Jump to content


Photo

Looking for professional advice


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Chris Durham

Chris Durham
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • New York, NY

Posted 25 September 2006 - 03:07 PM

I've entertained the notion of a career in filmmaking for a long time (I switched majors in college to Radio/TV/Film [which was the best they had] in college 10 years ago, before I dropped out and didn't continue); but never really had the wherewithal to actually pursue it. There are a variety of reasons for not doing so, but I guess it's best to say I never truly started figuring myself out until I was around 30.

I'm 32 now and have decided on making the switch from corporate IT to film, and doing the kinds of things I've always dreamt of. Specifically I want to write and direct. I'm a competent writer, with some short fiction published. Yes, I know - everybody wants to direct. I don't really want to think about the odds of success or how daunting a task it is to master this craft. I figure the best thing to do is have faith in myself over the pursuit of a dream and know that failure isn't half as frightening not doing a thing.

So here I am at age 32. I'm actively writing and just finished shooting my first video short - now in editing. It's as big a pile of crap as anyone's first fim will be; but I'm learning a lot from it. I'm also reading voraciously (I scored a mobile and lucrative IT career a decade ago by reading a few books and BSing the rest - Fake it till you make it is part of my MO) and networking. This is quite simply something I'm going to do.

My question is: What is the best way for me to proceed from here?

I figure there are three main courses of action.

1.) Film School. I'm a bit leary of this one. It seems like a dubious proposition and I occasionally observe other filmmakers joking about the value of film school. At best, its virtue seems relative to the student; and institutionalized learning has never quite been my favorite. It is, however, possible that the compressed and formalized environment could be beneficial to learning a lot in a relatively short period of time. The thought of shelling out a load of money on something of questionable value is a little scary though. I'm curious to get the professional take on this.

2.) OJT. Another possibility is to find work in the industry and work my way up the ladder. It stands to reason that if I fancy myself as being the "cream" I'll inevitably rise (damn that's an awkward analogy in this context). The downside of this is that it takes time. Now, please don't think that I'm devaluing time here. I understand that all good things take time and effort. I'm a hard worker and willing to put in all the time I need to. What I don't want to end up doing is putting in more time than necessary; ending up stuck at a certain level or in a certain position because I don't have the education or experiental insight to recognize it - especially starting out a little older than I'd like to have. If anybody has any thoughts on this path, especially anecdotal info, I'd appreciate it.

3.)Take the reigns myself. This is the path I lean towards, though it's probably the most dangerous. There are several filmmakers who have made a flick and exploded onto the scene. Well, I don't know about exploding, but I hope that I can at least make a picture that might land me a modest career. This is a high-risk deal, I know. But if I believe (And I know many people believe this of themselves) I've got a story worth telling, and think I can tell it well, Is that the path to take. Of course there are a lot of other factors. I'm not kidding myself - it's scary as hell, especially the finances. But can this be seen as an honest path to a career, or are the Linklaters, Smiths, Rodriguezes and Tarantinos of this world just one-in-a-million longshots who (though competent in their craft) just got lucky? Is investment directly into myself (and I do have a bit of money to put into an (incredibly) modest project) better than spending that money on a film education or for funding the transition into a new career (what with all the change of pay scale and all)?

I guess that's it. I know which way I'm leaning, but I'd really like to temper my wishful thinking with a little bit of experience and reality. I'm really new to this and my imagination of how things work in the industry can't but be skewed. Thanks.
  • 0

#2 Brian Wells

Brian Wells
  • Sustaining Members
  • 438 posts
  • Other

Posted 28 September 2006 - 11:23 PM

My question is: What is the best way for me to proceed from here?

Surround yourself with the most competent people you can find. Work in some other area of the industry besides directing. Stay on good terms with everyone you ever meet.
  • 0

#3 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 29 September 2006 - 08:05 AM

I've entertained the notion of a career in filmmaking for a long time (I switched majors in college to Radio/TV/Film [which was the best they had] in college 10 years ago, before I dropped out and didn't continue); but never really had the wherewithal to actually pursue it. There are a variety of reasons for not doing so, but I guess it's best to say I never truly started figuring myself out until I was around 30.

I'm 32 now and have decided on making the switch from corporate IT to film, and doing the kinds of things I've always dreamt of. Specifically I want to write and direct. I'm a competent writer, with some short fiction published. Yes, I know - everybody wants to direct. I don't really want to think about the odds of success or how daunting a task it is to master this craft. I figure the best thing to do is have faith in myself over the pursuit of a dream and know that failure isn't half as frightening not doing a thing.

So here I am at age 32. I'm actively writing and just finished shooting my first video short - now in editing. It's as big a pile of crap as anyone's first fim will be; but I'm learning a lot from it. I'm also reading voraciously (I scored a mobile and lucrative IT career a decade ago by reading a few books and BSing the rest - Fake it till you make it is part of my MO) and networking. This is quite simply something I'm going to do.

