You’ve finally decided to jump headlong towards your dream and become a filmmaker. Now what? Leaving the ordinary civilian lifestyle to become a filmmaker can be a real jolt. Raindance is here to make that transition easier. Filmmaking is not just a lifestyle – it’s a strategy, a different way of thinking and doing. For your career as a filmmaker to really take off, you need to become a student of filmmaking. Successful filmmakers learn skills and form new habits in their first 100 days. In this article you will find a skills and craft catalogue you’ll need to succeed as a filmmaker. Follow it like a menu and keep referring back. You may want to bookmark this page to make it easier to find. By no means consider this as an exhaustive or final list. You will have your own tweaks and ideas. If you think your ideas would be useful to others then put them into the comments box below. Remember many of the items on this list can be done at home in the evening meaning you won’t need to quit the day job straight away.
1. Watch movies
Why go to film school when you can watch and learn from watching movies? You can save yourself a whole bunch of time, and stop reading this article and look at these: 16 Short Films That Launched Famous Film Careers 14 Brilliant Short Films You Can Watch at Lunchtime There are some pretty polished shorts on these links, and some pretty rough ones. What they show us is that the director can handle the camera, actors and can direct a story using the medium of moving pictures whatever the budget. This is a really good benchmark you can use to measure yourself against.
2. Read these articles
Filmmakers like Tarantino aren’t just handed a camera and told to make Reservoir Dogs! They work their butts off studying movies and reading screenplays.
3. Study these movies
Why not create your own film school by studying the classic debut films, most made on a shoestring budget. These movies are pretty much essential viewing for anyone wanting to break in as a screenwriter, film director or producer. Each of these, in my humble opinion, are successful movies and every single one is a film that I would like to have made or written myself.
4. Read these books
I’m old school and love nothing better than sitting down with a great book. Most of these books are still beside my desk and are well worn, with highlighter marks, tabs taped to key pages.
Everyone always asks me about the kit. I always ask: “What’s your budget?’ I usually get back: “Erm, squirm, wriggly worm…” To which I ask whether or not the filmmaker has a cellphone. Bingo. You have a phone that makes movies. Go make your mistakes cheaply without blowing off the family silver. There are cameras in 2 different price brackets: Low and high. As well as my recommendation for a basic shooting kit.
6. Free filmmaking articles and advice
There are loads of fantastic blogs and websites with great information. Here are the 13 bloggers Raindance follows. Here are 13 essential filmmaking websites you need to look at (and set up RSS feeds). Here are 10 films that can teach you everything you need to know about editing. Every morning (and often late at night) I look at 5 key websites to see what is new and trending. Here are five essential newsletters I subscribe to: cultural weekly.com, hollywoodreporter.com, indiewire.com, screendaily.com, and variety.com
7. Take filmmaking classes at Raindance
I’m not trying to flog our courses here – far from it. If you want to learn stuff quickly and cheaply, I have devised a series of classes over the years based on what I wish I had known in my first 100 days. During your first month, take the classes from the certificate courses, in screenwriting, directing, documentary or producing. Many of these classes are available live online. These classes will cover the basic principals in the subjects you want to major in. In North America, our hubs in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New York and LA have great training sessions. In Europe Raindance hubs are in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Budapest. For more detailed (and free) information you’ll find our website full of information-heavy articles and links.
8. Set SMART goals
When setting off on a filmmaking career, setting realistic goals and achievable goals should be your first priority. The educational wizards at Stanford University promote SMART goals and a handy little Word template I sometimes use. SMART stands for:
- Specific. The more specific you can be about real dates and deadlines, the more successful you will be. Setting off to “become a filmmaker” is not a specific goal. Do you want to write a thriller script? or create a web series? or produce and direct documentaries? These are specific goals.
- Measurable. You need to be able to use hard numbers to measure your success. Don’t say you want to make a short film. Instead, say you want to make a 2 minute short in your first week or to write a feature script by Christmas. These are goals that are measurable.
