz.com

Made a short which you want to get out there? Head on over to Short-Filmz.com, fill out the two-minute submission form and you’ll be one step closer to finding your audience.

Film distribution resources
The site accepts submissions of every genre and displays them prominently on the homepage for prospective viewers, and singles out notable works for further promotion. It is also hosting a short film contest which is voted on by visitors. While the amount of traffic the site garners isn’t off the chart at present, it is noted for its curation quality by human editors and certainly worth the time it takes to list your short.

3. Sonnyboo’s TV Outlet List

Peter Ross, A.K.A Sonnyboo, has long been a champion of independent filmmaking, having been selflessly providing great resources to those out in the field since 1999. His TV Outlet page is a great example – a very comprehensive list of shows and networks that are actively seeking shorts, along with a concise description of what they’re looking for and how to submit.

4. IndieReign

As we’ve covered previously, Netflix is the golden bullet for an indie filmmaker trying to get their work seen, but it’s almost impossible to get listed and the rewards aren’t often as good as you might imagine. That’s where IndieReign comes in.

indie filmmaker promotion

A young start-up company designed to champion indie works and put power back into the hands of creators, IndieReign strikes a fine balance between sites like YouTube and Netflix by allowing indie filmmakers to upload their work directly. Aside from a 30% fee going to the site, all profits from sales and rentals go directly into the filmmaker’s PayPal account – given how intuitive and easy the platform is to work with, it makes for a great place which you can direct potential viewers to (assuming you’re not offering your film for free).

5. Distribber

Does the task of getting your movie listed on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and all the other VOD services give you a headache? Distribber may be a savvy way to go, given that it does all of the hard work for you.

VOD distribution

Distribber is, in effect, an automated distribution manager which hits up all of the main streaming platforms and even some major television networks (as well as giving you detailed tracking information for reviewing downloads, views and sales). While placement isn’t guaranteed for any particular store, it’s pretty much the best chance you’ve got of gaining a serious following of your film unless you’ve got strong contacts in the industry already. The charges can be fairly steep, but it is refunded if your film gets declined for any reason and you do get to keep 100% of the sales revenue from successful uploads.

Know of any more killer websites for promoting your film online? Help out the community by leaving your hot tips in the comments below!

**For more tips on promoting your film check out our article on How to Make Movie Posters to Promote Your Film.

Acting Tips: 12 Camera Shots Every Actor Should Know

When asked about the biggest piece of advice he could give to aspiring actors, Edward Norton once famously said, “The more you do your homework, the more you’re free to be intuitive; but you’ve got to put the work in.” That said, understanding film techniques is not simply a way to compliment your acting skills, but to showcase your professionalism and adaptability as an actor – something directors (and all importantly casting agents) love.

If you’re looking to work in film and television, it’s no secret you’ll have to get familiar with the camera and knowing the basic camera angles and types of shots can be hugely propitious for your skills to shine and build your acting resume. So here are 12 of the most popular camera shots all actors should know:

Types of Shots

THE AERIAL SHOT

It’s all in the name – the aerial shot is filmed from the air and is often used to establish a location (usually exotic and/or picturesque).

ICONIC EXAMPLE: The opening of The Sound of Music (1965).

THE ESTABLISHING SHOT

Again, it’s in the name – this shot is at the head of the scene and establishes the location the action is set on, whilst also setting the tone of the scene(s) to come. It usually follows directly after an aerial shot in the opening of films and is beloved by TV directors.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: The infamous New York City diner – Tom’s Restaurant in Seinfeld (1989-1998).

THE CLOSE-UP (CU)

This is perhaps the most crucial component in cinematic storytelling and is arguably an actor’s most important moment on camera. The close-up shot is usually framed from above the shoulders and keeps only the actor’s face in full frame, capturing even the smallest facial variations. As it eliminates any surrounding elements that may be relevant to the scene’s narrative, it’s really up to the actor’s skill and focus to shape the story.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: Opening scene of Alex DeLarge (Malcom McDowell) in A Clockwork Orange (1971).

THE EXTREME CLOSE-UP (XCU)

This shot is traditionally used in films and focuses on a small part of the actor’s face or body, like a twitching eye or the licking of lips in order to convey intense and intimate emotions. This unnaturally close view is used sparingly as the multiplication of the subtlest movements or details need to be justified in the dramatization and boldness of that particular scene.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: Charles Foster Kane’s (Orson Welles) mouth as he utters the famous word “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane (1941).

THE MEDIUM SHOT (MS)

Also referred to as a ‘semi-close shot’ or ‘mid-shot’, the medium shot generally shoots the actor(s) from the waist up and is typically used in dialogue scenes. It aims to capture subtle facial expressions combined with their body language or surrounding environment that may be necessary to provide context.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) converse in the bathroom in The Shining (1980).

THE DOLLY ZOOM

This shot sees the camera track forward from the actor whilst simultaneously zooming out, or vice-versa. So, the foreground generally stays the same while the background increases or decreases across the frame. First invented by Alfred Hitchcock in Vertigo to create a dizzying, vertiginous effect, it’s become one of the top film techniques among industry leaders in cinematography. However, as it’s a tough shot to get right, actors really need to be on their A-game when filming and a little patience goes a long way.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: The moment Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) realizes his worst fears have come true when first seeing Jaws. Jaws (1975).

