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Looking into the film industry


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#1 FilmmakerJack

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 01:52 AM

Hey, I'm a 17 year old kid. I love film and almost every part of it. I screenwrite, shoot, direct, and edit a lot of my work. I'm looking to go into the film industry especially because I would enjoy being a part of any part of the process. However, I know there are many people who desire to become actors and they fail miserably. Even those who are good often have to bus tables as a main job before anything big comes along, often times nothing ever does.

What I'm asking is if I desire to be a screenwriter, or a director, or an editor, or anything in the film industry, can I assume these jobs are equally difficult to get a hold of? I know not everyone gets a chance to direct a big budget hollywood film, but even if they don't, what are the chances they can pull a steady job that puts good money on the table? If I attend film school am I automatically declaring myself a waiter until something bigger comes along? or is it likely I can get a job at a studio as an assistant or someone with a steady job?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 02:04 AM

A movie has only one director and a feature may take a year or more of their time minimum, so odds are higher against getting feature directing jobs because each film only needs one and they can't do too many of them at a time.

A movie may employ a DP but also a 2nd Unit DP, and DP's can shoot three or more movies in the time a director devotes to one, so odds are higher of getting jobs as a DP than director.

A movie may employ a number of screenwriters at a time and screenwriters may be working on multiple projects at the same time, so odds are better at getting work as a screenwriter than as a director.

On the other hand, TV shows often employ more directors over a season while keeping the same writers, DP's, etc. so getting jobs directing television isn't as hard as with features.

However, all of this assumes an awful lot, like you're actually good at any of these jobs, that your work is commercial, sellable, that you have drive, luck, connections, etc.

You should do what you're best at and enjoy the most, but also recognize that odds of success aren't high in this business. Forget job security; it's a big gamble that may or may not pay-off, but if you're young, why not take some chances before you get the wife and kids and mortgage, etc.

You also have to start focusing on what particular niche you are going to carve for yourself. Just getting an office job in a studio will probably lead to more office jobs, maybe eventually office management jobs, etc. so don't think of those as career paths -- they are more just to pay the rent and meet people. You often find yourself surrounded by fellow young people with vague ideas of "working in the business."

If you want to master screenwriting, concentrate on that. Don't piddle around, dabbling in dozens of different jobs. Pick something you can become an expert at.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 03:10 AM

Hi,

> why not take some chances before you get the wife and kids and mortgage, etc#

Because you will find yourself pushing thirty with no property, no pension, and no prospects because you have no useful experience, that's why!

Phil
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#4 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 04:05 AM

Because you will find yourself pushing thirty with no property, no pension, and no prospects because you have no useful experience, that's why!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


What happened to the whole British stiff upper lip?

In America, our culture teaches us we can achieve anything we want, damn the odds.
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#5 Jonathan Spear

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 05:02 AM

"In America, our culture teaches us we can achieve anything we want, damn the odds..."

...and anything or anyone standing in your way.
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#6 Brian Wells

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 09:21 AM

I'm looking to go into the film industry especially because I would enjoy being a part of any part of the process.


Good. That's the right way to look at it. Find a need, become trained, then get a job. Most hopefuls looking into the film industry don't even have the sense to ask what jobs are available and make the assumption they will be a director. I want to be a d.p., but that is a skilled profession which takes a lifetime of achievements built one agonizing step at a time. One of those first steps (after being a P.A. which I currently do for pay) is to move up to grip, then gaffer. At this point, I would be happy to be a professional gaffer in ten years, now that I understand the level of discipline, knowledge, and experience required for this job. It is a real job that requires real skills. If I eventually have work as a gaffer on a regular basis, I may decide I enjoy the job and stability well enough to stay put and not become a D.P. I would probably be happy with that decision.

What I'm asking is if I desire to be a screenwriter, or a director, or an editor, or anything in the film industry, can I assume these jobs are equally difficult to get a hold of?

Nothing on your list is even a remote possibility... at least in the beginning. Everyone in Hollywood has a script! Those are positions you work your way into well into your career. In other words, few start out as a director.

I know not everyone gets a chance to direct a big budget hollywood film, but even if they don't, what are the chances they can pull a steady job that puts good money on the table?

Very good chances of pulling a stable job that puts 'good' money on the table. Within the industry, there are many jobs. I'm a young guy and I've never had any trouble finding support jobs (PA, etc.) for regional commercials and even worked as a sound department head on a low budget indie film. You can find work, as long as you aren't aiming for the moon.

If I attend film school am I automatically declaring myself a waiter until something bigger comes along?

FYI, jobs outside the industry do extend beyond waiting tables. Pharmacy technicians earn reasonable wages and the hours are quite flexible. (much of my family work in medicine in one way or another, some doctors)

or is it likely I can get a job at a studio as an assistant or someone with a steady job?

Editors are almost always looking for assistants and usually provide study work. Still photographers assistant is a transitional job on the way up to gaffer and eventually camera assistant and perhaps director of photography.

