Tag: film industry

5 Award Winning Directors Who Got Where They Are

Every director once had the dream to make movies when they were younger, and decided to go and chase after it. Starting out as a filmmaker can be terrifying and difficult. Getting your name out can be a long process that takes a lot of effort and patience to get your big break. Every award winning director have gone through this process, but each story is different. Here are some famous film directors who got where they are in the film industry.

Kathryn Bigelow

Before becoming the first woman to receive an Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow started out at the San Francisco Art Institute as a painting student. Before she enrolled in Columbia University’s graduate film program, Bigelow was living in New York as a starving artist for a few years. She began her career with the short film, The Set-Up (1978) that was submitted as part of her MFA at Columbia. Her fascination with manipulating movie conventions and genre began after directing Near Dark (1987), a story of a man who becomes involved with a family of nomadic vampires in his small midwestern town. Most of her films were rated poorly by critics and did not receive much box office revenue until her big break in 2008. Bigelow directed The Hurt Locker, a film that follows an explosive disposal team in the Iraq War and their psychological reactions to combat. The film received much positive feedback and resulted in her winning the Academy Award and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director. She won the same Critics Circle award again in 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty, making her the first female director to win this award twice.

Damien Chazelle

Although filmmaking was his first passion, Damien Chazelle started out as a musician in his teenage years. After high school, he realised that he did not have much talent as a musician and started to pursue filmmaking again. The French-American director went on to graduate from Harvard University with a filmmaking degree in Visual and Environmental studies in 2007. He wrote and directed his debut feature Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench as his senior thesis project at Harvard. The film premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival where it received various awards. Chazelle moved to Los Angeles after graduation to work as a “writer-for-hire” in Hollywood. His writing career in Hollywood later led him to direct his film Whiplash (2014), which depicts the relationship between a jazz drumming student and an abusive instructor. The film was submitted to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where it received numerous awards as well as earning five Academy Award nominations, and winning three.

Due to the success of the film, Chazelle was able to attract people to help finance La La Land (2016). The story is a musical about a jazz pianist and an inspiring actress who fall in love while trying to pursue their dreams in Los Angeles. The film opened at the 2016 Venice Film Festival in August and began its release in December of 2016 in the United States. The film received many great reviews and led Chazelle to receive both the Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Director, making him the youngest director to win both awards at the age of 32. Chazelle gave some advice in a 2015 interview for aspiring young artists. “Hopefully, there’s a sort of simple message: Don’t give up. It takes fifty or a hundred or a thousand ‘No’s’ before you hear a ‘Yes.’ Certainly, that applies to both music and my experience as a writer/director”. 

Alfonso Cuarón

Being the son of a doctor and a pharmaceutical biochemist, Alfonso Cuarón travelled a different career path than his parents. Cuarón studied filmmaking at Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC) in Mexico. He later began working as a technician for television in Mexico, which later led him to be an assistant director for many film productions in the country. Cuarón landed his first big screen film as a director with Sólo con Tu Pareja (1991). After his success in Mexico with the film, Alfonso was hired to direct an episode for the Showtime series Fallen Angels (1993). Cuarón’s success in both the US and Mexico in the 90s lead him to directing the third film in the Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). A few years later, Alfonso directed Gravity (2013), a story of medical engineer and veteran astronaut getting stranded in deep space with no hope of rescue. This film resulted in Cuarón receiving both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Director. He also won the Academy Award for Best Director again for Roma (2019). In his acceptance speech, Cuarón says “As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away”.

Tom Hooper

British-Australian film and television director Tom Hooper knew he wanted to get into filmmaking since his teenage years. His first professional short, Painted Faces broadcasted on television when he was just twenty years old. Hooper directed plays and television commercials during his time as an Oxford University student, and continued to direct television episodes on British television after graduating. His father introduced him to television producer Matthew Robinson, who gave Hooper his first TV directing work and became his mentor. Hooper began to direct many television shows for BBC over the years, but made his debut with Red Dust in 2004. His debut led him to work for HBO, where he directed the British miniseries Elizabeth I (2005),which covers the final years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Hooper also directed the film Longford (2006), which demonstrates the failures of Lord Longford to secure parole of Moors murderer Myra Hindley.