THE OVER-THE-SHOULDER SHOT

This is where the camera is positioned behind a subject’s shoulder and is usually used for filming conversations between two actors. This popular method helps the audience to really be drawn into the conversation and helps to focus in on one speaker at a time. Seeing as the non-speaking actor is seen only from behind, it’s common for major production sets to substitute actors with stand-ins or doubles for these shots.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: Conversation between Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) and John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) about calling up the help of his ancestors in Amistad (1997).

THE LOW ANGLE SHOT

The low angle shot films from a lower point and shoots up at a character or subject, making them appear larger so as to convey them as heroic, dominant or intimidating. It’s also another way of making cities look empty.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: Basically every time a superhero (and villain) first appears in costume in every superhero film. But another noteworthy example, I can’t pass up is the shot of Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) during the trunk scene in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

THE HIGH ANGLE SHOT

In contrast with the low angle shot, the high angle shot films from a higher point and looks down on the character or subject, often isolating them in the frame. Basically the direct opposite of the low angle, it aims to portray the subject as submissive, inferior or weak in some way.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: Matilda walking up to the librarian for the first time in Matilda (1996).

THE TWO-SHOT

This is a medium shot that shows two characters within the frame. It’s pretty straight-forward but can be pivotal in establishing relationships between the characters.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) shooting Marvin in Pulp Fiction (1994). Yep, a two-shot of a two shots.

THE WIDE (OR LONG) SHOT

The wide shot normally frames the subject from the top of their head to their feet whilst capturing their environment. It’s typically used to establish the setting of the scene – so its similar to the establishing shot but focused more on characters and actors and the contextual relationship with their surroundings.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: When Jim Stark (James Dean) and Plato (Sal Mineo) first meet in jail and Jim offers Plato his jacket (with Judy — Natalie Wood– strategically in the background). Rebel Without A Cause (1955).

THE MASTER SHOT

Often confused with the establishing shot, this too, identifies key signifiers like who is in the shot and where it’s taking place. However, unlike the establishing shot that has a tendency to focus more on location, the master captures all actors in the scene and runs the entire length of the action taking place. This allows for other smaller shots like the close-ups shot or medium shot to then be interwoven into the master, showcasing different camera angles of the same scene. It’s usually the first scene to be filmed so by choosing a physical action that can be easily repeated throughout multiple takes can ensure the actor gets major brownie points from the director.

ICONIC EXAMPLE: When Travis Bickle joins his fellow taxi drivers Wizard (Peter Boyle), Doughboy (Harry Northup) and Charlie T (Norman Matlock) in the diner. Taxi Driver (1976).

Interested in pursuing Cinematography? Learn Acting tips or Film techniques at the New York Film Academy. Request more information here.  

How To Make Movie Posters To Promote Your Film

how to make a movie poster

You’ve managed to give up every social occasion that’s come your way in God knows how long; sacrificed all that income and more sleep than should be allowed for someone trying to maintain their sanity… and it all comes down to this – the masterpiece your inner creative genius had envisioned all along. Your film is brilliant and the only thing left is to share your art with the world. That or you’ve been the lucky one assigned to create the introduction to so-called genius’ masterpiece. Either way, promotion is imperative so first things first – you must make a poster.

Films have been promoting themselves with posters since the age of dawn – well, since around 1900 when French magician Georges Méliès produced the first motion picture, to be precise. Point is, it’s a tradition that lives on for good reason. We’re a visual species we are and a poster can be the best way to captivate an audience and leave them wanting more.

“So how should I go about making one?” I hear you ask. Well, here are a few helpful tips to get you started:

  • If you haven’t already, create a mind-map of your target audience and the message you want to send out
  • With the above in mind, think of some layout designs i.e. fonts, images, colors etc. that make your poster really pop
  • Research, research, research! The Internet is a wonderful thing and can give you an endless amount of information on different color schemes, font sizes or image placement and what they connote in order to send the right message
  • If appropriate with the theme and concept, make sure to get some great photo images of the main actors to include in your poster – audiences like to know who they’ll be seeing on screen
  • Get inspired – social networking platforms like Pinterest are amazing for design inspiration.

Here are a few examples:

> Movie Posters

> Minimalist Movie Posters

> Best Movie Posters

> Classic Movie Posters

> Overly Dramatic Disney Movie Posters

  • Get acquainted with editing software like Adobe Photoshop. I cannot stress enough how useful this tool can be for any task related to design – not to mention the money you’ll save doing it yourself.
  • Useful Tip: Use 300dpi resolution and CMYK color format. Also, every country has a different specification for movie poster sizes but the standard U.S. size is 27 inches in width x 40 inches in height, commonly referred to as “the one sheet”.

