There are some tough lessons to learn as a filmmaker. It’s really hard to break into the film industry, and even then, once you’re in, sometimes it’s not enough to make a living. Over the years I’ve seen a pattern emerge, where really talented filmmakers with some great ideas, even great projects get nowhere, and there’s a reason why.
What I’d like to share with you here, is basically some of those areas that hold people back. Now this may not apply to you, but there are certain things that can always be improved, so if you’re really stuck, and you’ve got the burning desire to make a living from your filmmaking skills, take a look at some of these reasons, and see if there are some ways you can re-focus your energy to succeed.
Here we go :
One of the things that really hold people back is repetition. For example. You’re hoping to make it big with a film festival screening. You’ve made a brilliant short, it’s got some good success, and even recognition. Round 2, you’re doing it again, with the same result, but, how is that helping you earn a living? You need to think about the strategy behind that festival screening. What must it achieve? How will you make it sell your skills? Who is going to invest in you? Is there another project that you want to boost on the back of that screening?
If you can think about the strategies you are currently using to get into the industry, test them, expand them. If they are not working for you. If you don’t see dollar signs, then change and adapt.
Filmmakers can get carried away with the success of one project. That can become too much of a burden when it comes to securing the future. It’s amazing to have a film get international recognition and credibility, but the reality is, people are always looking for your next film. There is a flow in the industry that means you need to be constantly coming out with new product, and I think that some people fall too much in love with their past, and the truth is, it’s damaging.
When a filmmaker is unable to reach out of his/ her inner circle, there are certain limitations that can become apparent. You might be working as a videographer or freelancer but you lack certain contacts or ways in to get more paid work. Try reaching out to people that you don’t know. Use email, phone (even fax) to get to people that you can bring your value to. Don’t limit yourself when there are 7+ billion people you could be reaching.
This is one of the biggest reasons that filmmakers get broke. Time-wasting but more specifically, spending time on activities that bring no results. If you’re hoping to make a career out of your skills, you need to dedicate time to finding the opportunity. If you spend hours each day going to the bar, staying up late, chilling out, watching movies, that can impede the very important building steps towards your success. You need to be disciplined on this part, because if you drift, and don’t stick to a goal, then the skills you have, won’t go anywhere.
It’s not a good idea to wait for someone to bring you the opportunity. Sometimes you have to reach out to several people. You might have 1 feature project, a short film or a commercial/promo in the works, but while that’s happening you’re not making money, so waiting for it, is not a good idea. Try to keep the momentum up in other areas while your projects develop.
Filmmaking is a constantly evolving art, and technology right now is changing the way we see it and view it. There are certain skills outside of filmmaking that are almost more important today, than filmmaking itself : marketing. How are you getting your projects out? There’s a whole new VOD business model out there waiting for you to tap into.
The reality is, you need to be where your clients are based. This is true for most industries, but if your hoping to make it in Hollywood with your feature script, and you live in a small village over in Romania, it’s going to be very, very hard to get in. If that’s holding you back, put all your focus into getting to the right place first. On another note, being in a town that’s too far from the action ie, you live 3 hours outside of LA, Chicago or NY and you can’t get to your clients easily, or in-expensively, again, you need to think about this. There are a lot of people to compete with, and if you’ve got this 3-hour drawback…that’s going to make you less competitive. Think about this too..
It’s great to have clients but sometimes you’re still not making enough money to earn a living. If you’re not getting enough out of the deal, and you can’t balance your life with it, change your clients. There’s a popular saying : “If you can’t beat them, join them.” However, if you can’t earn a living with them, leave them. Now I’m not saying you should drop everything you’re doing and look for something else, but think about reaching out beyond your existing client base while you’re working. There’s nothing wrong with making yourself available, and keeping a back channel open.
Hopefully you’ve got a better overview on some of the areas you might be stuck on. If you’re a short filmmaker, and you are looking to get recognition for your work check how you can get your film qualified for the Oscars. On another note, you might want to join our mailing list to get more industry tips delivered to your email.
Best of luck and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter with your questions : @iain_alexander