The holiday season is upon us. gift, giving, food, drink – and weird Uncle Norman insulting the entire family and mum asking: “Are you making a living as a filmmaker?”
This need not be the season of dread. One needs to brace oneself for the correct answer.
First, you need to decide how you answer: Do you want the right Christmas gift? Do you answer the dull and boring day job? Or do you clench your fists and snarl through your teeth ‘filmmaker?’
I never used to know whether to answer day job. My first job was stacking supermarket shelves in my native Toronto. When friends found out I repeatedly told them I was a filmmaker they used to mock and ridicule me for being for being grandiose.
I did some research and found out that when you asked anyone, in any position or level in the film industry what they were doing they always answer “I have numerous projects in various stages of development.” Remember if you have two or more good ides for a movie then you have numerous projects in the stage we call script development. Want to see more of how to walk the walk or talk the talk then come to the Saturday Film School where the entire day is spent on giving you the basic communication skills you need in order to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Seriously now, how do you make a living as a filmmaker? I realised when I ask myself this question that I have three main areas of expertise that I could monetise. Firstly, I am a good communicator. Secondly I have an instinct for marketing and promotion and thirdly I had some marketable skills. so, what would I call myself?
Sadie Frost, one of our brilliant Postgraduate Film Degree alumni students is launching a film producing career. She could call herself a multi-format, multi media content creator. She could also call herself a multi-income stream visual content entrepreneur. She makes shorts, features and docs. She models and sells fashion, She is involved in every aspect of the business. She’s also is raising 4 kids.
How can one take what one does and make a sensible statement to one of those awkward moments around the Christmas tree?
The 3 Models To Making A Living As A Filmmaker
Sadie Frost is no different from you or I. She just has more experience. The 3 key areas a filmmaker has are:
Expertise: Create a body of knowledge about a specific area and then share this with others.
Increase: Build your social media following, called a tribe – so you have a group of people to enthuse about you, your work and your expertise.
Sell: Yes – sell. That horribly non-British word. sell yourself. You skills and services.
I could even take the Expertise/Increase/Sell idea and turn it into an acronym: EIS – but that might confuse you with the film funding tax relief system here in the UK.
Basically, I’m saying there are 3 different income-producing streams (or businesses you can create in order to make a living as a filmmaker. Beware you DO NOT start all 3 at the same time. Start one. Get it going solidly and stable, then start another. It’s a bit how I started Raindance with film training, a year later the film festival and five years later the British Independent Film Awards. Each (in theory) provides income.
Everyone knows a bit more about something. Do some research and then earn a living by showing others how to do what you know.The trick is to expand and build on your knowledge and become known as an expert in the area that suits your skills the best.
Dale Sood, our filmmaker-in-residence at Raindance Toronto has a wealth of filmmaking experience, both behind and in front of the camera. When the Toronto office needed a last minute replacement for a sound course, Dale stayed up all night making a bullet proof course outline backed by research and then came into the office and cranked out this awesome video. The result? He’s landed a gig teaching sound to our amazing students in Raindance Toronto and is starting on the journey as becoming the go-to person for sound and video.
There is no excuse for a filmmaker not to have a strong social media presence. Filmmakers are visual communicators, right? Using the powerful tools of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media platforms filmmakers can expand their circle of influence.
A filmmaker who is really good at this can monetise this area by creating web series and/or using their social media skills to self distribute their films. Social media skills are also essential as part of a crowdfunding campaign.
Raindance offers several different courses teaching different aspects of how social media is used. discover how to create and market your own web series, or how to crowdfund. Raindance LA is really good at getting their filmmaking classes online, allowing filmmakers the world over to get Hollywood know-how at home.
Start your own Youtube Channel. Start a blog Say interesting things and people will follow you. If you don’t have anything interesting to say then comment on other people’s interesting pages. This will make people think you are an expert.
When enough people start looking at you online you can sell advertising and products to your network of friends like Tom Ridgewell does.
It’s really selling your body! 😉 Getting work on other people’s projects. You start working really cheap to make good contacts and then you slowly start working your way up.
I’m basically taking about the life of a freelancer. In fact, it was freelance work that saved me from a life in my mother’s basement bedroom. It was freelance work that gave me the filmmaking skills I needed to do what I am doing now.
You may find just one of these areas that really lets you create a living. That’s totally cool. My point is, be aware of all 3 areas. Learn to use them to advantage. You will find that each area cross-pollinates the other areas.