Here are some helpful guides on using Photoshop to make your poster:

> 12 Beginner Tutorials For Getting Started With Photoshop

> How To Design A Movie Poster In Photoshop

> Creating A Composite Movie Poster: Photoshop Tutorial

> Movie Poster Style Color Grading – Photoshop Tutorial

And also some handy links to free movie poster templates compatible with Photoshop:

> Film Poster Template

> Movie Poster Template

> Thriller Movie Poster Template

Whether you’re the all-encompassing filmmaker wanting to create your own movie poster or you’ve been assigned the job of creating one for someone else, these tips will ensure you get a good start in doing the film/masterpiece justice. And remember, keep it relevant – the poster is essentially the introduction to what the audience should expect from the movie so stick to a central theme. And lastly, be creative!

How to Pay For Film School: Student Financing Options

It would be disingenuous to pretend that attending film school – or any higher level education, for that matter – isn’t a costly endeavor. At the same time, it should be recognized that the costs associated with attending film school should be considered as a great investment rather than an unnecessary expense; graduating from film school can accelerate your whole career to follow and lead to better paying work, faster.

how to pay for film school

But the question of how to pay for film or acting school in the first place remains, and it’s one of the biggest concerns most prospective students have. Luckily, there are numerous ways to ease the financial burden. The main two for most students are loans and grants.

Student Loans for Film School

In the absence of a personal sponsor (i.e a family member willing to cover costs), most students rely on student loans to cover the bulk of the tuition fees and living expenses alongside part-time work in some cases. In fact, around 60% of the country’s 20 million college students rely on student loans to see them through.

The idea of taking on any kind of loan can be a daunting one, but bear in mind that a student loan can be one of the most affordable types of credit anyone is likely to be offered during their lifetime. Certain types of federal loans – given directly to the student by the government – are actually offered without any interest while attending school, these are known as ‘subsidized’ federal loans, so you won’t begin accruing interest on the loan until you begin repayment 6 months after you have completed or left the program. However, given that the government pays the interest for you in this scenario, subsidized loans are naturally more tricky to apply for as you’ll probably have to provide evidence that you’re really in need of the money. All applications for Federal student aid start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The Financial Aid staff is available to assist with this application and can be contacted by emailing: financialaid@nyfa.edu

Federal loans

Unsubsidized federal loans are made available to nearly every student who applies, and the interest rates are still remarkably low. And regardless of whether it’s a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, in most cases you won’t need to start paying it back until six months after you graduate.

How Much Will I Receive for my Student Loan?

There really isn’t a blanket answer to this question that wouldn’t run over multiple pages. This is mainly because the amount you’re eligible for varies on a wide number of factors, the main ones being:

  • Whether the loan is subsidized
  • If the US Department of Education determines you to be a dependent or independent student
  • To what level of education you’re studying (mainly under or post-graduate)
  • Your demonstration of financial need

In addition, the maximum limits for borrowing are set by Congress and are subject to change in any given year, but at the time of writing loan limits range between $5,500 to $12,500 depending on the factors listed above. Before borrowing, you should be clear on the total amount you will be required to re-pay and all repayment option available to you. The best course of action is to speak to one of our friendly Financial Aid experts who’ll be able to provide more personalized information and assist further.

Private Student Loans

While private loans offered specifically for studies come with attractive interest rates, they usually cost more in the long run than any kind of federal loan.

private vs federal loans

That said, if the maximum amount being lent by the government doesn’t quite cover your expected tuition fees and living expenses they can be the most affordable way to ‘top up’ your borrowing. Just be very aware of all the terms, rates and fine print before signing on the dotted line (as with any financial contract), and make doubly sure you understand the repayment terms and the implications of lapsing on these. More information on Private Loans can be found here.

Film School Grants and Scholarships

Who doesn’t like free money? That’s essentially what grants and scholarships are, but of course there are a few hoops you’ll need to jump through in order to find out if you’re able to get some. Once again, it largely depends on personal circumstance and the best thing to do is speak to the Financial Aid department. As an overview, the main distinction between grants and scholarships is that the former is usually awarded to those who are struggling financially, and demonstrate significant financial need, whereas scholarships are given to those who have displayed extreme academic prowess prior to applying.

Federal Pell Grants are offered to students that have completed a FAFSA and have been determined by the US Department of Education and the Financial Aid office at NYFA to be eligible for this grant program. Federal Pell Grant funds are gifts from the government and are not repaid. Grant awards vary per year and may range between $500 and $6,195 per calendar year.

Additional resources include State grant awards as well as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG). The Parent PLUS loan program is another option.

NYFA is a proud member of the Yellow Ribbon program, a voluntary grant program which supplements the educational benefits given to veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill – factoring in the combination of educational benefits and tuition assistance offered by NYFA, it’s often the case that all of the veteran’s tuition fees are covered. Similar tuition assistance are offered to those who are registered with a disability, and the New York Film Academy also offers tuition assistance to students demonstrating financial need.

film school scholarships and grants

All in all, there are plenty of options out there for those wondering how to pay for film or acting school. All that remains is to check out the various options based on your individual situation, decide which is best for you, then prepare to embark on the biggest turning point of your career in cinema.

Best of luck!

BFA Film vs BA Film: Which Is Best?