My question is: What is the best way for me to proceed from here?

I figure there are three main courses of action.

1.) Film School. I'm a bit leary of this one. It seems like a dubious proposition and I occasionally observe other filmmakers joking about the value of film school. At best, its virtue seems relative to the student; and institutionalized learning has never quite been my favorite. It is, however, possible that the compressed and formalized environment could be beneficial to learning a lot in a relatively short period of time. The thought of shelling out a load of money on something of questionable value is a little scary though. I'm curious to get the professional take on this.

2.) OJT. Another possibility is to find work in the industry and work my way up the ladder. It stands to reason that if I fancy myself as being the "cream" I'll inevitably rise (damn that's an awkward analogy in this context). The downside of this is that it takes time. Now, please don't think that I'm devaluing time here. I understand that all good things take time and effort. I'm a hard worker and willing to put in all the time I need to. What I don't want to end up doing is putting in more time than necessary; ending up stuck at a certain level or in a certain position because I don't have the education or experiental insight to recognize it - especially starting out a little older than I'd like to have. If anybody has any thoughts on this path, especially anecdotal info, I'd appreciate it.

3.)Take the reigns myself. This is the path I lean towards, though it's probably the most dangerous. There are several filmmakers who have made a flick and exploded onto the scene. Well, I don't know about exploding, but I hope that I can at least make a picture that might land me a modest career. This is a high-risk deal, I know. But if I believe (And I know many people believe this of themselves) I've got a story worth telling, and think I can tell it well, Is that the path to take. Of course there are a lot of other factors. I'm not kidding myself - it's scary as hell, especially the finances. But can this be seen as an honest path to a career, or are the Linklaters, Smiths, Rodriguezes and Tarantinos of this world just one-in-a-million longshots who (though competent in their craft) just got lucky? Is investment directly into myself (and I do have a bit of money to put into an (incredibly) modest project) better than spending that money on a film education or for funding the transition into a new career (what with all the change of pay scale and all)?

I guess that's it. I know which way I'm leaning, but I'd really like to temper my wishful thinking with a little bit of experience and reality. I'm really new to this and my imagination of how things work in the industry can't but be skewed. Thanks.



Chris,

First, kudos for thinking this through. I've been fielding a lot of questions lately from kids in their teens and young twenties who still believe that they can be the next Tarantino. While it's not out of the question, the odds of that happening are slim as you yourself realize.

The gist of the business on that level boils down to timing and luck. Assuming you do the hard prep work yourself by writing as much as possible and having at least a basic foundation of knowledge about the technicalities of making a movie, the only thing that remains is creating the opportunities which will allow you to prove yourself.

That said, you're on the right track with the work you are doing and it seems that you are aware that the change in career won't just happen. There is no one route into Directing, but the things you are doing will be helpful to improving the odds. The first best step is to write and write a lot. Don't rely on just one "masterpiece" believing that it will knock the socks off of everyone who reads it. Maybe it is good, but people are fickle and the marketplace changes constantly. You want a pile of scripts to suit as many situations and personalities as possible. And know that when you submit one, you're not necessarily going to sell that specific story as much as you're selling yourself and your writing style. So write as best as you can but don't obsess so much over the details because those will undoubtedly change in the event the script sells.

As far as shooting your own short or feature length project goes, that's really the most financially risky option there is. To write a script means investing a lot of time (which is money), but when you commit something to film or video, you or someone else is actually putting real money on the table to get it done. If that is something you want to do to prove yourself and use as calling card, then definitely move forward on it especially if you have the means. Just know that the indie market is probably more difficult than the studio market in that buyers still want to see the same elements that Hollywood films have, namely movie stars. Your movie either has to be so innovative and uniqe that it can't be ignored or have a name to back it or be in it. While we try to make art, those you're trying to attract are trying to make money. It's not enough to have a killer script. Someone who is marketable has to love it too.

Also consider that not everyone does want to Direct. A lot of people do, but not everyone. Really!

Even more important to consider is how to get there, which is the core of your question. Once you've written your pile of specs and/or made your calling card film, now what? Well, you need to know the people to show it to. While the Tarantino type stories get the headlines (rags to riches), the more common route to Directing seems to be that many come from working in the industry in different departments and positions. Some Directors used to be in the Art Department, some were Grips, some were DPs....what they did was to continue working on their dream while they worked IN the industry so that they could get to know the right people to impress.

As mentioned, there isn't a guaranteed method to finding success but there are things you can do to improve your odds. Before I go, I'll ask you to check out the book I've been writing that talks about this exact thing in terms of choosing a life in the industry. Good luck!
  • 0

#4 Hal Smith

Hal Smith
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2280 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • OKC area

Posted 29 September 2006 - 08:42 AM

I'm 32 now and have decided on making the switch from corporate IT to film.

