10 POINTS FOR FILMMAKERS – What are you waiting for?
Happy new year fellow filmmakers. I though I’d start the year with a new blog, I wanted to give 10 points of advice on achieving what I think we all want as filmmakers, and that’s to gain significant progress in our fields. These are just my opinions, and I am by no means a professional writer/blogger so forgive any grammatical errors or rambling, I just hope some of what I have learned over the years can be of help to someone. Everything I speak on is from my own personal experience, I’m a big believer in taking action and an even bigger believer in sharing what you learn with others.
So here it goes…
1 – DO IT NOW, LEARN ON THE WAY
One thing I have learned during my nearly 10 years of filmmaking is that the best education comes from picking up a camera (any camera) and going out there and just shooting a film. Preferably a film that doesn’t require much resources or people so that you can fail and learn QUICKLY. Failure, is the key step to developing and progressing, and believe me once you have produced your film and put it out there for the world to see, people will quickly let you know where you need to improve. So it is key that you let people, strangers, other filmmakers, see the film and get feedback. When we put ourselves outside the barriers of our own comfort zone, we we can truly discover where we are, who we are and what we need to do to progress. Film school, university courses in media production etc all have their place, however I believe that for filmmakers the best education is by actually going out there and learning by doing. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea taking up a university degree in filmmaking, I’m simply saying that I and many others have found it more effective and productive to take other routes. I think shorter filmmaking courses are much better, and very valuable. Spend a few weeks with filmmakers who are giving real world advice and get hands on experience, at the same time meeting other people who want to make films and may have different resources you can tap into. If you are going to university then Study business, languages, science, but for the amount of money university costs, I would strongly advise you spend your money on a cheap camera and learn what educational institutes rarely teach you about filmmaking, which is a lesson that only comes once you are on your own film set. Do this from positioning yourself with others who share your passion for filmmaking, gaining experience on other peoples sets and using the internet to learn as much as you can. Oh and watch films, lot’s of films, learn consciously and subconsciously what makes an effective cut, believable dialogue, good colour and emotional tempo. This is controversial to speak against university courses in film, I know, but I don’t care and I enjoy the liberation of freely speaking on how I feel 🙂
2. THERE IS A REAL POWER IN ‘US’
There comes a point when you have exhausted what you can do by yourself, and despite maybe being used to working solo, you NEED to collaborate in some form with others. There is a real magic that happens when a few EFFECTIVE people come together with the same goal in mind, not to mention the obvious support system you have for each other but also the added strengths, resources, and extra hands to increase the work that can be undertaken. A few good people can really make some amazing things happen. It’s easy to get lost in local success, having people know your name/brand from your own community and enjoy being the ‘best’ in a very small circle. The often truth is, that ‘circle’ is what hinders many of us entering into the real industry/market place and seeing the bigger picture. We get too used to measuring success on superficial structures that don’t really exist. We compete with people who aren’t even really in a position where we want to be, but pride and social status keeps us on the ground instead of flying to the heights we dreamed about in the beginning of our journey. Find people who can help you grow, who are inspired to reach places that seem impossible too, because together you will be amazed at what obstacles can be overcome as long as you are persistent and have a clear BIG goal.
3. SHOWCASE CREATIVELY
As filmmakers, our energies go into being as creative as possible, sculpting the perfect picture to showcase the film that we can see so clearly within us. But then what happens? If it doesn’t do well in festivals, or you don’t have a huge social media following, then your film that took blood sweat and tears to make usually fades to the ashes after a desperate few days of pushing to everyone you know in the hope it will be seen by thousands. I know, I’ve been there many of times! What I’ve learned is that the same level of creativity that went into the making of the film has to also go into the showcasing/distribution of the film. Find out who your film talks to, find out who your film appeals to, find out what spin/hook your story has so that can be tied in to something bigger. Who do you know that has a huge following? How can you get them involved with the film without compromising your story? There are literally endless ways in which you can creatively find ways to get your film seen and spoken about, and this is something that needs care and planning before you even think about putting it out there for people to see. Those who plan early reap the rewards later on when it matters.
