Starting a Film Career in 5 Simple Steps

By Brenden Bell

The deeper I make my way into the film industry, little by little and bit by bit, the more people I get asking me what they can be doing to get where I am now.

I’m so glad that I am being asked this question, because I felt like I had no one I could talk to when I started out. I did the best that I could, but I made many mistakes along the way.

I am glad to hopefully be able to help others learn from my lack of understanding.

1. Take some Business and Marketing Classes

I had this romantic notion of film as being this purely artistic endeavor. I was rudely awakened as we tried to make our first feature film, finding myself up to my ears in grant applications, praying for money to fall from the sky in order to fund our film.

I thought… “gee really wish I would’ve taken some business classes.”

I’m a pure creative, and loathe the idea of business. However, I have learned that in order to be a successful filmmaker I need to have a basic understanding of trends in business and marketing.

Do some research, take some classes, and pay close attention to how successful filmmakers are marketing themselves.

2. Be Generous and Put Yourself Out There

Taking free work is a great way, and often the only way, to get your start in film.

If you see a film shoot in your area find out if there is any way to volunteer your time. Do whatever you can to get on a film set. Why?

  • It will help you build a network of filmmakers and actors that could give you paid work in the future, if you perform well.
  • It will give you  “no pressure” experiences to try different things and explore what being a filmmaker is like, while practicing a lot of the other principles on this list.

Experience can only help you; get as much as you can from wherever you can.

3. Shoot Something

Are you interested in camera? Research the latest trends in cameras and be familiar with what’s popular and what’s new. Purchase one you can afford, and get out there and film things. Film your friends, film your city, film your dog. Anything.

Editing? Research the non-linear editing software that the professionals are using and why. Research what non-linear editing software is. Find stock footage from a royalty free website and try to create a story from it.

Writing? READ SCRIPTS. Research story structure, and then write, write, write. Don’t worry if it’s good or bad. Just write. Finish it and then edit it and share it with trusted friends for feedback. Repeat until you’re satisfied. Writing is in the rewrite…but there will never be one unless you write at all.

Directing? Make some movies. Find like minded people and just shoot something on the weekend. Don’t have cameras? Use your phones. It doesn’t have to be good, in fact it will probably be terrible. That’s ok, it’s something, which is better than nothing. A musician’s first song is never that great.

The list goes on. The point is don’t do nothing. Get off your butt and do something.

4. Learn How to Graciously Accept Criticism

Do you get offended when your boss points out something that you need to work on? Do you hide your art because you’re afraid of what people are going to say?

If so, then you better grow some thick skin and quick.

When I first began in this field I would take a lot of the feedback that I received personally.

I learned painfully and over time that the only way I was going to grow was to be open and take feedback as it is, feedback…not a personal attack.

It won’t ever get easier, but it is necessary and continues to make me a stronger and more grounded filmmaker.

Let others experience your art and have a voice to help reshape it.

5. Get Off the Fence

Filmmaking is NOT for the faint of heart. If you’re on the fence, you need to get off of it and now.

If you decide that you’re going to do it no matter what, then you at least have a chance to succeed. If you’re on the fence, the obstacles will overwhelm you and you will give up eventually.

Often the reason you’re on the fence in the first place is because you’re waiting for someone to believe in you.

Stop waiting for someone to believe in you and believe in yourself.

If you have moderate talent and a strong passion, go for it. Disciplines can be learned as you go.

No Excuses

There are a million reasons to not be a filmmaker. They will always be there.

Instead, put on a “no excuses” mentality and go above and beyond what is listed here and make it happen.

There is no guarantee that everything will work out, but honestly there is no guarantee that we have tomorrow. It shouldn’t stop us from living life to the fullest today, and it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream with everything you’ve got.



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