So, you’ve spent the past three years studying Tarantino, DSLR, green screen and independent film and damn. It’s getting hot. All your mates are sick and tired of telling you how talented you are. More, they are sick and tired of hearing you tell them how you can’t wait to ditch the dull and boring day job and do nothing but write movies and/or make films. It’s getting time for a reality check. New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner. Why not make a New Year’s resolution that will stick?
You’ve gotta finally start thinking of an answer to that question that’s been on your mind the past few years: What will I do with my dream?
Don’t worry. There are lots of ways you can make your dream happen. If you play your cards right, you could end up with one of your dreams realised in the next year.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting one of your projects off the ground:
1) Decide how much time you have to devote to your dream.
It’s crazy to give up your day job, just yet. You need to get tooled up. And learning the ropes of any job is hard, and in the creative industries it’s downright hard and harsh. I have learned so many painful lessons along the way myself.
Here is the good news: Canadian philospher Malcom Gladwell wrote a terrific book Outliers: The Story of Success explaining the 10,000 hour rule. Basically, you can do anything you want in life, as long as you are willing to put in the hours. Do 10,000 hours at any one thing, and you will become really good at it. And reading this Raindance rticle will count towards that sum total! BTW Outliers: The Story of Success is available on Amazon for less than £6.00.
So first step, how much time a week do you have?
2 hours? This would make you a hobbyist.
10 hours? Spend this time every week and call yourself a talented amateur
20? hours? After a year of this time, you will be known as semi-pro
40+ hours? Guess what. now you are a pro. And can call yourself a filmmaker.
2) Determine how big a project you want to make.
Budget is everything. A lot of aspiring filmmakers I know decide that their first project is going to be a multi-million dollar film. Movies are categorised by their budgets. From high budgets to low budgets. Learn what these budgets are. Don’t forget that low or even no-budget films are easier to finance and if you make a mistake you haven’t lost the family inheritance!
Five thousand years ago, a man called Noah said he wanted to build a boat. He had never done it before. His friend and neighbors mocked him. ‘Why do you want to build a boat when we live miles from the sea?” But he did and the boat floated. The proof is that we are all here!
A hundred and ten years ago a Londoner said he wanted to build a boat. He went around the City and raised a huge pile of money. He engaged all the top maritime engineers and went to Belfast and built the Titanic.
My question is: “Which boat do you want to float?” Sometimes lo-to-no budget filmmaking is a great way to launch your career. Keep control in your own hands and don’t risk the hidden icebergs of the film industry.
3) Find movies that excite you.
Watch movies and read scripts of the movies you love. Soak up the way the successful filmmakers who have gone before you and learn from their filmmaking and storytelling. Your goal is to develop your own distinctive voice.
4) Figure out what kind of role fits your skill set.
To answer this question you need to learn about the roles available — and be honest with yourself. Take a look at the jobs pages for the film production companies you’re interested in, read the descriptions carefully, then pick a direction.
Here are some common options for people wanting to break into the industry. You don’t need film experience to break in either.
A lot of successful filmmakers have started off as interns. Martin Scorcese started off interning with Roger Corman. Edgar Wright started off interning for Raindance. Get an internship and learn the ropes from experts. You need to be persistent to get an internship. Have a look at the fabulous Raindance interns.
Film festivals and film organisations are always looking for volunteers. Volunteering can then lead to a full time job.
Nearly everyone at Raindance has started as an intern and/or volunteers. Find a festival or organisation you admire. Secure a volunteer or intern position. Impress with your energy and passion and keep your fingers crossed.
This is an entry-level film industry role. It’s a great opportunity to learn the fundamentals of development and production. You must be: persistent. You must love: talking to people and reading!
If you are in the need of cash and have a driving license that allows you to drive a commercial vehicle, like a van or limo, you will get work almost at once. Drivers are always in great demand.
Get on-the-job training and make a bit of cash on side. MAny runners use this joib for 6-9 months to get a feel for all the different companies and people in the industry. Often runners make really good connections and end up collaborating with fellow runners.
These are great opportunities for anyone with organisational skills. You’ll find yourself managing projects, researching details and contacting people.. You must be: able to think laterally. You must love: people and organisation.
Working for a film organisation can give you a great window into different parts of the business. You must be: willing and able to learn a new role every few months. You must love the organisation you choose.
5) Learn about film companies that interest you.
The context you gain will help you understand if the company or organisation is actually a good fit — and it will make you a stronger candidate. And as you learn about the company, identify the decision makers for your areas of interest. for example, if you want to work on sets or build props and wardrobe you need to find an art director. It is the art director who hires the people in the art department.
Once you know something about the companies you’re targeting, figure out how to move from a resume to a relationship. How are you connected to the key decision makers? It’s hard, but if you can engage somebody in a conversation, you get a free pass through the most difficult hiring round: resume screening.
How do you engage hiring managers? LinkedIn and Twitter are the best tools. Follow them on Twitter and see if you can find an opportunity to start a constructive conversation. On LinkedIn, you should take a different approach: Use the LinkedIn network to figure out how you’re connected to people at your company of interest, reach out to your connections for informational phone calls, then see if those connections can steer you to the right hiring managers.
7) Prepare your portfolio and CV.
Don’t be one of the knuckleheads who shows up to the interview unable to answer basic questions. Make sure you have good answers to questions like these:
- Can you describe what our company or organisation does?
- Why does our company interest you?
- What the ideal role for you?
- What are you really good at?
- What gets you really excited?
- What are your two most important accomplishments?
Here’s a little secret: No body in the film business knows the exact career path that’s right for them. So how do you deal with career questions you can’t answer? It’s simple: Run experiments. Identify the things that you know are important, use those things as guides, then run deliberate experiments to find the best path.
For example, maybe you know you want to be in London and work at a mid-sized commercial production company, but you’re really not sure about the right role. Totally normal. Here’s what you should do: Find a company that interests you, look at the various roles available, find one that you think might work, and give it a shot.
Think of the role as an experiment. It’s not a necessarily what you’re going to be doing forever. It’s something you’re doing to get more information to help you make your next career decision and steadily get close the career path that’s perfect for you.
9) Get some training
The film industry is full of specialists in every single area. It’s a really good strategy to get some specific film training that will prepare you for life as a screenwriter or filmmaker. Raindance’s entire history since 1992 (when John Major was still the British prime minister) has been to design and implement cutting edge training.
Raindance also has an innovative Fasttrack Programme, and also offers a Postgraduate Film Degree in conjunction with Staffordshire University and the Independent Film Trust. You can also get film training from these London film schools: National Film and Television School, London Film School and the Met Film School.
Bonus Advice: Apply to attend the Raindance Open House
All this stuff can be hard to wrap your head around — particularly if you’re coming from a liberal arts background
Why not come to our upcoming Open House? It’s free and you can ask Raindance tutors and experts anyhting you want! Get details here for this free event. If you would like a free taster tutorial about our Fast Track or Postgraduate Film Degree email us [email protected] or call us 0207 930 3412.
Stay in the loop
Sign Up To Our Free Weekly Newsletter
You want the latest filmmaking articles?
Want the latest word on job opportunities and exclusive film events?
All this and more! Sign up today.