A Guide to becoming a full time filmmaker

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how to work in film when you have a full time job here. It became quite popular with shares online but I feel I could add more value on the topic.

This post is a step by step guide to get you making plans to turn filmmaking into your career and become a full time filmmaker. You might be years away from this target right now, but it is never too early to start planning. Planning is essential. 

I hope that this post motivates you to start thinking seriously about making plans and goals to bring you closer to your dream job in film

Step 1 – Know What job you want to pursue right now

This is the first hurdle to handle, otherwise you will be applying all over the place with no focus. It is from having focus, having experience within one role that will gain you work on film sets. If you are unsure what role to pursue spend time gaining experience until you know where your skills and passions lie.

For film set crew work you will need to focus. There are plenty of videographer/ editor jobs out there but when it comes to forging a career having that focus will be nessary. It is also time to weigh up whether you want to be a freelancer ( become self employed) or have a full time job. This will depend on your financial situation, skills and life responsibilities.

For this step put thought into what job you want right now. A competitive job such director or screenwriter is not going to pay the bills straight away. True some people do start out from the get go as freelance directors but you will need the talent, experience and contacts to make this work as a full time filmmaker.

What job do you need right now to get you to where you want to be in film?

You might like my post - How to pick your film job niche

Step 2 – Work Experience – What skills do you Already have

What experience do you already have that could help you find work in film right now ? Student and free work experience can be placed onto your CV as experience. Perhaps you have contacts from previous work or education that you can get in touch with about job openings in film.

Write a list of everyone ‘every contact’ you have in the film industry. Write a list of all your resources, what equipment do you own, understand what skills you have (e.g. computer skills, technical skills, physical strength, people / communication skills). Do you work best alone or in a team, are you good with customer service - I find as you get older you start to understand your working self more. If you are still new to work then consider any entry level position or gain more work experience on low budget or student film sets.

Consider how the experience / resources you have right now can be transferred over to film. For example if your current job requires you to work as part of a team, or work with customers then these skills are still useful in the film industry. 

List the work experience, skills and resources you have already gained

Step 3 – Extensive Research into your job role

It you wish to be an Assistant Director, read up on what skills and experience an AD would need. For Art Designer this would be much different, and from this stage you can begin to see what extra experience you require, you can start to build up on your skills and knowledge. From this stage you may find you need further education ‘film school, workshops’ short courses.'

 By doing this and  judging, criticizing you current skill you are ahead of most people who do not plan and create strategy to reach their goals to be a full time filmmaker. For example you may wish to work in the story development department but do not have any previous experience reading screenplays and working in a pre-production office.

The film industry is competitive and you will need some experience within your job role before you get paid to do your job. Make sure to do some self study into what is expected from you, look up online job role listings for your desired job take note of the requirements that are needed for that role.

What skills and experience are required from someone in the job role you wish to pursue. 

Creative skillset – has a detailed list of responsibility and skills required for each job role in film. You can use the search bar to find your desired job role and what would be expected from you on a professional film set as a full time filmmaker.

Step 4 - Understand What is stopping you

What is stopping you from taking action on your career. This will be different for everyone, are you in a bad location, are you struggling with money, are you lacking the confidence to move forwards. Write down what changes in your life you need to make. It is best to understand problems than be in denial. Making strategies and plans to move forwards will place your dream into reality.  

For some people this may as difficult as moving city/ country, for others it may be getting a pay rise at work to allow more spare money to work on their own projects. For myself I started to save up money at the start of this year to take the leap to self employed work again as well as doing extensive research into how to run an online business.

Become clear on what is stopping you from moving forwards and make a plan of attack

My post – Alternatives to film crew production work

Step 5 – Create simple Goals

Consider realistically how long it will take for you to get to where you want to be. Create easy 'realistic' goals, life is never straight forward so focus on monthly or quarterly goals. For example your goal might be to leave your job in a years time, but your quarterly goals might be - save up money, gain work experience on three film sets, attend workshops and network. 

I found myself that having simple goals that could change and alter every month helps. Life is unexpected so a more versatile plan can help, dont beat yourself up if things take longer than expected.  Even if you goal takes 5 years to complete, major changes to your career will take time, always keep your eye on the prize and remind yourself that all that stands in your way between your dream and you is time and hard work.

My post - Why filmmakers need career plans

How long will it take for you to gain the experience and skills you need to be a full time filmmaker

You need to develop a positive attitude. It is going to be hard, and you can do all of this by setting yourself realistic goals and moving forwards towards them. Even when I was very depressed I found that having goals, targets, kept me thinking about the future and took me from the present. I feel that in order to ground our dreams we need to start placing them out of our heads and into reality. Research, planning and goal setting are the first steps to take.

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms