Your First 100 Days As Filmmaker/Screenwriter | Raindance Film School

You’ve finally decided to jump headlong towards your dream and become a filmmaker. And, bless, you have booked a 3 months work break. You chose to make your first 100 days just like Joe Biden’s launch of the 46th Presidency of America, Like Biden, you too are going to get down to basics in you first 100 days as a filmmaker. To make it easier and more bite-sized, I am going to make a series of 14 day film school sections.

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.

Before we start!

Filmmaking is actually easy:
You get an idea. You write it down. You get a camera, any camera, even your cell phone. And you point it actors. And thats is. In the most simple terms.

What are you waiting for?

I’m going to break the 100 days into a series of mini 14 day film school sessions. Each section is going to contain an exercise which will re-enforce what I believe are important writing and filmmaking elements.

Let’s Do it! Let’s break this in 14 day chunks!

Your first 14 day film school

This is it! Your chance to launch your career!

Day 1 – 14

Task 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.

` Exercise

Watch at least one short a day for the next 14 days. After each short film you watch ask and answer these two questions: Did that short demonstrate talent? Could I do that? Create a database of the shorts you have watched and why you liked them (or didn’t).

Task 2. Read these articles

Filmmakers like Tarantino aren’t just handed a camera and told to make Reservoir Dogs! They work their butts to the bone studying movies and reading screenplays.

Exercise:

Successful filmmakers focus on a few key ideas and methodologies that help them achieve their filmmaking goals. We’ve handpicked some of the very best Raindance indie tips to get you familiar with filmmaking and help you tackle your filmmaking dream. Read them and see if you can write up your personal manifesto.

Task 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.

Exercise:

Watch at least 3 feature movies a week for the next 3 months. For each movie, analyse your favourite scenes, and watch them again and again until you have figured out exactly how they were made.

Task 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.

Exercise: Read at least one book on a filmmaking topic like directing, screenwriting or producing per month. Then write a 1,000-word report of what you learned from, were surprised or disappointed by in the book. Then post this essay on your blog (see below)

Your next 14 day film school

Day 15 – 28

Don’t take you feet off the pedal! The exercises and work you did in the first 14 day film school can be repeated. But in this section there is some practical work for you to do. These are the items that professionals consider in order to make their work easier.

Task 5. Kit

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.

Exercise

Make a list of the equipment and then create a budget. Challenge every decision you make with: “Do I really need this?” Then make a plan to get the money to get the kit you actually do need.

Task 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

Exercise 

Subscribe to these 5 essential trade magazines: cultural weekly.com, hollywoodreporter.com, indiewire.com, screendaily.com, and variety.com. Then spend 15 minutes a day reading them.

How the hell does one find time to do all this? Here’s how to manage your Twitter account on just 15 minutes per day.

Task 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. These classes are available live online. These classes will cover the basic principals in the subjects you want to major in. There are classes in screenwriting, directing, film producing, documentary making and film sales and marketing.

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.

Exercise:

Take a Raindance class like the 99 Minute Film School. This class is often offered online and is about £25/$30 per head. If you make your own film (see below) then you are excused from ever taking a filmmaking class!

Our HND, Bachelors or Postgraduate Film Degree programmes are designed for filmmakers who want to go really deeply into a subject. Raindance members can also get over 40 hours of free instruction in writing, directing and producing through the Raindance members website.

Outside the world of Raindance there are a host of fantastic free classes online. Here are 20 free university film school courses. ** remember, you don’t need to go to film school to be a filmmaker.

Task 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!

Exercise

Use this free template from Stanford University as a guide to help you set your SMART goals. And as you go through your 100 days, remember to check your analytics regularly and make appropriate adjustments to help you reach your goals.

+++++ OOOPS +++++ STOP PRESS +++++
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!
++++++++++++++++

Your third 14 day film school

Now that you have researched some basic, and dealt with some of the admin basics, lets start getting your new career set up – a bit like setting up any business. Except, this is your business.

Day 29 – 42

Task 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.

Exercise

Set up your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook group. No excuses. Just do it.

Task 10. Consider your brand.

Branding has become an essential part of the modern filmmaker. You also need to build up your following, your tribe, so when your film is finished it can help with the marketing. As a free lance crew person a considered social media is one that will help you get work.

My first volunteer way back in 1992 was Edgar Wright. He has developed an excellent social media platform. His social media is so unique and well-designed that he can make a huge impact on the box office for his films.

Exercise

Make a list of 5 filmmakers you admire. research and analyse their social media.

Here are mine:

Edgar Wright Twitter: @EdgarWright Instagram: @EdgarWright

Emily Skye Instagram: @SheWolfFilms

Chris Verhoef, Indiefilmmakers Instagram @indiefilmmakers

Rob Savage Twitter: @dirrobsavage Instagram: @dirrobsavage

Collab Writers Twitter: @Collab_Writers

Task 11. Create a website.

Yes you need on e. And it doesn’t need to be really fancy. And with a bit of patience you can make one yourself. Many of my filmmaker friends use Wix.com as their free website building tools. Before you can go live, you will need to create a URL and web hosting. Here’s a directory you can use to get this part up-and-running.

Task 12. 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.

Your next 14 day film school

This 14 day section deals with some of the commercial side pf the industry. Are you still keeping up with the creative exercises we started in the beginning?

Day 43 – 66

Task 13. Start Making a Business Plan

Successful filmmakers not only know the specific things they want, they create a business plan that outlines the 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 days, you will have a skeleton outline. Now Here’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.

Exercise

British taxpayers only: The UK government is encouraging people to invest in UK small companies by offering valuable tax breaks through an Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). Great news if you are looking to reduce your tax bill. Putting money into an EIS could give you:

  • 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.

Task 14. 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 67 – 100

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.

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About 

Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

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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