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Teenage Son Wants to Be a Movie Director


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#1 Lisa Follett

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 01:21 PM

My teenage son wants to be a movie director. This is not an overnight idea. He has adamently headed in this direction since he was 13. Next year (junior year) he will take a video / film class in school. We've also discovered a scholarship opportunity to attend WorldFest Houston (including 3 days of seminars on the film industry geared for students). I am hoping he will be able to go 2010. In the meantime, we are trying to research this as a career. We need to know the ins and outs of the industry (the truth of it), education / internship / apprenticeship expectations, etc. There are a few film schools in our area (Houston), but how do we determine the best route? Any information would be appreciated? What books / dvds would you recommend for a teen to learn more about this as a career choice? We are willing to support him if this is what he really wants, but we want to make sure he knows what his really getting into. Thanks for your help!
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 02:31 PM

Run away! Run away!

But seriously - the research is all fine, but what the books and videos will show you is what it's like to be a film director, which is generally a pretty fun and positive experience. What you won't find is a DVD of someone sitting at home staring at the phone, which is what most people in film and TV actually spend an alarming amount of time doing.

It really comes down to how you want your work/life balance to be, how much you value quality of life at work alongside quality of life at home. These are easy decisions to make when you're 21, but ten years later, which is the point I'm at now, you do start to notice all the people you went to school with getting mortgages and posessions and relationships (and yes it does affect relationships because, frankly, modern women still expect men to be able to keep them, even if they don't actually ask him to).

The likelihood of anyone arbitrarily deciding, with no family in the business, to go into directing, and ever actually making a living wage at it is microscopic. I suspect that what is more likely to happen is that a teenager will later find a specialisation such as camera, design, writing, etc, which appeals more, which are all probably easier than directing, although they're still monstrously hard to make a living in.

Your principal advantage is the ability to work in the US, where it is many times easier to do this than anywhere else on the planet.

P
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#3 Jim Keller

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 03:21 PM

I'd sincerely recommend encouraging him (as I'd do myself if he wanted to join this forum to hear from us directly) to attend a college or a university with an excellent film program in addition to many other excellent majors. (I came out of USC myself, but I can grudgingly admit that there are some other acceptable programs around. :) ) A school that is located in a market where he's likely to get work (Los Angeles or New York for feature films and television, or most any major city for non-broadcast video) but in and after college is best.

When selecting a school, try to meet with some of the professors and find out how much of an insight the students get into the nuts and bolts of making a living in this industry. Many, many programs out there portray themselves as a shortcut to a high-paying career, and that's simply not the case. Your son will not graduate and find a six-picture deal from Paramount waiting, but in a good program he should graduate with the ability to find and accept a job in some department or another and begin the task of working his way up.

Once the school is selected, I'd encourage him to take as many classes outside the film school as will fit into his schedule. This will not only make him a better director by virtue of having a well-rounded education in a breadth of subjects, but also help him identify other interests he may later wish to pursue in case he ultimately decides the professional filmmaker lifestyle isn't for him and he'd rather do it as a hobbyist while earning a living in a more stable profession.

Edited by Jim Keller, 23 July 2009 - 03:22 PM.

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#4 damian moon

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 02:40 AM

My teenage son wants to be a movie director. This is not an overnight idea. He has adamently headed in this direction since he was 13. Next year (junior year) he will take a video / film class in school. We've also discovered a scholarship opportunity to attend WorldFest Houston (including 3 days of seminars on the film industry geared for students). I am hoping he will be able to go 2010. In the meantime, we are trying to research this as a career. We need to know the ins and outs of the industry (the truth of it), education / internship / apprenticeship expectations, etc. There are a few film schools in our area (Houston), but how do we determine the best route? Any information would be appreciated? What books / dvds would you recommend for a teen to learn more about this as a career choice? We are willing to support him if this is what he really wants, but we want to make sure he knows what his really getting into. Thanks for your help!



dear lisa

i think the best way to show him if hi likes the film industry he should or you both should try to find and go to a real shooting studio or anything alike, even better if he can participate in something, even if its taking the coffe. i think the film industry is all about what we "shoot" not about what degrees we got.

i am glad to hear parents that support their sons profeccion. thats the best thing you can give to him, the rest is up to him

so... good luck and PM me if you have a question

cheers

Damian
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#5 Craig Greenbergs

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 02:35 PM

my apologies if this sounds too blunt and direct, but I am assuming you would like a straight answer - so I will say...

film is like any other creative venture - if your really good, you will make it. and when you make it in this game and have the right business sense you'll probably have a pretty sweet pad and get behind the wheel of something foreign everyday, date models, eat at fancy restaurants and hang out at cool parties - maybe have a little drug/alcohol situation, go a couple of months without shaving your beard - but generally feel pretty satisfied with life.

if your not one of the super talented prodigies - you will probably end up specializing in some component of the film making process as mentioned above, which is certainly a respectable way to make a living - but could be a bit dissapointing if one set out with unrealistically big dreams, as also mentioned above.