An amazing career in filmmaking often starts with a great education, and prospective students have more than a few options to choose from in this regard. Since the great rewards that come with having a high profile degree often require years of study to attain, the decision of which film degree to go for can be a huge one (and, of course, it is not one that should be taken lightly.)

BA vs BFA Filmmaking

One of the biggest crossroads which prospective film students find themselves at involves the differences between the BA and BFA film programs. If you’re currently asking yourself “BA vs BFA Film: which is best for me?”, read on as we discuss the distinctions between these two popular filmmaking degrees.

BA vs BFA Film Programs

Both the BA and BFA film degrees are designed to give students of the craft a deep understanding of what goes into creating a movie masterpiece, as well as how the industry as a whole operates. With this in mind, does it particularly matter which one you choose?

BA or BFA Filmmaking

In one sense, not particularly; both are recognized qualifications and will set you up for career success following graduation. But if you’re a very motivated student who wants to dig a little deeper and get more out of your time at film school, you’ll probably fare better embarking on a BFA in film.

Benefits of Choosing a BFA

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, as the name implies, provides a slightly more in-depth study of the craft (as a whole) and as a result is more intensive.

This is evidenced by the fact that a BFA degree can take longer to complete than the BA equivalent – usually four years vs. three years – though it should be noted that BFA Film degrees can be completed in three years when done on an accelerated basis (i.e. three semesters per academic rather than two).

BFA Filmmaking degrees

One of the added benefits of undertaking an accelerated BFA degree is, of course, the time saved; you’ll be able to start your career a year early and begin the process of gaining internships and netting paid work while standard BFA Film students are still completing their final year. A natural follow-on from this is the financial benefit of saving on tuition and living expenses which would have been otherwise used up by a fourth year of study.

Other considerations that should be made when weighing up your options include:

  • Will you be able to work with numerous film formats, e.g. 16mm, 35mm, HD and RED Dragon?
  • Does the course structure only cover a single aspect of the filmmaking process, or will you get the chance to master screenwriting, directing, producing and editing for a more well-rounded understanding?
  • Does the film school location allow for a variety of shooting locations?
  • Is the program solely grounded in academic/theoretical study, or will you be learning through actually making films during the course of the year?
  • Will you graduate from the program with a polished and usable portfolio of completed film work which you can use to gain professional work?

Our own BFA in Film program – conducted at our Los Angeles campus – is worth checking out since it ticks all the right boxes in terms of offering a well-rounded learning experience. Students will also delve deep into liberal arts and science courses to help supplement the core understanding of the filmmaking process; students won’t simply learn how to shoot film, but will also gain an in-depth knowledge of how and why certain techniques are (and have been) used.

bfa-film-1400x500-2

Ultimately, a filmmaking student should be looking to find his or her own cinematographic ‘voice’, and a BFA Film degree can help you achieve just that. If you’re exceptionally motivated and ready to begin the first step of an intensive journey in film, head over to the program page and check out the full details of what might be the biggest turning point of your career.

MA or MFA Filmmaking: Which is Best?

Those who are interested in taking their acting studies to the the next level may well be considering an MA or MFA in Filmmaking program – afterall, both qualifications are of the highest standing recognized by the industry and other filmmakers working within it.

The question is, which one is best?

MA or MFA Filmmaking

To a certain extent, there’s no catch-all answer to the MA or MFA Filmmaking conundrum given that it largely depends on the filmmaker’s background and chosen career goals. However, it is a major decision (and quite possibly one of the critical decisions a filmmaker might make), so it’s well worth understanding the fundamental differences between the two programs before diving in.

Firstly, let’s discuss what each program offers to prospective students, and what’s required in order to complete the program.

MA Filmmaking

What It Is: The MA in Film and Media Production offered by the New York Film Academy is a professional graduate program which is designed to immerse students deep within the filmmaking process. This is achieved primarily through practical course work – over the course of a single extended academic year (comprised of three semesters per year), students will create no less than 8 films and collaborate on many more.

MA Filmmaking degree

The film creation process doesn’t just hone the student’s shooting prowess – on each of the film projects embarked upon, the filmmaker will also have their writing, directing and editing skills pushed to the limits. Intense classroom-based learning focusing on cinematography will kick off each semester, with theory learnt being put into practice on four short films. The latter half of each semester will predominantly cover the finer aspect of screenwriting (particularly dialogue) and advanced editing practices, all of which culminating in a further four films being created from scratch.

Who Should Apply: The MA in Film and Media Production is ideally suited to students who have a natural aptitude for writing and filmmaking, but are looking to gain advanced skills in order to better execute their ideas in a way that does them justice. It cannot be understated, however, that the MA program is a very intensive course and only those who are willing to immerse themselves fully in the hands-on nature of the craft should apply. It is also more theoretically-focused than the MFA program, which is something to keep in mind based on your goals.

MFA Filmmaking

What It Is: The MFA in Filmmaking is an extremely comprehensive program. Even more so than the MA in Film and Media Production.

Difference between MA and MFA

The Master of Fine Arts is, as the name would suggest, a highly specialized degree and arguably the most revered qualification a filmmaker can achieve. Although the MFA Filmmaking program differs from the MA in that it is a two-year program and more focused in hands-on learning; during the two years of accelerated study, those on the program will use industry-grade equipment under professional tuition in order to write, direct and edit 10 short films (and work on around 28 others).