4. ARE YOU READY FOR WHAT YOU WANT?
If you’re anything like myself, you have spent much of your early years yearning for a big break, daydreaming about working in Hollywood, seeking opportunities to be seen and so on. After being presented with many opportunities early on in my journey, I learned what has probably been the most powerful lesson for myself so far. That lesson is…BE READY FOR THE BLESSINGS YOU ASK FOR. If you want to be hired on a million pound film set directing, then wake up everyday and practice directing, study directing, speak to other directors, know exactly what a director does on set, BE READY FOR THE CALL so that you are skilled and equipped to perform in the position you’re asking to be in. Don’t pray to be the worlds fastest runner if you’re not willing to get up everyday and RUN. Don’t pray to be the most successful musician if you don’t wake up everyday and work on your craft and MAKE MUSIC. You don’t get to put in the work AFTER the opportunity comes. If you want something, make sure you position yourself so that you are ready, and stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready when it’s too late.
5. RESOURCEFULNESS OVER RESOURCES
What you have right now to make your film is good enough! I will keep this point brief as I’m sure you have heard it time and time again. I’m not saying that filming your feature film on your iPhone 7 is going to technically qualify you for television broadcast, but what I am saying is, if that is all you have, it should not stop you telling an amazing story that can hit the hearts of millions and position yourself to be making films on any equipment you want later on. There are a number of filmmakers who have made films on really low-end equipment, which lead to them being spotted and hired to work in high industry places. Anyone can make a pretty picture these days, technology is such that you don’t even have to know what your doing to make something ‘look’ as if it was professionally made. The art is in content, the power is in story and the craft in conveying your story to others in new and exciting ways. Trust me on this one, if you can make people ‘feel’, you are not far away from some life changing progression in your field.
6. IF IT TAKES 100 ATTEMPTS?
Could you handle failing 99 times before reaching success? If it took doing something 100 times over, continuously picking yourself up after rejection, feeling like you’re not good enough, making embarrassing mistakes, could you push through the many years until a breakthrough came? I’m trying to not make this sound corny or like a motivational speech but the bottom line is this…Good is not always good enough. Doing something amazing once is also not good enough and doesn’t last much longer than a few days in this short-attention span world. Failing a few times and feeling like you deserve a break is not going to change the true price you have to pay for significant progress (success). I have to come face to face with this everyday, and although I have achieved many of the goals I have set myself, I still have massive dreams which I am striving for, and just like my other goals, I am having to fail, having to grow, having to push through it all whilst believing BEYOND A DOUBT that I will reach my vision. Know the true price of success and don’t be afraid of the journey, it’s often the journey that builds us into the person that can HANDLE the success when it finally comes. Giving a man/woman what he/she wants too quickly can often be the worst thing spiritually and creatively to happen to them.
7. BUSY DOESN’T MEAN PROGRESS
It is possible to work hard in the wrong direction. Don’t think hard work guarantees any form of success. Hard work is like an arrow, if it is pointed in the right direction it can hit the target perfectly! It can also be pointed in the wrong direction and miss the target completely, wasting time and energy until one day you run out of arrows and spend the later years of your life looking at a target you now realise you wasn’t even aiming for. Don’t busy yourself with tasks that don’t take you in the direction of your goals. On a daily basis, ask yourself if what you are doing right now is taking you closer to your dreams. If not then why are you doing it? I don’t mean run out and quit your day job (having a roof over your head may be instrumental into reaching your dreams), what I mean is silly meetings with people who don’t even know what they want, taking on jobs that require too much time for too little money, prioritising things which are ‘easy’ over things that are ‘necessary’ and writing plans for weeks on end without any execution. Get busy in the right direction. Measure your actions against your target!
8. PLAY CHESS
We are living in a world where much has already been done. Great works are quickly lost in a sea of similarity, creative genius is often overshadowed by a thirst for trends and followings. You have to be aware of the times you live in and the ways in which you can use where you are to get to where you are going. It’s great to live a natural, techno-free life and refuse to succumb to the call of social media and digital marketing and live in a nice secluded world where you and your 3 friends who also feel this way can enjoy what you do until the end of time. But please be aware that this place rarely resonates any further than the limitations of the circle which you have created. Don’t get me wrong, there is room and even a demand for ‘Niche’ approaches, but if done with the understanding of how the world works and how and where to reach people, you can design the way in which you wish to exist in the ever changing times of the modern day and still be effective. The truth of the matter is, to be effective, you have to know what currently effects the way people engage with what ever it is you are sharing. Do not let technology and communication grow past your grasp of understanding, this can kill your journey in the filmmaking world very quickly, because above all else, communication, showcasing, being seen is what brings the progress many of us are looking for. Think of your journey like a game of chess. Plan in advance, know what is happening in the game so that you can strategically make your moves and anticipate what obstacles will arise so that you can quickly adapt.