So in order to really decide, the best is to make the most honest appraisal, how good do you think he is ? what kind of potential does he already show ? does he appear to have a "natural ability" - that is very important - as in my experience people in the creative fields seem to have a knack for what they do even before the schooling...

hope this helps :)
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 03:06 PM

Ugh; I had a whole long post here and the browser erased it.
If you'd like, feel free to shoot me an e mail or have your son, adrian@adriansierkowski.com i'd be happy to relate to him my own experiences working in film and anything i can. It'll vary person to person, in every possible way, mind you.
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#7 Paul Bruening

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 03:27 PM

Consider with all of the varied advice you will receive here, a safety strategy. If he goes to school in LA or NY he could get his degree in something useful like Accounting. But, he could get some work from the bottom-up on increasingly bigger movie productions in the summers. Since as many people make it in the movie biz with or without a Film Degree. Investing heavily in a fallback degree would not be dumb. Yet, he will get a chance to enter an activity that, at this moment, he is certain he loves.
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#8 Bob Hayes

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 04:39 PM

Wanting to be a film director is like wanting to be a professional basketball player. It looks like fun and you can make a lot of money. It sure is more fun hanging out at the park and shooting hoops than it is studying. You might actually find out you are pretty good at it. Hint there are lots of folks pretty good at it. Every step of the way you will face better and better competition. Even if you have a lot of talent you will face people with more talent and drive. So it is not an easy road.

That said, working as a director is a great way to make a living, learn some life skills, and see the world. If your son has an interest by all means encourage it. At the same time I would emphasize the importance of getting a good education and developing skills that give your son options in the future. Most of the really skilled directors have a strong background in other areas as well.
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 05:36 PM

if your really good, you will make it.


Unfortunately this could not be further from the truth. There are lots of bad directors out there who are carried by good crews - writers, editors, directors of photography. There are also lots of very good people who don't ever go anywhere because they aren't willing to be bastards about it, which is what Mr. Hayes is politely referring to as "having drive". What this tends to mean in film, as broadly as possible, is being willing to compromise your morals to get ahead.

The idea that merely being competent is enough is hopelessly naive.

P
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#10 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 09:03 PM

Indeed, the chances of hitting it big as a director in Hollywood (i.e. an actual career enough to sustain a family in all the middle class comforts) are pretty darn slim. To say it is a crowded field is an understatement.

Your son may choose to rebel against your will if you decide film directing is not good for him though.

As it has been noted, contacting area film / video production companies where he can intern before going off to college to get a hands on idea of what he will face upon graduation would be a great idea. He could also earn school credits that way, if available.


Most people who go to film school have to start at the bottom once they graduate anyway, or sometimes start at the bottom during their (short) stint at film school, like yours truly. Not that I am in any danger of being offered a million dollar picture offer anytime soon, mind you. Some, like Spielberg, will be rejected by a top notch film school and volunteer at a local film production and go from there. Very few are lucky enough to get the job (or even close) that they set out to get before college.

http://en.wikipedia....teven_Spielberg

Also, some successful film directors have made films since childhood. For the truly driven, it is not so much something one decides to do one fine day, but something that one can't help doing everyday.

Good luck.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 21 August 2009 - 09:06 PM.

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#11 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 August 2009 - 09:51 PM

Give him my card and tell him I'm available.
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#12 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 22 August 2009 - 03:34 AM

My teenage son wants to be a movie director ... how do we determine the best route?

How old is your son? Has he made any films yet? Is he a natural storyteller?

I think determination and talent are the most important qualities for a filmmaker to have. It's possible to succeed with a modest amount of talent by substituting hard work and chutzpah, but impossible to succeed without determination. People in the film business work incredibly long and hard hours, and 99% do not ever get into that top tier of "name" directors, cinematographers, editors, etc. So make sure he knows that - no way is he going to make it if he doesn't live and breathe film every day from now on.

Also, I'm sure most of us film workers would probably rather be doing something other than our current jobs - a lot of camera assistants want to eventually become DPs, etc. But if you can earn a living doing some job in the industry, then you're one of the lucky ones.

