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Use what’s available to you
This tip applies to available material objects, your own knowledge/history and to your skills as a filmmaker.
For example, you may hear about a film competition starting tomorrow. But you might not have time to gather all of the resources you would ideally want for your project. However, you might be able to make the scenery around you work for your project. This way you can display your ingenuity to all those who will view your film.
Furthermore, if you grew up in rural Arkansas, you could easily make a great film about that experience. Many other filmmakers would not be able to capture it as accurately.
Consume as much media as possible
If you want to be the best, you have to study the best. Odds are, you will likely never make a movie as iconic as Citizen Kane. But you should still study incredible films like this so that you can learn the finer points of great movies. Also, watching and studying these films with a critical eye will allow you to see just how much thought, effort and skill goes into creating a superb movie.
Additionally, you’ll want to read and listen to as many different media formats as you can. Audiobooks, podcasts and paperback books contain a wealth of information that can be used by filmmakers and all creatives.
Best of all, you can consume any genre of media and take away some of the good and bad aspects. For instance, you may read a Stephen King novel and take note of some story elements that you might have done differently. Then, you can watch the movie based on the book (Stephen King is perhaps the best person to use for this crossover) and see how filmmakers brought the story to life. There will be certain choices they need to make in order to get the movie to work on the screen rather than on the page.
Podcasts and audiobooks (both fiction and nonfiction) can even be enjoyed while you’re performing some other unrelated task. Multi-tasking can maximize the time you spend learning the craft.
Develop an entrepreneurial drive
As an aspiring filmmaker, you’re most likely very focused on creating a great product. You want to find the best shots, cast the best actors and create the movie you’ve always pictured in your head.
Those things are all absolutely important for filmmakers of all skill and experience levels. However, you also need to be sure that you are treating your projects with an entrepreneurial spirit. You should be attempting to make connections with all of the big names throughout the industry so that you can get your foot in the door.
Perhaps you already know this, but this entrepreneur mindset has to remain in place for the rest of your career as well. You can’t ever start giving a half-hearted effort or you’ll lose your audience and your supporters as quickly as you gained them.
Never stop learning
Early in his career, the boxer Mike Tyson was known to watch hours and hours of film on his opponents before every match. He quickly became one of the most skilled and powerful boxers of all time. But Tyson knew that if he got comfortable and rested on his laurels, he would end up flat on his back (coincidentally, this is exactly what happened later in his career).
Filmmaking is no different. If you get too comfortable with your skill set and don’t continue to learn new techniques throughout your career, your projects will suffer.
Be respectful to everyone
When you’re making a film, you’re going to need to work with large groups of actors and get permission in order to use certain locations. If you are rude and arrogant as you go through this process, you’ll quickly find that actors won’t want to work with you and property owners won’t let you come back.
For this reason, you should always respect everyone involved with a filmmaking project, no matter how small or big of a role they may play.
Think like a business person
As was stated in the introduction, filmmaking should be viewed as both a creative pursuit and an opportunity to make money. In the end, as much as we all don’t want to admit it, money makes the world go round.
Odds are, you’re going to need to convince a number of people to invest in your project. In some cases and for certain subjects, you might receive charitable investments from those who believe in your mission. But for the vast majority of the time, those who contributed to your project are going to want a significant return on their investment.
For this reason, you need to learn business and negotiation skills. You should devote some time to learning how to talk to investors and how to convince them to believe in your project. You won’t have enormous success on every one of your projects. But you should move forward with each one believing that you are working on the next Star Wars (or whatever famous, high-grossing film you prefer).
Most importantly: Never quit
I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but you are going to fail. And, you’re going to fail over and over again. You’re going to have critics that absolutely pan your film. Also, people who may make comments to you that will make you reconsider your passion.
Don’t let this negativity get to you. If you truly love filmmaking and want to create something that will be enjoyed by the masses, you’re going to suffer rejection. And you’re going to feel like a failure. But no matter what: never quit on your dream.
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