1. BALANCE CREATIVITY & COMMERCIAL FILMMAKING
Filmmaking is a balance between creativity and business. In order to become a master at filmmaking, you’ll need to hone both elements. So how do you do that? Filmmaking software and books can be a great resource for storytellers who are just starting out and those more experienced. These books will outline the theoretical and structural aspects of filmmaking. A word of warning: there are a wealth of filmmaking books on the market. It will be impossible for you to absorb all the advice, so apply what makes sense to you as you go. Don’t follow just one book, either. Take what you need from each one you read. Another way to learn your craft is to watch a lot of films and study the techniques and story structures of each. Ask yourself what works and what doesn’t, and why. Each filmmaker has their own flair, so don’t be tempted to replicate someone else’s style completely. You’ll develop your own over time.
2. KNOW THE BUSINESS PLAN OF FILMMAKING
Like all industries, filmmaking is a business. We’ve already discussed how it’s also a collaborative business with many people’s interests in one project. Until you have networked and found a producer or agent to help you push your project to the next level, you’ll need to take action yourself to familiarize yourself with the industry. Now, this doesn’t have to necessarily be the film industry in Hollywood, but wherever you live. Read trade publications, which are so much more readily available nowadays online. Make sure you know who the key players are in your area, and know how you can connect with them. You’ll need to learn to represent yourself the best you can when you communicate with executives. Each production studio and company will have their own niches, so ensure you brush up on what these are. Of course, you won’t be able to research all of them, but work out which executives will be the best fit for your projects. These will be the people to talk to. It is vital to understand that your scripts won’t suit everyone in the industry, and that’s ok! Not all interactions will have a positive outcome, but be consistent and professional. The more likeable and passionate you are, the more the industry will open up to you.
3. DRAFT A STRATEGIC PLAN
Create a pitch deck or “blueprint” of your film project to send to key industry contacts. Also make sure you have at least two to three hard copies that are ready to go. Executives are sent hundreds, if not thousands, of pitch decks every year. So, it is important to catch their attention with supporting documents, including a registered screenplays and executive summary. The logline, short synopsis, treatment, and talent attachment memos are the three main documents you’ll need, alongside a brief cover letter detailing the film project’s status. Make sure this set of documents is updated regularly, so you can send it at a moment’s notice with little fuss. An online portfolio is also a great way for people to see your work. You can use many free websites to do this or create your own.
4. BUILD INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS
Networking will be a key aspect of your growing filmmaking career. Growing a circle of other industry professionals around you and people from all areas of the film industry will help you find colleagues and potentially find your way into getting your project produced. Finding people with the same passions and goals as you is always refreshing, but when you can truly support each other’s careers and endeavors, that is where the real magic happens.
5. TAKE OUR CLASSES
Over the past few years, the number of Student Filmmakers taking our award-winning MasterClass and Workshops has completely exploded. So, you should research thoroughly our selection of available classes and start registering today. It isn’t essential for filmmakers to have a graduate degree in film, but it certainly can be beneficial to take our MasterClass. No matter how you learn about the intricacies of filmmaking, never stop learning. You will be honing your skills for the rest of your filmmaking career, so start strong with our programs.
6. BE IN THE CENTER OF THE ACTION
There are several meanings to this tip. One is to move to where the action is. For example, if you’re in the US, move to Los Angeles, New York City, or Atlanta, the heart of America’s film industry. Alternatively, if this isn’t feasible for you, social media can be your best friend. Join online filmmaking groups, and engage with your fellow filmmakers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even on forums. The more you put yourself out there and have a voice within the community, the more people you’ll connect with in the industry. From there, you never know what could happen. The possibilities are endless.
7. WORK IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
At this point, we’re not necessarily looking at filmmaking roles. Any role within the film industry can be a fantastic path toward your long-term career goals. Simply by showcasing a great attitude and aptitude in an assistant role can get you noticed by those more established. Again, meeting other writers, producers, directors and filmmakers in the same boat as you is also a networking opportunity. Remember, you don’t just want to connect with the top dogs but with your peers.
8. ENTER FESTIVALS & COMPETITIONS
Once you have your first film as perfect as possible, then it’s potentially time to consider entering it into a competition. Screenwriting and film contests and competitions take place year round and internationally, so there are bountiful opportunities for you to see your work worldwide. There is a knack to entering these competitions that you’ll need to be aware of. Almost all of them will have varying entry fees attached, so make sure you do your research into them first to see which would be the best fit for your project. Some competitions will be general ones, whilst others will be genre or even format-specific, for example, Short Horror Films or Feature Films only. But where do you find this exhaustive list of competitions? Set accounts up on IMDbPro, Film Freeway, and Coverfly, all industry-standard platforms for filmmakers. Fill out the profiles as fully as possible and keep them updated.
9. PROMOTE YOUR PROJECT
Screenplays and films are sold more often than you may think. If this is the route you are determined to go down, and let’s face it, it is the ultimate end goal, then there are key steps you’ll need to take. The ‘why’ of your film project is an important consideration for any financiers or producers. Take some time to understand why they should buy the script and the story. On the back of that, consider what is going to make the money for the investors. Film is a business when it comes to it, so money is going to be foremost in any executive’s mind. Will they make a profit? Now, some may say that you need an agent or a manager to sell a screenplay or film, and this isn’t always the case. You are the one who knows your script inside out, so be the one in the know and the best at promoting it.
10. GAIN PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE
Experience is your friend when it comes to forging a filmmaking career. Prepare yourself for a rollercoaster of more “no” rather than “yes”. Rejection comes with the territory, so be resilient. Overnight success is extremely rare, so expect to be plugging away for many years. Every experience you encounter, whether positive or negative, will help you in your own journey. Each filmmaker’s journey is unique, so relish it, enjoy it, put yourself out there, and keep learning.