Art in the Professions Week
Are you an “aspiring” filmmaker? Well, stop that. There is no need to aspire to be any form of artist in this day and age. Just grab a camera and shoot something. Afraid you don’t have the right gear? Do not worry about it. The film Tangerine, which is an award-winning feature directed by Sean Baker, was shot entirely on an iPhone. With the cameras on all our devices in our pockets these days, you can make a film with anything. If you can’t work with what you have available to you, what makes you think you’ll be able to work with a RED or an Arri?
Thanks to modern technology, anyone can become a filmmaker. There is no need to go to film school with the thousands of books, blogs, and videos available online. However, film school is definitely a way to learn the ropes of storytelling for cinema. It’s just not necessary. The best way to become a filmmaker is to practice making films. Naturally, your first films are not going to be very good. That is just a fact of life. The more you make, however, the better you will get.
By the time I was in film school, I had already made at least six short films. A person I worked with at the video store was shocked that I had already made some films. He seemed to not believe that anything without a budget and shot on a camcorder counted. Since they weren’t shot on film, the intention of the projects is what makes them films. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a filmmaker because your film was shot on video. The medium is just a means to an end these days.
So now that we’ve covered the fact that you can be a filmmaker if you just start making films, how do you become a professional? Surely, being a professional is not as simple as just calling yourself one. By definition, a professional is someone who earns a living from the activity. Earning a living in film is a difficult process, but it’s not impossible. There are many ways to becoming a professional. Some people start by being a production assistant (paid or unpaid). Getting that first gig in the industry is just about knowing someone who will let you on set. From there, you can meet more people. Keeping up your work ethic will keep you well-liked and get you hired again.
Now what if you want to be considered a professional, but you aren’t working on other people’s sets? Unfortunately, that’s a tough way to go and I don’t recommend avoiding other people’s sets. However, it’s not impossible because modern technology, again, has changed the landscape. Because of the internet, the idea of film gatekeepers no longer exists. Distribution is where money is earned in film and there are many ways to distribute your film. You can put it on Youtube and attempt to earn ad revenue. Vimeo, Amazon, and many other websites now offer professional ways to self-distribute for Video-On-Demand services. You could also hope to be picked up by the more traditional avenues after pitching your project to them, but unless you are a seasoned veteran, those avenues are likely to ignore you. Nowadays, it’s better to get some kind of backing from self-distribution first just to show the traditional routes that you are capable of capturing an audience.
Long story short, use the internet to your advantage. You don’t need to move to LA to get your foot in the door anymore and the gatekeepers to becoming a professional no longer exist. You can do it all on your own. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Go forth and make movie magic!