If middle-aged adults go through midlife crises, then young adults in their early 20s go through similar anxieties about their career. As a young filmmaker myself who aspires to direct, I often wonder (and worry) how my life and career will shape out. Young filmmakers face problems that are not completely different from other 20-somethings – short on money, new bills to pay, career insecurities – but there are issues that are unique to beginning directors. Here are a few:
1. Heavy competition
Unlike other occupations where the path to the professional world is pretty clear, the film industry is more ambiguous. There are so many avenues to get into the film business and these routes get narrower as you work your way up to the top. You are also competing with thousands of people who are just as hungry and creative as you are. The competition is stiff and everyone is vying for a spot to direct the next critically acclaimed film or summer blockbuster.
2. So how do you exactly… direct?
Let’s say someone wrote a screenplay about the life of Steve Jobs. If you take some of the top director’s today, each of them will have a vastly different vision of how the story should be told. The hardest aspect about filmmaking is standing out of the crowd.
And again, there is no blueprint on how to direct. You’re basically overseeing how the story should be told through the help of actors, lighting crews, camera crews, extras, volunteers, producers, etc. Yet, you’re the one who is suppose to lead everyone in the right direction to create your vision. Good luck.
3. Losing yourself
What we see in today’s entertainment business is largely due to what executives think would be most profitable. Often times young directors want to create a film that will push the boundaries and make people think and feel outside of their comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with this, except Hollywood executives would not see the dollar signs. A biographical film about abolitionist Frederick Douglass is probably not to gross as much money as the next installment of the next superhero movie. The last thing any director wants to do is dumb-down their film just to appeal to the masses, but this tends to happen when you mix artistry with business.
4. Financial insecurity
While people normally get into their careers by the time their thirty, many directors are still trying to get their first picture produced. In fact, hustling and scrambling is the nature of getting a film idea backed and produced. Directors do not work everyday like other occupations. Steady income is not the norm and in order to get by aspiring directors have to take whatever job they can find. This can be unnerving when you wake up day after day waiting for your big break.
5. Getting an inside track
Getting a film made is more about who you know verses how good you are. You could be the next Sidney Lumet, but if you do not have viable connections to producers, promoters or equipment, you will be left out while the better-connected filmmaker will have more opportunities. It is why some aspiring filmmakers go to film school to build a good relationship with peers. When you enter the industry, it is important to have a few reliable people to start your journey.
All these insecurities can certainly discourage any young director from going forth. But if you are able to embrace the struggle, surround yourself with a strong support system and be reliable to others, you will journey through and come out on the other side just fine.