How Actors Break Into Filmmaking Without Breaking - Raindance

A friend of mine from Toronto, Emily, recently called and asked how she, an actor, could break into filmmaking. She’s studied acting, she’s got the stereotypical bar/restaurant job and does a little marketing on the side. And, oh, yes– she’s got some experience in producing.

This is a common question I get asked by actors like Emily over and over again:

I’m an actor – how do I break in?

Actors have two choices: Wait for the phone to ring, or go and make their own movies and learn how to market and monetise them.

It kind of goes like this:

Remember the first time you told a friend or family member that what you really want to do is to become a filmmaker? I call that first time “The Announcement”.

Have you then made the announcement repeatedly over the next few weeks? Or months? Or even years? Be careful or your friends will start thinking you are all talk and no action. All you need to do is make a plan, as Emily is doing now.

7 Ways Actors Break Into Filmmaking Without Breaking

1. Make a showreel

Actors showreels have changed. No longer do you need clips from actual films you’ve made. You can construct them youself to show a range of emotion. Show scenes of emotion. Show your range. Be careful not to make these common actor’s showreel mistakes. Keep it short (2 minutes) and make sure you label the lower-third throughout so it’s easy to find your name and contact details.

2. Network

The film industry is a people industry. It’s not what but whom you know. You need to network, network and network. Don’t worry if you are an introvert – here’s some networking tips for introverts.

3. Finding an agent

Getting an agent won’t get you work. An agent’s job is to negotiate on your behalf.

Find out who your local casting agents are and send in your showreels and inform them of your upcoming productions, on-and-off screen.

4. Set up your production company

Sometime soon someone is going to want to pay you hard cash for your work. Why not take the leap and set up your own production company? Consult with an accountant and lawyer to see what local laws you need to satisfy. Remember to keep this company squeaky clean. You’ll need a bank account too. Here’s some tips I wrote for setting up a film company.

5, Get your social media profiles up and running

Social media is a must-have for anyone in the creative industries. Decide which platforms suit you best, and knuckle down and get them going. Remember, the effectiveness of your sociual media can often be the deciding factor of how people get hired. Those with little or no social media presence often lose out to those who have a certain gravitas about them on their social networks.

6. Don’t give up the day job

Everyone’s got bills to pay. Getting ready to launch yourself is going to take time. Why not keep the dull and boring day job (for now at least)? You can fit your career ambitions into the hours you have available after the boring 9-5? It’ll be a lot less stressful than being forced to couch-surf!

7. Make a plan

The first 100 days are going to be the toughest. Here’s my suggestions for your first 100 days as a filmmaker. Devise your own plan. Make shorts on your cellphone. Build your team of writers, fellow actors, directors and producers. Before you know it you will have made some ‘test’ pieces.

Here’s a short test piece made by a friend of mine with Naomi Watts of all people. Back in the day they made pieces like this to keep in shape. The total budget for this film was just $100.00! It was shot in a weekend on a basic video camera.

Fade out

Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Remember you are honing your craft. Sooner or later you will get noticed.

Before you go, check out Emily’s social media. Stroke her ego: Like and follow her profiles.

Emily’s Twitter | Emily’s Instagram | Emily’s Snapchat |Emily’s Facebook

Message Emily and collaborate!

Let’s make movies!



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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