Having worked a lot on our production business lately, we have identified five important steps that filmmakers should consider that will help you grow!
1. Start a blog and/or create an engaging presence on the “interwebs”.
We can’t stress this one enough. Nowadays, with the internet community buzzing at our fingertips, it’s silly not to engage in the conversation. As filmmakers, we have available media to share – and it’s probably more readily available than we think. Sharing a short clip of raw footage that you find to be interesting is more “instant” than waiting for your final product to be complete and “worthy” of being shared. And what’s more? Instant, free “peanut galleres” (aka “test groups”) are willing to comment on and offer suggestions and reactions to your work. There are also multiple web-based fundraising tools out there for film projects (more on that in another post).
Using your website/blog and social media tools (like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube), put something out there that is entertaining, thought-provoking, or serves as a converstaion piece, and guess what? You’ll find a built-in audience, right here on your own piece of freely available internet property. And if you’re consistent and they like you, they’ll stick around.
Some filmmaker websites we like include:
- videothing.com – This one works more like a video-blog or “vlog”, where the filmmaker (the mono-named “Michael”) posts videos from his experiences (like a visit to Comic-Con or a patriotic 4th of July backyard barbeque). He also directs awesome music videos, which can be seen here.
- knivesandspoons.com – An editoral company, Knives and Spoons has a whole host of reels on view at their very simple, easy-to-navigate website. Of course, there’s the “montage” reel, but each genre of work they do also has it’s own reel. Brilliant.
- sylviasether.com – This filmmaker just spent her summer as a part of AFI’s “Directing Workshop for Women” program. Her personal website shows the breadth of her work. She just wrapped shooting on “Overdrawn”, a short film she co-wrote and directed. She has used and continues to use a web-based outreach to raise awareness (and money) for her film.
- selfreliantfilm.com – We’ve read a lot of resourceful posts on this website, including this recent one about the newly updated Final Cut Studio (aka “Final Cut Studio 3″). And it’s updated frequently (a major plus if you’re going to try Step #1).
2. Shoot and edit ALL of the time. Seriously.
This should go without saying. Even if the paid gigs aren’t coming in at the moment, you need to stay current, challenge yourself creatively, and flex your filmmaker muscles. Take on that pro-bono project. Create another “highlights reel” of your work. Help out a friend or try something new. Keep your wit and imagination agile and ready for what’s around the corner.
3. Diversify your subject matter or genre(s) of work.
If you’re a wedding videographer, why not try making a training video for a local business? If you’ve only directed commercials, why not take on a music video or documentary project? You’ve done documentary, but you’d like to try and direct a scripted film with actors. You’ve only tried long format, how about short format? Each new direction you take is an opportunity to grow as a content creator, and could lead to newer, more diversified streams of revenue.
4. Give to your community FREELY.
“Paying it forward” has never rung more true than now, in this age of digital marketing and user-driven distribution. Freely share your art (via the web, community television, public/private screenings), your resources (links, contacts), and your knowledge in an authentic way, and you’ll be filling a niche for sure. The gifts you share will return to you a thousand fold. It won’t be instantaneous, but if people like what you do, it will come back to you in ways you could never imagine.
Another thing to consider is sharing other people’s work that impresses you or touches you in some way. This is easily done through blogs or social media sites by passing on or “sharing” a video that has been posted on the web. Here’s a video gift (shared on Vimeo by David Berry of Lapsed Time Images) that we appreciate having found on a filmmaker’s blog:
5. Keep accurate records of your work and maintain a footage archive.
You definitely should put a value on your work, even when you are doing it pro-bono. Create a budget (and invoice) for everything you do, including anything you are “donating” or “gifting” to others – even if there’s a balance due of $0.00 at the bottom. It’s important to be organized on this front, because it’s easy to become overwhelmed or exhausted – and it forces you to be more efficient with your time.
Another key practice to get really good at: archiving. If your digital and tape/film media is properly labelled, stored, and logged, you can access it for future use and repurpose it. You can also offer “stock footage” as an additional way of making money through licensing your work. Not a bad thing to consider if you own your media content!