The success from both of these productions led Hooper to be selected by Tom Hanks to direct the miniseries John Adams in 2008, which won many Emmy awards that year. After directing and releasing The Damned United in 2009, production for The King’s Speech began that same year. Hooper discovered the play from his Australian mother who attended a reading in London. The play covers the relationship between King George the `Sixth and his Australian speech therapist and decided to take action. The film was completed in August 2010. Hooper won the Director’s Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and the Academy Award for Best Director for the film. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Hooper states, “The funny thing about being a director is that you are not seeking your own pleasure. Your own pleasure is beside the point – it is deceptive. A lot of the time when you shoot, you are pained. It is quite masochistic – you have to be in touch with your unhappiness because that is part of the early radar system that tells you when something isn’t working. So you go between unhappiness and joy. It is what is in the frame when you turn over, that is all that matters.”

Christopher Nolan

At just eleven years old, Christopher Nolan aspired to be a professional filmmaker. The British-American film director started making films in college while earning his bachelor’s in English literature from University College London. In 1998, Nolan personally funded, wrote, directed, and edited Following. His success with the film resulted in his directing of Memento in 2000, which received many award nominations and was later selected by the Library of Congress in the US National Film Registry in 2017. Nolan became more successful as the years went on, later directing the Batman series Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). This trilogy has won many academy awards, made record breaking box office records, and are considered some of the best superhero films ever made. The success of The Dark Knight  led Nolan to direct Inception in 2010, which ended up grossing over $820 million worldwide. After the end of the Batman trilogy in 2012, Nolan directed, wrote and produced Interstellar (2014). The film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and received nominations for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.

Filed under: Directing, Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, ScreenwritingTagged with: , , , ,

How They Say No In The Film Industry

Funny thing about the film industry is that it’s all about communication. And all about being really clear about what you mean.
When I wrote this article back in the mid 1990’s I had no idea that it would catch on so quickly, and become the hallmark of how the film industry is anything but clear. If you have any additions to this list, please add them into the comments box below.
Elliot Grove
London May 2019

People in the film industry love to use the word YES all the time – but rarely does the word YES mean a yes. The usual meaning of the word YES is the word NO.

YES means ‘yes’, when it is attached to one of the following two phrases:
– Yes, could I please have details of your bank?
– Yes, get your lawyer to call our head of business and legal affairs.

The word ‘NO”

People in the film industry are always reluctant to use the word No in case you become an overnight success.

For example: Raindance student Guy Ritchie was turned down by every single UK financing source when he was trying to finance his first feature: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. When the movie became a critical and commercial success, several people who had turned him down were fired.

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How they say “NO” in the film industry

Thus the common expressions of the word NO are:

Yes. I really like it.
Don’t call me I’ll call you.
That is really good. Let me kick it around here in the office and get right back to you.

The only time a “yes” means a “yes” is when you get money.

Some definitions of commonly used words:


to schmooze = befriend scum
to pitch = grovel shamelessly
to brainstorm = feign preparedness
to research = procrastinate indefinitely
to network = spread misinformation
to collaborate = argue incessantly
to freelance = collect unemployment


agent = frustrated lawyer
lawyer = frustrated producer
producer = frustrated writer
scriptwriter = frustrated director
director = frustrated actor
actor = frustrated human


high-concept = low brow
production value = gore
entry-level = pays nothing
highly qualified = knows the producer
network approved = had made them money
being discovered – you got a cheque


net = something that apparently doesn’t exist
gross = Michael Eisner’s salary
back-end = you, if you think you’ll ever see it
residuals = braces for the kids
deferral = don’t hold your breath
points = see “net” or “back-end”


You can trust me = You must be new
It needs some polishing = Change everything
It shows promise = It stinks rotten
It needs some fine tuning = Change everything
I’d like some input = I want total control
It needs some honing = Change everything
Call me back next week = Stay out of my life
It needs some tightening = Change everything
Try and punch it up = I have no idea what I want
It needs some streamlining = Change everything
You’ll never work in this town again = I have no power whatsoever

If you have another way they say “NO” in the film industry please leave in the comments box below!

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, In Our Opinion, Promotion, Marketing and DistributionTagged with: , ,

The Streaming Services War Has Begun

It’s been a busy few days in Hollywood: the historic 20th Century Fox studio was absorbed into the Mouse House, and Apple announced its long-anticipated foray into video streaming services. Streaming platforms – mostly Netflix – have been major troublemakers in the film and television industries in recent years.

Film festivals are not quite sure what to do with films that were made for streaming platforms (Cannes hates them, most of the others like them). And it’s been debated what type of awards considerations those films should get – but more on that later. Now that the biggest company in the world is entering the arena, it looks like the war for the viewer’s attention has begun for good.

