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 to help you become a filmmaker.
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 by yourself, but it’s more likely to be 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.)
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.
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.
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.
It’ll cost you nothing, and either way, the filmmaking community is a great one…
… let’s keep it that way.