Get paid to be a filmmaker. A guide to climbing the industry and getting paid to work as a filmmaker and professional director..
“It’s a tough business…”
Get paid to be a filmmaker. If I had a penny for every-time I was told in my early career that I was – getting into a really competitive and ultimately challenging career in film and i was in a dream world if i thought it possible to get paid to work as a filmmaker -I’d have had enough pennies to build a penny factory entirely made of copper.
It is a slogan for the business of film, getting in is tough, staying in is tougher, but the task of actually taking on the dream to get paid to work as a filmmaker?
Get paid to be a filmmaker – start correctly.
However, in my opinion it is the “starting correctly” that seems to be the most difficult for many frustrated filmmakers looking to start work, seriously. Starting in the right way makes a huge difference to how successful your career will be and it will bode well in the way you look to get paid to work as a filmmaker.
In this guide I will discuss the inside tips on how to genuinely build a methodology which will ultimately give you a credible and, more importantly, hireable portfolio of work.
By combining the information contained in this post with our many other posts and previous email guides (which are now all present on this website), you can start correctly on the pathway to a rewarding, artistically building and financially compensating career, giving yourself tons of cash for all the efforts you do behind a camera.
Getting paid to work as a filmmaker is all about starting right, then being sensible in how you look to build a career in filmmaking.
1. Get paid to be a filmmaker. Starting out and looking for work.
If you are at this stage then it is important to take these initial steps on board. Start by telling everyone you meet, that you’re a filmmaker and that you get paid to work as a filmmaker!
“Oh really what sort of stuff do you do?“
“Most things at this stage, I’m just starting out properly and my first aim is to build a body of work, that’s diverse so I can show off my style and adaptability“
The directors with this sort of response are getting paid to work as a filmmaker, in a quicker time than others. It’s this sort of attitude you MUST have if you want to start the right way.
Finding the work isn’t too difficult, filming celebrations like weddings, bar mitzvah’s, big birthday parties, anything. At these sorts of events you tend to have absolute creative control – you might not be paid all that much but in places like London for instance we know wedding filmmakers who get hired because they are expensive!! And these guys are only ever booked for a night, call all the shots, and edit with no pressure at all to get the film out. They experiment with new lighting rigs, new cameras and lens kits and are always working – always earning.
Another avenue is online video and corporate film. Here the creativity is a lot more limited but the earnings can be huge and the work is out there in abundance. And I mean that, it is EVERYWHERE!!!
2. Get paid to be a filmmaker. A valuable experience in corporate film?
If you’re like me and came to the arts from a completely different industry then you will have a good standing to potentially use that knowledge to make promotional films for either your ex employers, clients, suppliers or competitors. This sort of inside info gives you a leading edge in securing corporate work within one particular field. Corporate work varies from job to job, it is worth noting that when you pitch your ideas to the board of directors, the one man band, or the group of startups, the actual pitching is where you will gain the most in terms of experience.
Pitching ideas, pitching your style, your storyboard – all fantastic experience that will stand you out from others once you move into TV and Film. This is the best place to get decent experience and earn good money early on…
Remember, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be doing something like this to pay the bills. It keeps you fed and it enabled you to oil your tools and in many cases improve those filmmaking skills.
If you don’t have any previous prior industry expertise or insight, talk to your network of friends and family and see if you can help people out with any video content they might require. Start cheap, and as soon as you get more material use that to help raise your rate card.
3. Get paid to be a filmmaker. Allow the merging between the “Love Work”, with the “Work Work”.
The films you make and submit to Film Festivals like ours, is what I have always called the “Love Work”, the LW is what we do with love, the passion element involved enables us to really take the project on with gusto and creativity, it is usually always a MASSIVE personal investment, but we don’t mind as it is filmmaking 101, the filmmaking we want to do.
The “Work Work” WW is the polar opposite to the LW, this is the wedding video, the music video with that annoying band, the online corporate film or the pointless viral “try-hard”. I used to hate doing these as I felt that my creativity was always crushed and it wasn’t until I had the portfolio size to one day merge the two together.
It is very important that you still do or try to do as much WW as possible, and with all of your LW taking off you really need to try and keep the two close. What I mean is allow the passion start seeping into your WW from your LW, you need to have a combined ethos on this, or else you run the risk of loosing your creative identity.
Remember, this is all part of the portfolio building so make sure the two inform each-other as often as you can. Use the same grades if you can, the same set-ups, similar or the same actors, allow this connection between the two parts of your filmmaking brain to start building your brand.
4. Get paid to be a filmmaker. Listen to your peers. Never ever take offense when receiving feedback. Adapt to feedback given.
Why oh why do people get into art, who can’t handle criticism? Offence is the collateral damage of free-speech, we are all entitled to share our thoughts on anything we want. Art is subjective, people are mysterious, some people are genius, some people are stupid. Get over people and listen to all offerings of thought, from the very unhelpful… “that was shit”. To the incredibly brilliant “I felt like it was too long…”
If you get feedback on your work, alluding to one particular point more often than others, consider changing your work, if you can. If you can’t because you are precious of your creation, stop for a second, look at your work subjectively, with your head not with your heart, just for a second.
Then climb inside the mind of those that have given the review. Are they crazy? Are they naive? Are they just not sophisticated in the world of “indie cinema”?
…Or are they just people with varying opinion?
The most beneficial methodology you can aquire in your early days is the ability to be adaptable. To change when those request it.
Naturally, you shouldn’t just keep changing your work based on every single point people make, but you must consider the following when reported…
- Feedback by various friends? Maybe
- Feedback by the public-unknown? Seriously consider
- Feedback by your employer/client (includes producer and financiers)? Always
- Improve your filmmaking by removing your ego and listening to feedback with a calm and open mind. Allow changes to be made as and when you can. If you can change something keep your previous versions, just in-case.
5. Get paid to be a filmmaker. Don’t be a douche to work with.
At our London Lift-Off Film Festival a few years ago I was sat with a filmmaker after their screening and we talked about the DOP, I was commending their work and said that it was really great work that they did. The filmmakers response was this…
“The quality of their work is excellent…“
“Yes, but they were a nightmare to work with mate. Honestly 14 days of hell they were horrendous. They acted like the boss. Were always late. Never gave anyone respect. You will notice on their CV (resume) that they never EVER get rehired! I won’t be using them again, no way!“
Getting paid to work as filmmaker is easy, but keeping it can be tough, this is why reputation is key. We all talk.
6. Get paid to be a filmmaker. Use and take your opportunities.
Make films for anyone who wants to pay you to do it, and treat the work as seriously as your own, NOTHING is beneath you, remove your ego and do as much work as possible, get yourself paid corporate work, it’s fine, learn there, learn your craft on the corporate shoots, make mistakes, try stuff out.
Every single small to medium sized business now needs online content to get themselves ahead of their competitors, this factor needs to be utilised by indie filmmakers. The majority of some of the best mainstream directors from Fincher to Lynch have all directed adverts.
Corporate film isn’t sexy, but it pays and you can really use this Work Work to sell you to a prospective agency. Where your Love Work will flourish.
It’s all fairly simple and with the right open mythology you’ll benefit artistically in all situations, even in the ones where you feel creative opportunity might be lacking and vapid. We are of the belief that the best directors start open, and narrow down their creative ethos the more times they are requested to work without having to pitch. Chances are, you’re a long way away from this stage, so try to be open, work as often as possible and let the two work approaches inform one another and try not to be too snobby early on, or else you’ll find the world lacking opportunity a lot sooner than you think.