The streaming services market is crowded

Apple’s arrival in the streaming services market has been anticipated for some time. When it hit the trade papers that Reese Witherspoon had sold a series to the biggest company in the world, eyebrows were raised – with concern more than surprise. If established talent like that goes to Apple, does that mean that Netflix is no longer an exception?

In this case, there are several factors that we need to take into account. Netflix has been a major troublemaker in the film and television market since it moved its service online, and dramatically more so since it started creating content. They convinced major cinematic talent that the grass was indeed greener on a smaller screen, with David Fincher being the first to hop the fence to make House of Cards. It was only a matter of time before they moved into movies, and later into prestige movies, movies that were actually good and award-worthy. Resistance to this has been staunch, recently led by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Amazon also moved into the market with Amazon Prime Video, albeit with much less truculence than Netflix. Those two are the only major legal options for SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) that operate on a global level. Netflix boasts that it can drop content in 190 territories in a heartbeat – and they won’t let you forget it.

One thing we have to remember, however, is that this market is very much run from the United States: an American ecosystem with a global impact. The streaming market in the United States is more fragmented than in the rest of the world, as viewers have to choose between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO. And soon there will be more choice.

The new kids in town

Netflix has an edge when it comes to the cultural impact of its content: its need for content is, if anything, as much of a reason for their broad range of films and series, as their political stance to showcase diversity. You don’t “Amazon Prime Video and chill”. One thing you also don’t do is “Disney and chill” unless you want to utterly destroy your and someone else’s childhood memories.

But it will soon be an option. Disney announced the launch of Disney+ in late 2019, the Mouse House’s streaming services, where all of its historical content (and now Fox’s as well) will be available. Disney is emblematic for distributing American content worldwide, thus being the main culprit for global tastes becoming mainstream, and it is certain that it will continue to be so once it rolls out Disney+ globally. TV shows based in the Marvel and Star Wars universes are already in the works. What will happen to Hulu, which Disney now owns 60% of, is up for grabs.

And now Apple has officially announced its launch around the same time. It has recently been Apple’s strategy to expand from hardware to services, as people are realising that it may not be necessary to spend £1,000 each year for a new phone. Apple Music was the first foray into those services. It was fitting for the company, as music is in its DNA, and it was the main agent of the disruption that the music industry underwent fifteen years ago. It is now an agent of the similar disruption affecting the film and television industries.

Apple is stepping into the arena with heavy artillery: for its announcement, Tim Cook enlisted the support of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, and the big guns: the high priestess of daytime television Oprah Winfrey, and the legendary Steven Spielberg, producer of prestige television entertainment.

The latter’s appearance was a pointed slap at Netflix: Spielberg has been a vocal critic of Netflix’s foray into filmmaking, and his partnership with Apple (while indeed just in television) certainly sheds a different light into his recent statements against Netflix.

The war begins

2019 is the year where the global war of streaming services will begin. The US market is already crowded, and the rest of the world is going to experience what that’s like when Disney and Apple roll out their services in the autumn. No one knows the power of an a-ha moment like Oprah, and she’s about to get the whole world to experience it. The Queer Eye guys will no longer be the only ones to make us ugly cry.

It is going to take a lot for Apple to get as zeitgeisty, but its starting position seems incredibly strong to challenge Netflix. We also shouldn’t forget that Apple has an advantage: they already are in everyone’s hands with iPhones and iPads, and can roll out its television service instantaneously to their existing customers. This is an advantage that they have with Apple Music and that Spotify recently complained about to the European Union arguing it was an unfair advantage.

Disney doesn’t lack might when rolling out films or television series either. We’re getting ready for the clash of the Titans.

Filed under: Filmmaking, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , , ,

How to Pitch Your Project

So, you’ve got a great idea for your next film. You’ve got your characters and plot details all thought out. You can see it all clearly in your head, but as soon as you run into the person who can make it a reality, you freeze. Your moment to pitch your great idea is gone with the closing of the elevator door. Pitching can be stressful, but it’s one of the most important things to master in the world of filmmaking. All films start with a pitch, so it’s a skill worth sharpening. No matter where you are or who you are pitching to, here are some tips to make your pitch perfect:

1. Create a Connection

Make sure that you create some sort of connection with the person you are pitching to before you jump right in. If you succeed in pitching your idea, you will be working with this person. Get to know them a little bit and try to see if they may actually be interested. Don’t waste your time if they are avoiding you and staring into their phone screen.

2. Keep it Short and Sweet

You may only have one shot to pitch your idea, so don’t lose the interest of the person you’re pitching to! Be descriptive, but use keywords to keep things concise. Think of your pitch like a rich piece of chocolate. You want it to be delicious and memorable but not overwhelming. If it’s too sweet, it may upset the person’s stomach.

