5 Tips on Filmmaking for Income

video_production_business_cards-rdf6d76e6ed214795b674778cbedb51cf_xwjey_8byvr_512Filmmaking isn’t an easy profession and I am often asked for some advice. I’m not Mr. KnowItAll McSmartypants here, I feel like I am learning everyday and will continue to learn forever.  However, after 6 years of doing this as my only income source I believe there are 5 key aspects that filmmakers should master over anything else.  By the way…’filmmakers’ is synonymous with directors, dp’s, producers, actors, and crew.  So here we go!

  1. Keep shooting/acting/editing/etc all the time. If the paid stuff isn’t rolling in then do some probono stuff or make a video yourself. Doing your own projects offers the opportunity to experiment new techniques and keep fresh while probono adds in a little bit of #3.  This will also keep you passionate about your chosen profession.  People starting off may not believe it, but after doing corporate interviews and redundant tasks in the edit suite like multiple titles and 45 minute speeches by CEOs…you will actually start to despise some of it.  It will become WORK and not that fun exciting thing you used to do.  That’s okay…just make sure you are getting into the stuff you are passionate about as well.  You will be rejuvenated and keep that excitement alive.
  2. In our business it’s more important what others think about your work, than what YOU think about your work. Unless you are going to lunch daily with JJ Abrams to talk about your next gig on Star Wars Ep VII…swallow your pride and get some honest feedback. Stick your stuff out there for all to see and send it to people who know what they’re talking about. It’s fun to invite cast/crew/family/friends to your premiere, but that’s only a pride booster…and is not going to help you improve as a filmmaker. Find a brutally honest audience that will scrutinize your stuff with a fine tooth comb, and have no problem telling you what you did wrong. Ask questions, look at your work objectively, don’t get defensive, and apply what you’ve learned to your next work.
  3. Network network network. I don’t mean go to industry events and get drunk (Even though that’s fun as hell). I’m talking about every opportunity to get to know people…whether it be a team sport, a book club, some classes, volunteer work, various group events…every chance to meet people and let them know what you do. Alot more of these people will contact you down the road regarding your work than you think. Stay super positive and don’t burn bridges…every relationship is worth trying to keep intact and positive.
  4. Give back. Help others who are not as advanced as you. You were in their shoes once…and it was great when someone took the time to help you along right? You should also stick some instructional blog posts or videos out there. This not only helps others but will show potential clients that you are an expert and leader.
  5. Sales. I feel I am terrible as this. Especially cold opening people. But I seemed to get alot better the more I did it. Practice builds confidence but rejection makes you made of friggin steel. It sucks to get rejected but you learn FAST what works and what doesn’t. Just don’t stop! And don’t be a used car salesman…just let potential clients know what you do exactly, how you can help them, and that you are there when they need you. Follow up with them with an email or call to say hi, don’t pressure them with hiring you. They know what you want so no need to be pushy. They will hire the guy they feel is cool over the pushy sales types in a heartbeat. BTW…notice I didn’t even talk about getting a website or business cards. This is a given…everyone has a website…but that is just a porthole. It’s how well you are at these 5 points that determine your return, not your website.

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BONUS: some things NOT TO DO:

  1. Look at other filmmakers as competition.  You will both improve in abilities and in client return if you chum together and talk shop and share insights instead of be enemies.
  2. Buy gear before you know you’ll need it.  Don’t buy a Red Epic before you know what type of videos your clients will need.  If you end up doing marketing videos for small business that they will be using on their websites and social media…5k Raw is a bit overkill and requires alot of storage and post work plus the camera itself isn’t great for one-man-band guerrilla shooting.  One time I bought a Steadicam Pilot because it was awesome and those smooth moves were amazing to me.  I barely used it and ended up selling it.  Sometimes I may need a Steadicam but I’d rather hire a professional Steadicam op.  It’s not about the gear…especially if you’re not trained to use it regularly.
  3. Start a new client with low rates.  There’s a thing called “rate integrity’ which means if you start a client at a certain rate…you will be locked into that rate for eternity with that client.  When you start off, you should be charging what you’re worth minus the demand you are getting.  Do your homework around town to get to a standard rate.  Then lower that rate if you aren’t getting alot of work after performing #5 above.  Raise the rate when you are.

Does anyone else have some DO’s and DON’T’s?  Share in the comments!

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