At the end of the MFA program, students will have created a polished final film as part of their master’s thesis and will have written a full 90-120 page script. In addition, students will graduate with a knowledge of not just ‘how’ to apply the numerous skills necessary to make a great film, but also the ‘why.’ This deep, theoretical understanding of the craft – along with what works and what doesn’t – will follow the MFA graduate with them for the duration of their professional career following the program.

MFA filmmaking program details

Who Should Apply: This is a fully comprehensive study program geared towards filmmakers who wish to explore every facet of the filmmaking process. Those looking for an in-depth and first hand knowledge of not just the latest filming and editing equipment but also the techniques used in modern cinematography should definitely look into the MFA filmmaking program.

So Which is Best… MA or MFA Filmmaking?

Make no mistake about it – this is a great crossroads in your life as a filmmaker, and what you choose to do next might change the trajectory of your career to come in big ways. The choice to study at either the MA or MFA Filmmaking level will undoubtedly pay dividends, so congratulations for making the next step!

Ultimately, however, the decision as to which program to go for lies with the individual. Ask yourself what you want from your filmmaking program, and choose the one which best matches your personal goals…

… once you’ve done that, it’s time to take your filmmaking to the next level.

Where to Shoot Film in LA

Scouting locations for your film can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of preproduction, and carries with it a tremendous artistic, practical, and financial impact on your project.

where to shoot film in LA

Whether you’re simply looking for a space to hold auditions and rehearsals or need a dramatic-looking location for use in the final cut, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Here are tips for finding the right locations in LA, particularly for those on a budget.

Rehearsals & Meetups

If you’re lucky enough to attend one of the more prominent LA film schools, chances are you already have access to a dedicated rehearsal and/or meeting place with which to work with your talent and crew. Faculty and staff should be able to assist in finding a suitable place to work on campus.

If you find your needs require an off-site location for casting or rehearsing, Los Angeles is full of studio spaces, galleries, dance studios, movie theaters, and stage theaters for rent.

rehearsal space LA

Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of all LA theatres – while not every one will have an available space for rehearsals and meetups, many of them will.

There’s also this handy service that could potentially save you a lot of searching: SpaceFinder LA.

While not initially intended specifically for filmmakers, plenty of directors and producers have found value in the site’s clean interface and ability to quickly narrow out places which are available for casting/rehearsing/shoting. The site itself is free to use, and there is an impressive number of locations which are able to rent. A calendar function allows you to check availability directly through the site, and it’s possible to filter by either hourly or daily fee (options also exist for work-study or barter basis locations).

A polite phone call is undoubtedly the best way of securing the best rates for a space, and many of them will offer discounts to filmmaking students.

Film Shoots

Needless to say, there’s no blanket answer here given that where you need to shoot depends entirely on what your script calls for. The above-mentioned SpaceFinder LA is a great resource, as is http://variety411.com/.

Make sure you find a location that not only serves the needs of your story, but one that can accommodate your particular production. Working with large casts or crews, children, animals, special equipment, irregular hours—these are all important considerations when selecting a location. Always remember that with movie magic you can turn a studio, stage, or other space into another location. Set design, set dressing, visual effects, and sound design can go a long way to creating a believable setting.

The most important thing to remember when renting ANY location for any purpose is to get a very clear agreement in writing with the location owner before committing to it. Also, make sure you’re dealing with the actual owner; a tenant may not have the authority to rent out a space.

where to shoot in LA for free

Revising The Script: When All Else Fails

One final thing worth noting is that if you’re really struggling to find a location within your budget, the solution may be to rewrite the script to make it appropriate to the budget. You’ll be amazed at how much time, effort and money can be saved by a quick rewrite that will put your characters in a more attainable location. You won’t have to rent an entire airport terminal if you can instead set that welcome-home scene in a car in front of the airport.

shooting film in LA locations

More often than not, good filmmaking is adaptive filmmaking.

For additional reading you might also like our article on the best film locations in Los Angeles.

The Zero-Budget Filmmaker’s Checklist

The first challenge of independent filmmaking is always finding the budget to do what you want to do. Unless you happen to have a few angel investors in your pocket, you’re going to be faced with some difficult decisions when it comes time to start filming.

What separates successful low-budget filmmakers from failed hobbyists is creativity, willingness to learn a variety of skills, and recognizing which things can be cut without hurting the final product. If you’ve got an MFA in Film you probably have a keen eye for this already, but the time will come when you’ll need to put theory into practice with very little money.

To help focus your efforts on what really matters, we’re proud to present something that should be on every filmmakers’ bookmark list:

The Zero-Budget Filmmaker’s Checklist

In general, aside from technology and location, the biggest expenses in making your film will be hiring professional services. The more of these things you’re willing to learn to do on your own, the more money you can save. On the other hand, becoming a “jack of all trades” filmmaker can stretch you too thin, and certain things really deserve to be done by a professional.

filmmaking no budget

By all means, spend some time researching every aspect of film, from writing to lighting, makeup, sound, and even acting. The more you know about these things, the more easily you’ll be able to identify a professional who really knows his business from a cheap amateur who’ll leave you with an inferior product. Along the way, if you find anything that you’re really good at doing, you can work on polishing those skills.

