Want to make a filmmaker feel uncomfortable? Ask them what they are good at doing.
It’s no joke that filmmakers and screenwriters are notoriously bad at blowing their own horns. They don’t because they are shy or lacking confidence. Or they speak with the kind of pompous and overblown hype that makes one head for the nearest toilet bowl.
Sometimes I meet filmmakers and screenwriters who don’t want to promote themselves because they don’t want to annoy filmmakers less talented or successful then they are.
Hesitation or reluctance to self-promote hurts filmmakers careers. The film industry is ruthlessly competitive. The brutal truth is that the most successful filmmakers tend to be the most vocal ones. By downplaying strengths and advantages, filmmakers can become their own worst enemies.
Many talented filmmakers cross my path at Raindance Film Festival. I hear endless excuses as to why they should not self promote. I have lumped these into 5 categories I call 5 Self Promotion Myths:
When James Cameron said from the Oscar stage that he was ‘King of the world’ he got tons of negative press for being a shameless self promoter.. Self promotion is shameless. And self promotion is a necessary part of a successful career. Many filmmakers have a big problem differentiating between shameless bragging and smart self promotion.
The line between bragging and self-promotion can seem thin. Stay on the right side of the line with an extra special dose of humility.
BTW: Here is the email I get nerly every single day from one of the four corners of the globe:
I am an [insert what you will] experienced | talented [insert what you will] photographer | musician | set designer with a lot of great experience in [insert what you will] theatre | pop promos | jounalism.
I’d like to meet filmmakers to collaborate with.
What’s wrong with this?
- no website
- no social media presence
- no direct offer
Don’t fall into this trap.
2. The Princess Myth–”If I’m good enough, people will hear about it.”
Filmmaking ‘princesses’ who wait for knights to arrive and sweep them off their feet will wait in vain. Many filmmakers believe if you work hard and wait patiently enough, someone will eventually discover you.
This only applies to fairy tales. Filmmakers waiting for the right financier, agent or distributor to come along wait forever.
We know you are talented and original. You know you are talented and original. Survival as a filmmaker or screenwriter demands that you make noise to get noticed.
3.The Mates Myth–”Others should talk about my accomplishments, not me.”
I’ve met many filmmakers at Raindance who assume that their associates and friends will send out the word about their excellent ability. Word of mouth is one of the great tools of publicity and promotion, but alone cannot guarantee you a career.
No one is better able to explain what your goals and ambitions are than you. No one will speak about your career to date, and about your next project better than you. As a filmmaker you are developing special and unique skills that only you are able to explain. As a screenwriter you are developing an unique voice which only you will know how to explain.
Get comfortable about communicating what it is you are doing. Practise in front of your friends and ask them to tell you what you are doing right or wrong.
Before you know it, you will have the smoothness of a Tarantino.
4.The Martyr Myth — “People don’t understand what I am trying to do”
It’s common for an artist in any field to feel isolated and alone. It is part of what goes with the territory. To use this as an excuse not to self promote comes across as whingey and self-pitying.
Martyrs get pity, not the empathy you need to launch a career.
5. The Head in the Sand Myth — “I couldn’t talk up my career if a gun was at my head”
The worst thing a filmmaker can do is to run from self promotion. Self promotion is part of filmmaking. How else are you going to assemble the team to make your film or buy your screenplay? How else are you going to convince a director or producer to let you shoot or edit a film?
You don’t need to turn yourself into a cheesey door-to-door saleman. You just need to have a quick sharp two liner ready on your lips to push out anytime someone asks “What do you do?”
Get out a notebook and start writing out a two liner. Run it by your friends and get their feedback. You will be amazed at how quickly you will come up with a snappy jingle that will bounce off your lips and make you look like you know what you are doing.
The End Title Credits
At the end of the day, a reluctance to self promote points out one thing: your own personal insecurity. Lack of confidence is one of the dangers of working in the arts and is especially easy to acquire in the film industry where rivals chip and snipe at you from every doorway and from around every corner.
Believe in yourself. Then we will too.
Comments from readers so far…
Thanks for this article it was very helpful. the only thing i would be cautious of is listening to friends. If they have expertise in that area then take their opinion into consideration. Most people have projection issues and base there opinions on scary experiences and hangs ups of their own. With every good intention I’ve even done it myself
Tasmania dance and Fitness
I love you! I’ve always loved you! (Online reputation: passionate, caliente) You and Raindance are always useful and you understand me! Your articles are just brilliant and thoughtful.
You wrote: ‘It’s common for an artist in any field to feel isolated and alone” and that filmmakers dont self promote because “They don’t because they are shy or lacking confidence”. How true!
When I am abroad, I am very confident because I’ve been commissioned mega budget documentaries. In the UK I havent had my break so it is making me lack confidence. But no more! I’ve been shortlisted so many times in the UK and I should promote that and my latest project too. Hold my hand…dear useful Raindance.
Nusrat Howard-Moore Film maker
A very good piece from Elliot and all very true. I hated talking about what I did, particularly to non-film people, for fear of being thought arrogant, then I discovered people thought I was aloof and secretive by not saying anything! Even worse than just saying what you do. I’ve been at parties where IT people and of course accountants and finance people are always happy to tell me about their projects and clients and I’m sure film is a lot more fun and interesting.
Please don’t print my name, don’t want to appear arrogant!
Yours it’s a very interesting article and one which is difficult to disagree with… The thing is: it’s really hard to put in practice!
I only have made a short film which I bravely put on youtube. My ‘self-promotion’ consist in warning friends and acquaintances about the film simple/basic story line, poor camera work as well as lack of action, in other words what I am saying is: don’t expect anything good because you will be disappointed! In bad days I may soound embarrassed and even apologetic!
As a result I am happy to have received only 1 comment and relieved to have avoided negative ones (so far…)
In my opinion, your self-promotions is just as good as your self-believe which is much harder to teach. However, to look at the need and the effectiveness of self-promoting may encourage one to break the pattern of self-criticism and in the process may help to gain some self-confidence.
Hopefully I will follow your advice in my next project.
Thank you for your help and wisdom.
The think about selfe promotion is simple.
You belive in a story and that you want to tell
in a way that.
You have the pictures and those that will apear in
work, you have a script and it is more.
You just do it.
If you make it, you will shine.
If you have a team, it will burn.
If you bring it to the audience, you will have friends.
later they will be your fans.
So tell them all the dreams and conflicts and actions special effects and
artifical ideas and do it.
It does not matter if you have a handy-cam ( for our next litte musicvideo we take 100 apple i-phone 720 hd
and we have 100 top camera women men and kids..) ore the waiting for red epic ( oh good christmass will be
next year in summer…)
Tell your story…..
And go out. The audience will share it, not burry it in your head.
there it will go down in deep darkness. and you? notagood….do it…
AND NEVER FORGET WHY YOU DID START..oNCE UPON A TIME IN YOUR GALAXY
YOU LOVE IT
Truisms, yet so hard. I’ve been to several events where the purpose is to promote your project. I’m astounded each time to find “wallflowers” who stick to the edges of the room. You are the only one who knows about your project. The only way a film will ever be made is if someone else knows about your project.
If you are proud of your project then let everyone know! Don’t be an ass but get the word out. It’s hard to be a writer and a promoter at the same time but you have to be able to do both. Copyright and WGC/WGA are there for a reason.
I’ve been to several Raindance events and courses and I am getting better at both. The only way to get to Hollywood is practice, practice, practice.
Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada
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