- Attainable. No story is interesting when the hero gets what they want too easily. Likewise, you want to set challenging goals. At the same time, they have to be attainable. A filmmaker friend of mine was caring for her mother who was dying of cancer. Her mother made her daughter promise from her deathbed that if she really wanted to make a film, it had to be nominated for an Oscar. Of course, my friend gave up filmmaking. The goal was unobtainable. The skill is to assess your resources, try and figure out what you can achieve with them and the help of your friends and co-collaborators, and then aim a bit higher.
- Relevant. Your goals need to be relevant to your filmmaking goals. If you want to be, say, a film director, it would be crazy to first attempt to become a computer graphics specialist, right? Ahem. Gareth Edwards did exactly that and now he’s directed Godzilla and is up for Star Wars. The point is, make sure you are able to keep as much of your energy and time for that which only you know that you want.
- Timely. Give yourself a deadline. Then stick to it. It’s a bit like school, you know!
+++++ OOOPS +++++ Make a film. Any film. Grab your cell phone and a couple of friends and go down to your local park bench and shoot a short on your lunchtime. This is exactly what 2 of our brilliant MA students did, literally on the spur of the moment. Total budget? Zip. From now on you are going to make at least one short film per week. At the end of 100 days, you should have a dozen shorts. What are you reading this for when you could be outside shooting a movie! ++++++++++++++++
9. Figure out what your social media profile(s) is going to be.
There are oodles and oodles of social media websites and you could drive yourself crazy if you attempted them all. There are two at least you should get started with: Twitter and Facebook. Then perhaps, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Here are some many tips on how to design and build your social media.
10. Create a website.
11. Register a limited company
Here in the UK, it costs practically nothing to set up a British limited company. In North America and Europe, it can be complicated and costly. I’d recommend that a visit to your accountant is well worth the time and effort. You definitely want to be set up formally because you do want to raise capital and receive money, don’t you? You will also have to get yourself registered for local sales and income taxes. A good solid day of structuring this properly will pay massive dividends later. When I started Raindance I did it under my own name and opened a personal bank account trading as Raindance. While that worked for a while, how did I wish I had done it properly from day one. Here are some tips on setting up a company.
12. Start Making a Business Plan
Successful filmmakers not only know the specific things they want, they create a business plan that outlines their strategies of how they are going to make it all happen. Plans can go awry, or as Shakespeare said, ‘many a slip twixt cup and lip.’ But no plan and you haven’t a chance. Creating a business plan is a process that takes 6 – 8 weeks of intense thought and research. In your first 30 days, you will have a skeleton outline. Hre’s a bit of heavy flogging: Raindance offers a single evening class Creating A Business Plan which you can take online or in person in LA, Toronto or London.
- 30% income tax relief on EIS investments of up to £1 million in any tax year – this is also available on an investment of up to £1 million backdated to the previous tax year
- 50% income tax relief if the total raised is less than £150,000
- Capital gains tax deferral and CGT eliminated if held at death
- 100% inheritance tax relief (after two years as long as you still own the shares when you die)
- Tax-free growth
- Up to 45% loss relief
- Remember you have to keep your investment for at least three years to retain these reliefs
The availability and extent of tax benefits depend on your investor’s personal circumstances and is subject to change. Register for EIS or SEIS with your local tax office enabling you to be able to offer substantial tax benefits to anyone investing in you and your company.
13. Set up a blog if you don’t already have one.
Consistent blogging is a fundamental part of filmmaking. Learn why your career needs a blog here. So you’ll need to set up a blog. Search for tips online, watch instructional videos on YouTube and Lynda.com, and meet with anyone you know who’s used that platform before to learn some tricks, tips, and shortcuts in person. Once you get up-to-speed on your filmmaking career, you’ll be using your blogging tool every week.
Day 31 – 33
Turn your head off for three days and recharge. Chances are you have never ever worked so hard in all your life. It’s challenging and stimulating and very, very intense. Don’t work yourself to the death as I do – it’s counter-productive and very tiring.
What have I missed out: Add into the comments box below.