I made a major career change at 40 and never looked back, it can be done.

My one piece of advice? Leverage your IT knowledge, your fastest track into professional film-making may well be acquiring specific film related IT knowledge and getting a job in CGI and/or editing support, etc. That'll give you an income and an opportunity to make connections in the industry.
  • 0

#5 Bill DiPietra

Bill DiPietra
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2339 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • New York City

Posted 29 September 2006 - 02:50 PM

I made a major career change at 40 and never looked back, it can be done.


Chris,

I can relate. I majored in Media Studies in college (my school didn't have a film major) and took every production course that was offered. I absolutely LOVED it while I was in school. When I got out into the real world, I simply could not stand all of the a**holes that seemed to dominate the industry. I've never been good at a**-kissing (just not in my nature,) I didn't really have a body of work at that time, I didn't have a hook that could get me in anywhere, etc.

The more I though about it, the more I realized this was not for me...at least not as a career. I decided to go in a different direction and keep filmmaking as a hobby. After jumping around from odd-job to odd-job, I found the job for me. I became an FDNY EMT in 2005 and I love my job.

But I just recently found myself longing to get back involved with film. About a month ago, I finally purchased my long-wanted Arriflex 16 S/B and I will probably be going back to school for my M.A. sometime next year.

The moral of the story? Never give up what you love. If you have the drive to make it into the industry, you will find a way. Don't feel that your age is a handicap...I'm 31. I honestly do not have any designs on breaking into the industry. I still write and shoot, but I'd like to eventually teach film theory.

Anyway, I applaud your efforts. Listen to everyone's advice. I wish you the best, man.

Edited by Bill DiPietra, 29 September 2006 - 02:52 PM.

  • 0

#6 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 29 September 2006 - 06:42 PM

The fastets way to directing by far, is writing. Every scriptwriter that's ever sold more than two scripts in Hollywood, will end up directing a film at some point. A lot quicker than anyone who's 'working his way up the ranks'.

Shorts are good training, but they don't actually get you that much work unless you win an Oscar for it, basically.

Filmmaking is a war of attrition. How long are you willing to give it before you're a success-kind-of-thing. Right answer: a lifetime. But if you can do nothing else, then what's to lose?
  • 0

#7 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 29 September 2006 - 06:54 PM

Filmmaking is a war of attrition. How long are you willing to give it before you're a success-kind-of-thing.


Can I borrow that? No really. Check out my website and you'll see why it's so appropriate. :)
  • 0

#8 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 01 October 2006 - 06:12 AM

Can I borrow that? No really. Check out my website and you'll see why it's so appropriate. :)


It's all your, Brian. But it wasn't that good.... :D
  • 0

#9 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5482 posts
  • Director

Posted 01 October 2006 - 07:31 AM

(I scored a mobile and lucrative IT career a decade ago by reading a few books and BSing the rest - Fake it till you make it is part of my MO)


Hey perfect! Use this same technique and you'll make millions in the film industry :D

Ok on a serious note, I started making movies when I was 12, actual narrative films in Super 8. I went to a four year film school and worked in TV when I got out. I'm now 37 and tomorrow is my first day directing a REAL feature film. As in with a real crew, real set, and real 35mm film. Not a huge budget, but big enough.

Holy smokes I had no idea it would take this long to reach this point! It does hurt when you hear about the latest 26 year old who just made his first feature, but that's how it works out for some people.

Now my movie may turn out to be a disaster as many do, but at least I'm finally getting a shot (excuse the pun) in the directors chair. Regardless of what the outcome is when it's done at long last people will no longer be able to say to me the words I have hated hearing all these years, "But you've never directed a feature film......"

Good luck,
R,
  • 0

#10 Michael Kernan

Michael Kernan
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 23 posts
  • Student
  • Tuscaloosa, AL

Posted 01 October 2006 - 02:25 PM

Good luck, Richard!



As for you, Chris, I am in about the same position besides the fact I am still in High School. Hope you can find what you are looking for.
  • 0

#11 Chris Durham

Chris Durham
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • New York, NY

Posted 02 October 2006 - 10:31 PM

Everybody,

Thanks for the advice and wishes of luck. In all, I think I'm on the right path. You know, I've got a lot of great people in my life that are confident in me and support what I'm trying to do; but someties all that feels like when I was in grade school and having my parents say "you can do anything you set your mind to." It's really good to be bolstered by other folks on the same path - almost as good as it is to know that I'm not out of my mind for dreaming (as long as I'm also doing, that is). Thanks everybody.
  • 0


Technodolly

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Metropolis Post

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Ritter Battery

Opal

Rig Wheels Passport

Wooden Camera

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Glidecam

Visual Products

Visual Products

CineLab

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

FJS International, LLC

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera

Opal

Technodolly

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks