HOW TO MAKE MONEY AS A FILMMAKER PT2
In part one of this post I laid down a few home truths about this industry. Namely, experience wins, maybe not at first, but always in the end. A needy producer might hire an enthusiastic young buck with all the gear, but if they balls it up, then the old hand gets the job in the end and the producer gets burned. It doesn’t always work that way of course. Sometimes the young buck is a golden nugget, the kind of talent we all hope to find. Talent makes money, and if you have talent you will be fine.
Golden nuggets get opportunities, golden nuggets progress fast, and golden nuggets keep old farts like me on their toes.
So, are you a golden nugget, or an also-ran? Well, here’s a test for you. Do you like your own work? If the answer is yes, then I would put it to you that you’re not a golden nugget, at least not yet. I’ve known a handful of genuinely talented youngsters, some of them fulfilled their promise, others did not, but all of them displayed two defining characteristics. They all worked very very hard, and they all hated their own work. Violently objected to it. It’s not that they didn’t like it, it’s that they resented the amount of effort that had gone into making something that wasn’t up to the standards that they wished to attain.
I admire that immensely. If there’s one thing DSLR filmmaking has done it has proliferated the nurturing and celebration of mediocrity and that really hacks me off. When I started out it was relatively easy for me to rise above the turgid mediocrity of most of what people with DV cameras were producing. Now, it’s much harder for people to prove themselves. If you’d shot on film and your work had that glossy look it meant people were giving you budgets and that meant you had to be at least decent. Now, anyone can produce glossy looking work but that doesn’t mean shit anymore.
Now, here’s another home truth. Most of you reading this aren’t very good at what you do. You’re competent, probably decent, solid and enjoy what you do. But you’re never going to be great. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. I’ve known plenty of talented people who were lazy, complacent and suffered accordingly. Equally I’ve known many more average filmmakers whose work ethic was ferociously competitive and they were rewarded accordingly.
Never make the mistake of believing your own press. If you’re not prepared to work hard then you might as well not bother. In order to properly make a career out of this treacherous business you have to be a solid worker. If you’re talented as well you’ll do very well indeed, but if you’re not constantly looking to improve, develop what you do, refine, perfect, kick on, then forget it. It’s just too competitive now.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this DSLR game is that it’s given people the impression that filmmaking is easy. It might be easy to throw a lens on a 5D and shoot beautiful images but the craft of the work has nothing to do with technologically so stop obsessing over what lens to get next and start thinking.
I can spot a talented filmmaker a mile off because of the quality of thought behind a piece of work. I don’t really care what a film looks like anymore because it’s not important to me. I want to be manipulated and beaten up by work. Thankfully this is still a rare occurrence and all the more gratifying when it comes.
So, my message to you is this. Forget all the practicalities for the moment. Forget about this or that particular industry, type of production, what gear you have, etc. etc. Who are you as a person? Will you stay past midnight and help get the job done. Will you rip up what you’ve just done and do it again because you don’t like it, or will you just hand it in and be satisfied. Will you use Magic Bullet Looks or will you create your own look? (I have nothing against MB, it’s brilliant, I just think it makes people lazy, myself included).
Next. Nuts and bolts. Career ladders, routes in, types of production and what you should charge.