Just as in other industries, no-one becomes an administrator or vice president of a company right out of university. They start out at the bottom rung as a technician and work up the food chain. No-one will hire someone who doesn't meet the requirements of the job. Usually you will perform work at a higher level for quite a while before others recognize your abilities and you move up. This is where some feel they are 'underappreciated' or 'underpaid' because they are 'doing the work that others are supposed to be doing' and so on. This is normal. Eventually, with due diligence, you will move up the career ladder.

Prepare for your long term future and also think about ways to provide a living for your self today. Always keep your options open and be prepared if an opportunity comes along, but don't be foolish and lie to yourself that you should be writing movies while you are waiting tables, because that is not reality.

Hope this makes sense. Good luck, from another 'student.'
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 10:08 AM

Hi,

> why not take some chances before you get the wife and kids and mortgage, etc#

Because you will find yourself pushing thirty with no property, no pension, and no prospects because you have no useful experience, that's why!

Phil

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


"Pushing thirty"... I didn't even graduate film school until I was thirty -- it's not THAT old.

What, do you suggest getting married and having the kids and mortgage right away and just settling for an office job right out of high school? If your twenties aren't the time to figure out a career path, live cheap and take risks, try different things, what ARE they good for? You're supposed to already be settled down by then? If you don't hit it big by the time you're 21, it's too late?

We're not talking about being 65 and deciding it's time to go to medical school here. There has to be some periods in your life that you take a chance and follow a career goal. It's just EASIER if you don't have financial burdens like children. So if you're not willing to take a financial risk when you're in your twenties and not yet married with children and a house, then odds are even lower that you're going to take a chance later.

And I'm not being particularly daring in this advice. This is sort of common sense, that some periods in your life are spent taking a chance and investing in something that could pay off later, as long as you know you can recover if things don't work out. So the younger you are, generally the easier to weather failure.
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#8 Krystian Ramlogan

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 10:48 AM

I'd like to add my support to what Brian and Mr. Mullen said.

I'm also a student with a desire to be a career filmmaker. Exactly what roles do I aspire to? Any and all that I can sink my teeth into. I do have a desire to become a DP and perhaps eventually a Director, but those are my ultimate goals. I recognize that those are aspirations that I have to work my butt off to achieve.

So I've been handling my college work, going on extra shoots, doing PA work for free, meeting people, and generally working to not only improve myself/my skills but also to make contacts, network and find more opportunities to be a part of filmmaking in all its variations. Eventually I'm going to move into doing my own films and exploring my own style, with the help of the same people whose productions I worked on.

There are always user groups - local organizations - which can help sometimes, especially if you don't mind working for free. These often lead to better exposure. My cousin and a friend wound up in the new Miami Vice movie as extras simply because they were into movies and were part of a local extras group - they wound up being on the set almost everyday and made a lot of contacts.

I also second doing what you love and working on that to become as good as you can be. Getting distracted can lead to less skill in that area, but if you look around and keep your eyes open you will see the opportunities that are available.

Take the risks, its what life is all about. Nothing is impossible for someone who dreams, just stay focussed and believe in yourself.
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#9 Mark Allen

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Posted 16 July 2005 - 01:54 PM

Everyone in Hollywood has a script!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually - Everyone in Hollywood might have an "idea" - but very few of those people - even the people who consider themselves writers - actually ever turn that idea into a script. And very very few of those people who do are open enough to feedback and learning that they sit down and write another one or rewrite it until it's fantastic.

A truly great script is a rare find and is gold in Hollywood.


I'm going to editorialize for a moment....

I've been reading these boards for a while now and I have really been surprised by the "it's impossible, so don't try" attitudes I discover here. Perhaps it's there to balance out some other influence I'm not aware of. But what is most surprising when it comes to discussions of Hollywood... most of the people commenting don't and never haved lived here - and, therefore, have never really tried. So, as someone who has lived here for 15 or so years and worked in the industry on some level for 13 of those years, I thought I might make some observations.

Lots of people get the jobs they want, but it does take a lot of work. If you're someone who wants to do everything - that won't work, you need to focus. If you're someone who can't stand the idea of working for free at first and keeping a second real job to pay the bills if necessary... yes, it's going to be hard for you too.

And... if you are someone who carries a lot of negativity where ever you go - that's going to be hard for you as well. People here know it's hard, they know that maybe they should be spending time with family and friends and not with their dreams - but they do it because they have a profound connection to the process of filmmaking. Something about filmmaking and being a part of the process of storytelling and therefore being a part of the lineage and history of storytellers and fantasy fulfills something inside them enough that they are willing to sacrifice... and if you want to be around them... you don't want to be telling them that their dreams are hopeless and meaningless and will never amount to anything. They don't want to be around that - they want to be around someone who shares their hope. They want to be around someone who is even working harder than they are to learn more and know more. That's the person they are going to help - and that is true for ANY profession. The grumbly people? They just got lucky - or they really are just so amazing they can't be replaced. More likely the luck. Best to assume you're not just lucky.

Anyway - while I think it's great to have a balancing of opinions and I think it is really important to know what the sacrifice entails... if you decide to go for it. Do not go for it with a negative attitude - go out with an attitude which will inspire those around you.
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#10 Jeremy Russell

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Posted 17 July 2005 - 02:11 AM

work hard (harder than anyone else)
stay focused

.. people dont succeed unless they work hard, it's a value that is taught in any profession, and every aspect of life. It's no different, people make opportunities for themselves, and in turn, opportunities open.
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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 12:54 AM

"In America, our culture teaches us we can achieve anything we want, damn the odds."