“Must Haves” for Any Film Project

In any project, there are the things that would be nice to accomplish, and the things that are absolutely vital to the success of the film. Recognizing those categories early on is the most important thing you can do to keep your film within budget.

Here are a few things you can often afford to trim:

  • Multiple cameras. While covering a scene from multiple angles sounds like a great idea, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. In fact, shooting with just one camera cuts back on a lot of headaches: You don’t have to worry about synching sound, adjusting white balance, worrying about consistency or training multiple cameramen. Whether you’re behind the single camera or you hire someone to handle it, it’s so much simpler to shoot with just one, and using a single camera enables you to spend a bit more money on buying a really nice one.

Multiple cameras filmmaking

  • Special effects. The easiest way to keep your movie affordable is to start with a quiet script that doesn’t call for many effects. Even if you’re shooting an action movie or horror film, though, you can work around many expensive effects. Don’t discount the value of off-camera violence and easy camera tricks instead of pricey CGI.

visual effects on a budget

  • Film. Format doesn’t matter. Shooting film won’t make you more artistic – it will just bleed out your wallet and limit you to the amount of footage you can afford to shoot. Unless you happen to have a high-end camera and a stockpile of film already, buy a decent digital camera and get on with your life.

film reel shooting celluloid

In general, these are a few things that you cannot afford to cut corners on:

  • Sound quality. Poor sound will stop a movie dead in its tracks, and it can be impossible to repair sound in post. Check your sound frequently and re-shoot or record anything that needs fixing immediately so you don’t risk having to scrap everything due to unusable sound.

sound editing

  • Lighting. This is one of those things that you never notice until it’s done wrong. Bad lighting can ruin a shot and screams “amateur” to anyone who watches it. Keep your budget low by sticking with simple lighting choices if you must, but don’t scrimp on the necessary equipment.

Lighting filmmaking

  • Quality talent. Your actors are the thing that the audience will be paying the most attention to, and it’s worth the investment to find good ones. An excellent performance will often redeem an otherwise mediocre film, which gives you some leeway in case other things don’t go as planned.

MFA filmmaking

Bear in mind that you don’t necessarily need high-cost professional actors to get a good performance – newly-graduated students fresh out of acting school are a great source for exceptional yet affordable talent, as long as you don’t mind the extra time it takes to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In addition, one of your greatest skills as a director needs to be coaxing a performance out of your actors. In fact, this may be the single most important thing you can do for your film. Take some time to study live theatre and see how stage directors and actors interact; take cues from this to help you get the most out of your own cast’s performance. In the long run, becoming an “actor’s director” will help you make better movies – and earn you a positive reputation among actors who will be eager to help you on your next project.

Filmmaking Meetup Groups in Los Angeles

By its very nature, filmmaking is a collaborative art form and it’s far more enjoyable – and usually a lot more successful – when done with others. Question is, where best to find like-minded individuals?

If you’re honing your craft in LA or attend a one of the more prominent Los Angeles film schools, you’re in luck; there are a number of meet-ups in the city which are well worth attending and cater to numerous different professions and experience levels.

Five of the Best Los Angeles Filmmaking Meetup Groups

Meetup is a great platform for connecting with others in the field, and there are more than a few groups out there. To this end, we’ve whittled down the list to five of the most active and welcoming groups that any filmmaker in the Los Angeles area should strongly consider joining.

LA Filmmakers Movie Meetup

Members: 110
Type: Informal
Catered to: Anyone involved in the filmmaking profession

Burbank Filmmaking Meetup Los Angeles

One of the best ways to advance your own craft is to critique the works of others, and that’s exactly what the Movie Meetup group is all about.

Meeting up around twice a month at AMC Burbank, the steadily growing group sit down to watch both current box office movies and lesser-known flicks from years gone by before informally chatting about it from a filmmaker’s standpoint. Come for the networking, stick around for the relaxed atmosphere and film appreciation.

Los Angeles Filmmakers Network (LAFN)

Members: 471
Type: Educational/Networking
Catered to: Those looking to start a career in filmmaking (any discipline)

LAFN Los Angeles Filmmaking meetup

A perfect group for those who are early on in their filmmaking journey or are yet to decide which career path to take, LAFN is dedicated to providing a supportive networking environment.

Numerous seminars have been given in the past by industry professionals (and webinars for those not able to make the physical meetup), and even filmmaking partnerships have been founded via the group in the past. A series of workshops is scheduled for the near future based around Paul J. Salamoff’s world-famous book On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette.

Los Angeles Film & TV Meetup

Members: 6215
Type: Semi-formal
Catered to: All disciplines, any experience level

LA film meetup

Advance screenings, filmmaking seminars, red carpet events and simple meetups at the bar – this group offers a plethora of opportunities to get involved and meet others who live and breathe film.

