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Successful filmmakers perfect the art of the side hustle. Frustrated wannabes think of their filmmaking ambitions as their side hustle. They keep plodding until something financially secure comes along.

Deciding to become a filmmaker or screenwriter is one of those death-defying moments akin to jumping off a cliff. It’s great you’ve finally decided to follow your dream with all your pent up passion. But what of the rocks below.

What about the monthly commitments of food and lodgings? This is where one needs to make the choice between working full time on you dream, or viewing your creative industry startup as a side hustle.

The Gig Economy vs Side Hustle

The phrase ‘gig economy’ refers to free lance work without any guarantee of a minimum number of monthly hours.
A side hustle, on the other hand, is something one does to make extra cash, or to develop a startup. A filmmaker is always in start-up mode with each new project.

Every millennial I know has a side hustle or two,” said Avalon, who does freelance design work, editing work and writing. “I don’t know anybody who has one job and makes a living at it.
—Bill Vogrin, The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2017

The Basic Requirements of a Side Hustle

Art of the Side Hustle

Chris Guillibeau is the creator of the Side Hustle School and author of Side Hustle – from idea to income in 27 days. Chris believes there are seven basic requirements to make a side hustle succeed. And I don’t think it matters what your side hustle is, as long as you can commit to these seven things:

  1. Do you gave the right frame of mind?
  2. Can you sacrifice 25% of your social time?
  3. Can you come up with lots of ideas?
  4. Are you an action person?
  5. Can you tell others about your project?
  6. Can you handle rejection?
  7. Is your project something you totally 100% believe in?

How Filmmakers Perfect The Art of the Side Hustle 

Most people who start a side hustle (for money) already have a job. But filmmakers want to make films full time. Earning extra income is the side hustle.

1.Collaborate

What if you already have a job? This is something Anjali Alford and Jennie Griffiths have: engaging, taxing and highly pressurised jobs in fact. Having co-written the novel Consequences together, Jennie realised her daily commute was time wasted. So she and Anjali went from co-writers to co-founders of an exciting creative writers startup: Collabwrters.com. You can follow their new and fresh venture on Twitter.

They currently have a crowdfunding campaign going to pay for some startup costs focused around publishing their novel. This they hope will open the floodgates to other writers allowing them to monetise their site and quit their day jobs.

2. Crowdfunding

Sometimes you just need money. Filmmakers often crowdfund part or all of the budget for their film or writing projects. Of course, the success of one’s crowdfunding projects is directly proportional to the size of your crowd ie: social media. Here is here the real art of the hustle kinks in. It really is hustling, or marketing, that makes a crowdfunding campaign work.

Research:
Read the Crowdfunding Bible
read: Avoid these FIVE Crowdfunding Mistakes

3. Write a micro-budget film and get it made and then get it sold

This is the route many take. They raise a bit of cash, slave for free for a series of months and get the finished film into film festivals. Of course, the trick is to monetise the film. This is the sort of head-mangling puzzle many of our Postgraduate Film Degree students undertake.The question of course is, how do you live while you are doing this?

This is exactly what Gareth Edwards did with his debut micro budget film Monsters. And of course, Gareth has gone on to make mega-budget movies.

4. How filmmakers feed themselves without selling their soul.

I once was taking a cab to Pearson International Airport in Toronto. It was really early in the morning. I was leaving our Toronto hub and returning to London. The cabbie was chattie. He asked me what I did, and I told him I was a filmmaker. I then asked him what he did and he said he designed airplanes. I then found our that he had been driving an airport limo for over ten years. Cab driving was his side hustle to finance his airplane design ambitions.

For some, earning money in a film related way simply doesn’t work. Others view working with a camera (or pen) is better than stacking shelves at the local supermarket.

Here’s some ways that filmmakers can make money without selling their soul:

  • Corporate videos
  • Web series
  • Commercials
  • Music videos

Here’s some ways that screenwriters can buy their daily bread:

  • Write commercially: handbooks, corporate brochures and the like
  • Researchers
  • Poetry
  • Advertising copywriting
  • Write and direct a micro budget feature as above

Read: Five Ways Screenwriters Make Money

5. Raise money

This is probably the most ambitious route. Get a paying job for 6 – 9 months allowing yourself the time to create a good solid business plan. Raise money through friends and family, or from an angel. Once you have raised enough money to cover your living and filmmaking business – quit the day job and become a filmmaker full time.

Fade Out

I started Raindance as a side hustle way back in 1992 in the heart of the last great British recession. Interest rates were at 24% and property prices plunged by half. The UK Pound was trading par with the dollar. At the time I was paying the rent by working for a debt collection agency. I hated every single minute of my day job. But I could eat and they had a great photocopier I could use in the evening when everyone else had left. From this humble beginning Raindance grew.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is this. If you really want to become a filmmaker full time, you will. And everyone’s route is different.

About 

Photo Credit Jay Brooks / BIFA 2015

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

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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