Do You REALLY Want To Be A Filmmaker?

(Alex Le May) #1

Ask yourself this question. Do you REALLY want to be a filmmaker? On the surface, almost everyone reading this will say, ‘yes’. Now, I know I say this a lot, but I talk to a TON of filmmakers every month for my consulting business. The main thread that links many of them together is that they believe that once they get a seat at the table that suddenly things will get easier. They’ll have a voice, the budgets will be enough to get things done the way they envision it, the grind will lessen once they’ve passed through the gate of being called a “working filmmaker” (meaning getting paid to make content as their sole means of income).

Now some of you may be saying, “Alex, that’s not me. I have a pretty clear idea of what’s in store for me”. Maybe. But the reality is that in my experience and that of my more well-known friends and colleagues, not one of us is saying our lives are easier. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

The truth is, is that once you get that seat at the table and you’re pitching a lot, you have people who are willing to pay you for your ideas and you’re able to make a decent living at the thing you love, you actually, in many cases have fewer choices than you did when you were trying to get your break.

In both scenarios, it’s long bouts of work and stress broken up by spikes of awesomeness. When you pull back to the thirty-thousand-foot view, they actually look very similar with a couple of differences. Some big, some small.

The Newcomer or Struggling Filmmaker:

  • You’re under-recognized for your talent

  • You’re not paid for your expertise

  • Can’t say ‘no’ to any opportunity

  • You don’t have a boss you need to run things by

  • You have more creative freedom than you might think

  • Don’t have to ask for permission to make things

  • The more money you have for your project the more you can accomplish

  • There are difficult and persistent issues surrounding money

The Working Filmmaker

  • You’re under-recognized for your talent

  • Your often underpaid for your expertise (especially in the digital space)

  • You can say no to projects

  • You have five bosses all with different agendas

  • You have limited creative freedom due to studio business/financial interests

  • You have to get many people’s permission for the smallest of undertakings

  • The more money you have for your project, the greater the expectation and the shorter the leash

  • The money is better (not going to lie)

See, both have their upside and downside but it’s never going to be easier and, in both cases, you need to fight for every project. I say this, not to make anyone feel bad or to tell anyone to give up, but to ask you to be very honest about what the truth is when you finally get what you want. From the moment you start out on this journey, you have to be all in. It means giving up the idea that anything is normal or safe. It means giving up your cousin’s graduation, kid’s soccer game or friend’s wedding. It means abandoning the idea that all this will be here tomorrow. I want you to know what to expect because once you get right with these truths, it becomes an amazing life and you actually do feel like you’re living your dream.