Although a little more formal than the other meetup groups on this list (it’s expressly stated that it is not for those who just want to socialize), it is open to anyone in the Los Angeles area regardless of their level of expertise or their role in the filmmaking process.

Neon Venus Art Theatre Meetup

Members: 2221
Type: Networking/Screening
Catered To: Active filmmakers

Neon Venus Theatre LA

If you’re based in Los Angeles and need help in bringing production to a finish, this is the group for you.

From pre to post-production, there’s always a number of helpful people in the group who are willing to offer expertise and connections – just remember to pay it forward and help others in need when the time comes.

The venue itself also has a very welcoming presentation space with a stage and screen, which is regularly used for screenings and presentations from the group (can host about 40 attendees).

NewFilmmakers LA

Members: 1831
Type: Screening
Catered to: Indie filmmakers

NewFilmmakers LA

A non-profit group operating out of Sunset Gower Studios (on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street), NewFilmmakers LA is a celebration of the works created by brand new filmmakers, both LA-based and around the globe.

Regular screenings provide a good opportunity to hook up with other filmmakers and network with leading professionals. Also not to be missed are the open forum discussions focusing on various aspects related to the craft.

Career in Film: Average Salary & Career Paths

Entertainment and filmmaking are famously cutthroat industries, and the amount of competition for comparatively few jobs can be daunting for those looking for a break.

Hopefully, this article will help you gain the competitive edge and help you zero in on one of the various jobs in film that are out there. We’ve listed each of the main professions within filmmaking below, along with the average pay check you can expect and how difficult it is to break into it at a professional level (not necessarily the difficulties of actually conducting the job). We’ve also covered the general career path most people take – for instance, do you need an MFA in filmmaking degree, or can you sneak into paying work on experience alone?

N.b Average earnings should be taken as a rule of thumb only; some professions are predominantly conduced on a freelance or self-employed basis, which can result in wide margins, and location can also constitute a big varying factor.

Here is a list of 9 different careers in film:

1. Director

Directors jobs

The head honcho responsible for everything that goes on while on set, the film director is at the top of the production pyramid and is in charge of best translating the screenplay to celluloid. As well as having to possess in-depth technical knowledge and a strong understanding of each person’s roles, the director also needs to shape good relationships with the talent and everyone else involved in order to get the best out of the production.

Director Career Path: Formal education is strongly advised – either via a BFA or an MFA in filmmaking – as getting onto the first rung of the ladder can be highly difficult without it. In addition, a good internship on the set of a movie is usually the first stepping stone to becoming a fully-fledged director.

Pros: The job satisfaction when a production goes well can be off the chart, and a director with a leading reputation will rarely find themselves out of work.

Cons: Sandwiched in between the bowing to the producers’ demands and keeping a whole team in check (plus the possibility/reality of a thousand things going wrong), it can be an extremely stressful position.

Difficulty: 9/10

Director Salary: Median is $65,000, but the mean average is very difficult to calculate.

2. Producer

Movie producer jobs

One of the most misunderstood and nebulous terms in filmmaking, a producer is primarily in charge of finding a script and then turning it into a movie on time and on budget. The actual responsibilities can vary massively depending on the job at hand – some producers also direct, and vice versa – but the general act of producing involves all of the off-set logistics that go into bringing a film to life (and especially the business side.)

Film Producer Career Path: As with directing, a very strong grasp of the technical aspects of filmmaking are required and that usually entails formal education in filmmaking (any business experience is also beneficial).

Pros: Simply put, the money.

Cons: If you hate spinning plates and trying to balance a thousand and one conflicting demands, it’s not the job for you.

Difficulty: 9/10

Film Producer Salary: While there are numerous levels between associate, assistant and executive producer, the average salary can be upwards of $70,000 and even double for those working in LA. If working for royalties, the sky can be the limit.

3. Set Designer

set designer jobs

From the blueprint level to the finished construction, a set designer usually has to take the rough drawings and ideas from the production team and turn them into realistic, fleshed-out builds that can be used by the film crew and talent.

Set Designer Career Path: While specialist training in this field is available, it is wholly possible to start out on small-scale and indie productions (especially in theatre) before attracting larger gigs from an ever-increasing range of contacts.

Pros: No two days are the same, and it’s a job in which problems can only be solved with a high level of creativity.

Cons: Set designers don’t get nearly as much limelight as they deserve given how integral their work is to the finished product!

Difficulty: 6/10

Set Designer Salary: If you work directly for one of the major studios, the annual salary can be as high as $70,000 but this is rare — most movie set designers work freelance, and average $40k – $50k.

4. Director of Photography

Cinematographer jobs

A director of photography – sometimes dubbed the cinematographer or by the abbreviation DP – is pretty much the right-hand assistant of the director, and is usually entrusted to bring together and coordinate the various departments on set (lighting, sound, camera operators and talent). The key staff from each of these areas will consult with the DP on how best to bring the screenplay to life, and he or she in turn will liaise with the director.

Cinematographer Career Path: Most directors of photography work their way up from more junior roles, particularly those which involve camera work or design.

Pros: It’s a challenging yet rewarding job which allows for a lot of creativity, but slightly less pressure from a business sense that the producer/director must contend with. The pay isn’t too bad, either.