This is precisely what Jimmy Petula the snake who runs that Career Connection con job counts on. Fleece people out of $5000.00 bucks by telling them they can attain their dreams.

(And no I am not one of his victims, but many on this board are)

"Rah! Rah! We can take on the world" needs to be tempered with some common sense in all cases.

R,
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#12 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 01:14 AM

Three words... bust your ass.

Oh wait, five more... don't let people scare you.

And finally...what was it Henry Rollins said? "If I'd listened to everything that they told me, I wouldn't be here"; well it's true. I was never confident of my abilities until I stopped listening to the destructive criticisms of others and started to grow a spine. I was then able to figure out what *I* wanted without taking the words of Everyone Else as gospel. I guess this is more general advice about life than anything else, but trust me, I think you'll find a use for it.
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#13 FilmmakerJack

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 01:43 AM

So if I wanted to become a screenwriter or director, what would my path to getting there look like? After I take classes, how do I even begin getting into the business?
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#14 Chris Cooke

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 02:19 AM

So if I wanted to become a screenwriter or director, what would my path to getting there look like? After I take classes, how do I even begin getting into the business?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I really liked what Mark Douglas had to say. Read that again, it's good. If you want to be a screenwriter... write. Read books go on writing forums. Get ideas wherever you go. If your good, it'll come out of you and other people will begin to like your stuff (if you show it to them). Interning is a great idea. We talked about this a bit in recent forums (please don't get into a debate about this here). I interned at a television station here in Canada right after high school (2002). I left my family and drove 10 hours to get there. It was a year long program where I actually paid them. I learned all that I could in that year especially after hours (reading, shooting, editing). It ended up paying off. At the end of the year they wanted to hire me. By the time the year was over, I was Directing a show and Producing another. The next year, I started stepping up to what I really wanted to do... lighting. I just rigged for another guy for a while, then I lit a few shows myself and now I'm the Lighting Director and my stuff gets watched all over the world on many different satelites and cable stations. You want to know how to make it. Well, a lot of "making it" has to do with the relationships that you create along the way. Try not to get in anybody's bad books (whether you think they're important or not). And work just as hard when nobody's looking because somebody's always watching.
Oh, by the way I have a wife and a kid and I'm still taking risks and stepping it up. My goal (along with a lot of others on this forum I'm sure) is to someday have the letters CSC, ASC behind my name and let audiences get lost in a world that I helped create.
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 02:22 AM

I've polled dozens of people over the years and I've never heard one similar story as to how someone became successful.

I shot a friend's thesis project when he was at one of the UC's. That same year he become a writing intern through the TV Academy on a TV series. A year later he was on their writing staff. A year after that, he was an executive producer. Then he went on to be head writer and executive producer on two more series and a couple of features tied to the series, etc.

Meanwhile I plugged away at shooting tons of low-budget non-union fare during this time.

Anyway, you sort of have to forge your own path to a career, but this also supposes that you've worked hard to develop your craft, that you create marketable material, and you develop industry connections.
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#16 Richard Boddington

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 09:38 AM

"I shot a friend's thesis project when he was at one of the UC's. That same year he become a writing intern through the TV Academy on a TV series. A year later he was on their writing staff. A year after that, he was an executive producer. Then he went on to be head writer and executive producer on two more series and a couple of features tied to the series, etc."

Personally, I've always believed that if you can write good scripts the film industry will open up to you like an oyster with a pearl. This guy obviously moved forward because he has developed the craft of writing. And it is a craft that needs to be mastered over the years, the same way a carpenter has to master his craft. Simply having a laptop and a script writing package does not make one a writer.

If you can write, this will lead you to directing and producing if you want it to. Let's face it DOPs are a dime a dozen, you can ALWAYS hire some one to shoot your film, you can ALWAYS rent the gear you need. You can't just go to the script rental house and ask them for a great screenplay. The script is the foundation every thing else is built on, without it you're no where.

There are too many examples to list of big directors and producers who are also the writers of the material they work on. As Mark Douglas has pointed out, every one in Hollywood has an idea for a film, not every one has a 100 page screenplay for a film. There is a big difference.

In my case I actually got some serious interest in a concept for a film from a major studio. I generated the interest by shooting two scenes for the film on 35mm, and writing a detailed synopsis. The reaction was, "great, we'd love to read the screenplay for the feature when you have it done." I was following the model for the guys who made "SAW" and it appeared to be working. Difference between me and them was that they had a finished screenplay, I don't.

So I set to writing, I made it to 50 pages, that was over a month ago nothing added since then. Looks like I'm stuck, no script. If I had a finished script they could read it, maybe I would have a shot? I cracked the door now I can't go in.

I asked the agent I'm using if we should just send them the 50 pages, she said it's a risk if they don't like it you won't get a second shot to submit it when it is done. I said what's the point in finishing any way, they will have it re-written a thousand times.

So that's where I'm at, if only I could write!

R,
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