3. Preparation is Key

If the person you are pitching to is interested, they will ask questions. This is a great sign because it shows they were following your idea and want to hear about it more. Have an answer and be prepared to clarify anything that may seem confusing or incomplete. It’s your idea, after all, so make sure you really know it well.

4. Get Them Hooked

If someone came up to you and just started droning on and on about something in a monotone, unenthused tone, would you be interested in what they had to say? Of course not! Being excited about your own idea is super important in getting someone else interested in it. To really sell your idea you have to seem truly passionate about it.

5. Make it Visual

Don’t just tell them about your idea, show them. Most people love visuals because they can show what the finished idea may look like. If you are taking inspiration from a certain film, book, famous location, or even person, pull up some photos to accompany your idea. Visuals show creativity and that you have truly thought out your idea.

6. Practice Makes Perfect

This sage advice applies to almost everything, including pitching. Practice pitching to yourself in the mirror and really listen to what you’re saying. Does it sound boring? Change it! Are you too forceful? Tone it down a bit. Another good way to practice your pitching is to attend our Live! Ammunition! Pitching Competition London. This is a great way to get some feedback on your pitch from a panel of industry executives and a live audience. Be sure to sign up for our Pitching Skills Workshop too!


Filed under: Filmmaking, Filmmaking CareerTagged with: , , , , ,

Why More of the Industry Needs to Embrace ‘Inclusion Riders’

It’s been about a year since Frances McDormand’s 2018 Oscars acceptance speech and her mic-drop worthy moment of bringing the term ‘inclusion rider’ to the forefront of the industry. Since then, other actors have taken to promising equality in their future projects. Three days after the award ceremony, Michael B. Jordan promised that his production company would make sure inclusion riders were written into contracts for any upcoming projects. Just recently, Regina King promised in her 2019 Golden Globes acceptance speech that all future projects she produces will have a crew that’s at least 50 percent female.

But what exactly does the adoption of these stipulations mean for the industry?

In theory, inclusion riders should help diversify the vastly unequal environment of Hollywood. People of color, women and underrepresented individuals should be given a voice and equal opportunity for employment in the industry. The idea of this is great, but it’s harder to see the effect of it take form. While individuals themselves can insight change, the reality is that it’s hard to see true change until the larger corporations support the initiative.

So has there been any progress on that front?

Long story short, yes. In late 2018, Warner Bros. announced that it would introduce an inclusion rider policy, becoming the first major player in the entertainment industry to do so. The company promised to “create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects.” They also promised to issue an annual report showing its progress. The report has yet to be released, so it’s hard to see if there really is any progress on the diversity front.

The fact of the matter is that the company’s commitment to its new policy is a step in the right direction. Where Warner Bros. spoke up about the issue, many others chose to stay mum on the subject. Sony, Disney, Universal, and others are guilty of doing this. They haven’t made any real commitments to adding a diversity clause or policy to their hiring practices for positions on or off screen.

Even the streaming giant, Netflix, who has been producing more and more content helmed by women directors and featuring people of color leads, is lagging behind. Films like Beasts of No Nation and Okja feature diverse casting, but Netflix has chosen to avoid adopting any official policy regarding diversity. In an interview with USA TodayCEO Reed Hastings said they’re “not so big on doing everything through agreements. We’re trying to do things creatively.”

While that’s great in theory, the “creativity” of Hollywood historically hasn’t been able to make significant changes. If one were to rely on creativity over a physical contract stipulation, nothing would get done. Netflix spends billions on content, so why can’t they dedicate some of their time and money on something that could definitively change the industry? These powerhouse studios make up such a huge percentage of the distribution channel that they can lead the way towards change. Yet, few of them seem to have the drive to. This is where the real problem lies. 

It’s not like there aren’t incentives to adding diversity to films. Studies show that films which feature diverse casting outperform those that don’t. They also show that people of color make up almost “half of ticket buyers who attended the opening weekends of some of the most successful films released within the study period.” Studios pledging to support ‘inclusion riders’ would most likely see an increase in overall sales and audience members.

Overall, it’s great to see new commitments to diversity by individuals in Hollywood. Go ahead and praise the Regina Kings, Brie Larsons and Michael B. Jordans of the industry because they are doing a great thing! You, yourself, can even take part in inciting change by adding an ‘inclusion rider’ clause in your film viewing. But we must realize that while promises to include underrepresented individuals is a step forward for the industry, nothing can truly change until more of the larger studios follow through with them as well.


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