Cons: Involves a lot of extra-curricular learning to keep up to date with set equipment and practices, and the hours can be bizarre. It’s also not as luxurious as some might imagine, as you’ll probably end up helping with all the backbreaking work of lugging equipment around.

Difficulty: 8/10

Director of Photography Salary: Between $60k to $70k, although the road to becoming professional can be a long and not entirely lucrative one.

5. Costume Designer

costume designer jobs

More than simply being able to draw some outfit ideas on paper, a costume designer is charged with a heavy amount of research depending on the genre of film as well as the conception and creation of costumes. An imperative part of the role also involves fitting the costumes correctly to the acting talent, as well as negotiating contracts and overseeing any clothing rentals.

Costume Designer Career Path: Fashion school rather than film school is the way forward for any costume designer, although someone with sufficient skill and talent can work their way up from low-level theatre positions.

Pros: One of the most creative jobs in filmmaking, with the fruits of your labor right up in the forefront of the finished product.

Cons: The starting salary can be very low for the amount of hours you’ll need to put in, and a lot of your time could be consumed with hunting for more work.

Difficulty: 7/10

Costume Designer Salary: Not much more than $40,000 at the top level of experience.

6. Prop Master

prop master jobs

Very few movies require no props, and it is the prop master who has to ensure they’re all available for use on set, work as they should and fulfill the director’s (or cinematographer’s) vision. The prop master is sometimes entrusted to oversee continuity during shooting, advising the DP whenever a prop has moved out of sequence.

Prop Master Career Path: Some prop masters go down the academics route with a related design, art or history-related degree, while others work their way up with on-the-job training (often getting into it while performing other roles on set, such as set design).

Pros: You might get to shop for luxury cars or incredibly cool gadgets!

Cons: You’re just as likely to spend weeks on end trying to find things as mundane as soda bottles, tables and curtain valances.

Difficulty: 5/10

Prop Master Salary: Can vary a lot since the vast majority of prop masters work freelance, but expect $30,000 a year outside of California and $60,000 a year within Hollywood.

7. Makeup Artist

Makeup artist jobs

Individual in charge with the application of makeup on the actors, actresses, and extras. The Make-up Artist is also responsible for preparing a makeup schedule and for supervising and coordinating with other members of the makeup department, including assistants, body makeup artists, special effects makeup and hair stylists.

Makeup Artist Career Path: The beauty industry is booming and it’s comparatively easy to find makeup work in other fields, but there aren’t many openings for makeup artists looking to work specifically in movies (either via an agency or by going freelance.) As such, any advantages you’ve got – including formal beautician training – can help secure work.

Pros: Makeup work for movies is very much as enjoyable and varied as it sounds, with some gigs requiring an extreme amount of creativity. You’ll also be summoned to numerous locations during your line of work, and yes, you get to have lengthy conversations with stars while you’re working your magic.

Cons: Very long hours, and the competition between makeup artists is brutal right now.

Difficulty: 8/10

Makeup Artist Salary: Extremely good, although as mentioned there can be long periods without work. If you are lucky enough to be able to work full-time, you can earn between $60,000 and $90,000 per year depending on location.

8. Movie Editor

movie editing jobs

Once production is wrapped up, it’s down to the editors to work through all of the usable takes and assemble them into a flowing narrative. The editing team works closely with the director in order to establish exactly what’s to be included in the final cut and in what way. 

Movie Editor Career Path: Most openings call for specific qualifications, either from film school or a related audiovisual degree, but a good show reel is equally as important for securing paying work.

Pros: It’s a delightfully insular job for those who like getting really lost in the finer minutiae of their work, and there’s a good level of job satisfaction to be had from taking a mountain of random footage and whittling it down into a slick, cohesive film.

Cons: It can be repetitive — hours can be spent just to perfect a two-second cut — and you’ll often have to redo the same task over and over again at the behest of an indecisive director.

Difficulty: 6/10

Movie Editor Salary: Generally between $40,000 and $50,000, and the amount of work out there is fair.

9. Composer

film score jobs

One of the very last (but no less important) people to add their work to a movie is the composer. Arguably up there with the acting talent in terms of breathing emotional life into a movie, the composer works directly under the director to provide an original score over the top of the final cut.

Film Composer Career Path: Of course, a deep and technical knowledge of music is essential, so formal music training is almost a prerequisite to entering the profession (but that hasn’t prevented highly skilled individuals work their way up from scratch.)

Pros: For anyone who is passionate about both music and film, there’s no finer job – not only will you get to create music that can potentially move a large number of people on a very deep level, but you’ll get to work with many like-minded individuals.

Cons: It’s not always as creative as it sounds – you’ll have to work around the movie editor with your score timing, not the other way around.

Difficulty: 7/10

Film Composer Salary: Impossible to provide an average, mainly because the flow of money in film scoring can get very complicated depending on the contract arranged with producers.

We hope this summary is useful as you contemplate your preferred path within the entertainment industry. Ready to learn more about filmmaking, producing, editing, and more? Check out New York Film Academy’s many filmmaking-related programs.