9. YOU ARE YOUR BRAND
Reputation is everything. Whether you are trading as an individual or you are moving as a brand, people will have a strong picture/feeling when your name is mentioned. Make sure that you are constantly adding value to yourself so that when you are mentioned, great works and value is the first thing people think of. This is essential for moving forward. Also do not be afraid to say NO to certain projects. Don’t let the temptation of money compromise your values. A quick pay cheque can cost you years in reputation damages.
I think it is important that I mention about the times when your brand takes a hit too. No one speaks about that, the focus is usually on maintaining a good reputation. What happens when you make mistakes, what happens when you get the biggest client of your career and you mess it up, you fail, you make a mistake? In times like this you have to accept where you are, look at how you can learn QUICKLY so that you don’t make the same mistakes again, and pick yourself up and do everything you can to build your brand. A reputation can be re-built if you give people more positives than negatives. Overwhelm people with success and value and they will either overlook or accept the times you have failed. No one is perfect and there are hundreds of examples of companies and individuals who suffered public and private failures, which at the time looked as though to cripple their brand, but sure enough they let their hard work over-shadow their mistakes and they were eventually celebrated again and went on to achieve even greater success.
10. GO HARD OR GO HOME
Let me try and be as clear as I can. The simple truth is this…you can have what you want in life, you really can. I’ve seen it time and time and time again. It’s cliche I know, but it’s cliche because words are easy and that is the medicine given to most people today because many people are not willing to do anything other than talk. You are responsible for your dreams and your goals, no one is going to come and hand you a golden ticket, no one owes you anything, and even if they do, they are not obligated to follow the rules in which you wish the world was run. Busying yourself with tasks that don’t take you any closer to your dreams or joining forces with people who love starting ventures but not finishing them, or starting over every month with a new company name but doing the exact same impact-less things, are just elements which are going to steal years from your life. Get clear on EXACTLY what you should be doing to get closer to your goals. Write them down. LEARN EVERYDAY, set small and large checkpoints so you can celebrate your success along the way, read books in your field, PRACTICE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, meet new people, networking doesn’t have to mean standing in a room with a wine glass speaking to pretentious people, it can be a sit down with 5 other creatives over a Nandos discussing where everyone wants to be in the next 5 years and how you could help each other along the way. Learn to FINISH THINGS, stop mistaking hurdles for brick walls. Feels impossible? Then it’s a sign you’re on the right track, it’s the filter that stops undeserving people breaking through, at this point most people give in.
You have to push through, in fact speak to someone who eats, sleeps and breathes the gym. Ask them about the dedication they put in to get to how they look now and the price they pay/effects for the times they slack off. It’s very similar. They have an image, a clear goal of what they want to look like/be. They’re up everyday early, working out, EVEN WHEN IT HURTS. When they’re not working out they’re living a life that helps ‘feed’ their goal, they avoid what doesn’t help and research and look for what does help. They find others that are on similar journeys to HELP THEM, they constantly visualise, they read in their subject field, they ask for advise from those who have already achieved, they put headphones on and block out the noise of the world so that they can FOCUS, they are not happen with comfort, they NEED to see progress…I think you get the point. This is the kind of commitment it takes! Many of us give up at the point when it hurts, i.e. the first few days in the gym. It’s not good enough if you want major results.
What I’m trying to say is, do the hard things that are necessary right now. If you find yourself doing the same things you have been doing over the past few years, then expect to have those same results. You want to be a renowned filmmaker? well how many films have you made? what have you done differently with your last film in order for it to reach more people? Is there someone on your friends list right now that could help you within an area
of your journey that you are struggling with? Are you more concerned with pride and social medial ‘likes’ than actually letting the world outside your immediate community see what you can do? I want people to WIN this year, and I think in the next 10 years we will look back and realise that we were living in a generation that was in the middle of being built, where we had the opportunity to creatively plant ourselves within the fixtures of what is fast becoming a NEW TYPE OF INDUSTRY. Let today be the start of a new way of doing things so tomorrow looks like we planned.
I hope you found at least some of this information useful and I look forward to hopefully collaborating with many new people this year. Please feel free to give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org
HAPPY NEW YEAR