To me, it seems premature to worry too much about your son's future in the film business at this point. I think it's a good idea to encourage his interest by getting him access to as much reading material as possible (there's a "Recommended Books & DVD's" link above, though it's skewed toward the craft of cinematography), forcing him to watch as many films as possible (classics, foreign films, anything outside of his comfort zone to start), and allowing him to make as many short films as possible to learn (he'll need a cheap video camera, a tripod, a computer to edit, and some videotapes). If he really is obsessed with filmmaking, you won't have to encourage him much at all.

Lastly, though every young filmmaker thinks that they have something important to say, 99% of the time what they have to say is trite because they lack life experience. That's ok, we all went thru that stage at one point or another. Don't let that discourage you or him (when he finds out). If he's truly an artist, he will figure it out eventually. I know amazing filmmaker/artists who make a living doing something else, and we all know of major film directors who are hacks and yet make millions of dollars directing exploding cars. Getting into the film business has nothing to do with being an artist. Don't let your son define his worth by that criteria.
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#13 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:52 PM

What will he need in order to get into directing? Not a degree, just an idea and a chunk of money (for gear/locations/actors/props/permits/insurance/wardrobe). Where is your son going to get that money? If not from rich relatives, then probably he'll have to earn it himself. If he can get a college degree in some useful vocation (check the 2-year vocational colleges for quick and practical fields), he'll be able to save up that money much faster. If he eventually has success in making his movies, he can drop his regular job and go into directing full time. If directing never pans out, he'll have the credentials to work a regular job.

Also, if your son can keep his costs and expectations down, he could direct movies right away using just a cheap consumer camcorder, free locations and unpaid actors (probably friends to start). He can learn the craft by reading books and making his own projects, and he can network with people on the cinematography boards. He can also probably crew (unpaid) on micro-budget indie features that are shooting in your area.

Ultimately, if he wants to get into big feature directing, his project portfolio (and financial ties) will be far far far more important than his school credentials.
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#14 Mark Bonnington

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 12:29 AM

Lastly, though every young filmmaker thinks that they have something important to say, 99% of the time what they have to say is trite because they lack life experience.

If that's the case, then 99% of what anyone says is trite. Young adults are capable of tapping into their imagination, more so than older adults, and that results in some fairly original thoughts. Some of my most creative ideas came to me when I was a teenager.

Edited by Mark Bonnington, 26 August 2009 - 12:31 AM.

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#15 Dominic Case

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 03:30 AM

My teenage son wants to be a movie director. This is not an overnight idea. He has adamently headed in this direction since he was 13.

What has he actually done to "head in this direction" so far? I guess the majority of filmmakers had already made their first film, or taken - and printed - a whole lot of creative photographs, or written a whole drawerful of scripts - or quite a lot of whatever their passion is - by that age.

Any information would be appreciated

Well you've had a pretty wide range of advice here, mostly conflicting with other responses. :unsure: I've followed this list for several years, so I can see that some of the answers say more about the person writing them than they say about the question. I guess that's like everything else in this (or any other) business: there are no right or wrong answers, and certainly no quick ones.

For example . . . from Craig . . .

when you make it in this game and have the right business sense you'll probably have a pretty sweet pad and get behind the wheel of something foreign everyday, date models, eat at fancy restaurants and hang out at cool parties - maybe have a little drug/alcohol situation, go a couple of months without shaving your beard - but generally feel pretty satisfied with life.

Those might be the markers of some sort of success at something (I dunno what), but they aren't much to do with being a genuine filmmaker any more than being a genuine real estate agent, rock star or all-round tosser.

Run away! Run away!

I knew this was from Phil before I even read the signature. But he does have a point.

(note to Phil . . . why do you stick at it, Phil, given your pessimistic outlook in this sort of context? Serious question, the answer might be illuminating for others who want to follow in your footsteps.
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#16 David Auner aac

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 06:05 AM

(note to Phil . . . why do you stick at it, Phil, given your pessimistic outlook in this sort of context? Serious question, the answer might be illuminating for others who want to follow in your footsteps.


Hate-love relationship? Masochism? :D. No, I bet Phil loves what he does so much, he puts up with all the hardship. As we all do sometimes!

Cheers, Dave
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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 06:48 AM

Actually, I've had so much crap off clients in the last few years that I really am starting to not love it anymore.

Right now it wouldn't take much - a decent career with similar freedoms, basically - for me to sell all the camera gear and do something else, and probably just make short films on the side.

P
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