by Soroush Afyouni
I’m asked this question often. The most important is to always keep your shingle hanging out, saying “I am a freelance director.” Never say, “Ah, I gave that up,” even if you have other jobs, never tear up your business card.
Keep in contact with active filmmakers from college and work on their films. It’s a business of showing up. Show up to shoots, in any capacity. Show up enough, do a good job, be an ambassador of good will and you have a good chance of being invited to work on other films.
Be courteous and respectful to everyone. The extra or stunt man of today’s shoot could be the producer of tomorrow’s shoot. This happened to me. One of the swords women from my film, Weapons of Death, hired me to do a travelogue in Phuket, Thailand. Actress Barbara Leigh, who I hired for a role in my audio book Rock Star Rising, hired me to direct her audio-book The King, McQueen and the Love Machine.
My life changed when I realized that I was not only in the Feature Film Business, but also in the Communication Business. Not unlike the United States train companies from the 40′s and 50′s that thought they were only in the train business and didn’t invest in trucks or airplanes – a lost opportunity.
Be a soundman, an extra, an actor, a novelist, a speaker or a film teacher. I’d pass on being a stuntman, too dangerous. Just don’t get stuck in a dead end job. Think of those positions as freelance. Yes, you will direct, but be in the Communication Business.
Start to develop your own projects that you feel passionate about. You never know when someone with money will ask you if you have a project. Instantly give them a script with a budget, location plan and schedule. Continue reading books written by directors and watching your favorite films on DVD in addition to their bonus programs and commentary tracks. This is an incredible teaching device that will help program your subconscious to keep you on the right track.
If you are passionately in it for the long run, join and actively maintain social web sites such as quarterlife.com for artists. They have a great artist ‘photo show’ application for your main page where you can display your writing, art photos and films. As of this writing, there are about 4,000 young artists showing their art in addition to connecting and sharing information. Start networking with them, as the ones that continue, will be coming out strong.
Another web site is LinkedIn.com. That site is 100% business with many clubs for scriptwriters, directors and movie financing. Use the drop down window to search for groups such as movies, financing and screenplay. It’s a free site, no need to upgrade. All the Fortune 500 companies and Hollywood Studios are there. You don’t post photos of your art, just one photo of yourself, but you connect to people and have your page of past work. It’s not MySpace or Facebook, so put your business hat on when you go there.
To repeat, work on everyone’s film. Yes, some will not appreciate your help, some will not pay you what they promised, but others will. You must have some kind of short film or video to show when you get an opportunity. I’ve directed six feature films, completed post-production on many more and I’m ready for more work. That’s why I produced Rock Star Rising, an audio-book with my favorite actors that I always dreamed of working with. Maybe a producer, who is also a fan of those actors, will see it and ask for a script which I have waiting. Additionally, I’m having my agent submit it to producers.
Beware, age 26. That’s when all my movie friends gave up, four years after college. Their wives, girlfriends or parents said, “Well, you gave it a shot, now you have to get a real job.” Get freelance jobs. I always worked so at night I’d be available to screen my first feature to buyers and future investors. Always work, but work freelance to be available for other film jobs.
If you are interested in directing for the creative expression and lifestyle, or to do that one great story you have in your heart, you’ll stay in it. However, if you only have the dream of fame, fortune and money, it’s hard to stay motivated and you’ll seek other paths.
You can’t imagine the surprises that come when you follow your dreams. I have too many personal examples to list here, but it’s amazing what comes and how it comes. When you’re getting paid for what you love to do, you’ll know that the price of perseverance was well worth it.
I wrote my novels in hopes of getting them produced as movies, opening up another enjoyable creative outlet. After being asked so many times: “how do you survive as a freelancer,” I wrote How To Live The James Bond Lifestyle. This way I don’t have to spend hours explaining it, I just hand them the audio-book. And the main thing about James Bond……. He never stops until the mission is accomplished.
“Please Help the World”, film from the opening ceremony of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15) in Copenhagen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Shown on December 7, 2009 at COP15. Director: Mikkel Blaabjerg Poulsen, producers: Stefan Fjeldmark and Marie Peuliche, cinematographer: Dan Laustsen, production designer: Peter de Neergaard, editor: Morten Giese, composer: Davide Rossi, sound design: Carl Plesner, production company: Zentropa RamBuk, advisory consultants: Mogens Holbøll, Bysted A/S and Christian Søndergaard, Attention Film ApS.
Video Rating: 3 / 5
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Here is an article that details five famous film directors who all have one thing in common they didn’t spend a single day in film school. They learned and became a master at their craft from simple trial and error, self-study and unshakable self confidence and belief in themselves.
5. David Fincher
Fincher is an Academy Award-nominated American filmmaker and music video director known for his dark and stylish movies such as Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Fincher eschewed the film school route, getting a job loading cameras and doing other hands-on work for John Korty’s Korty Films. He was later hired by Industrial Light & Magic in 1980, where he worked on productions for Twice Upon a Time,Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Set on a directing career, Fincher joined video-production company Propaganda Films and started off directing music videos and commercials. Like Fincher, other directors such as Meiert Avis, David Kellogg, Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Neil LaBute, Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek, Michel Gondry, Paul Rachman, Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski, and Alex Proyas honed their talents at Propaganda Films before moving on to feature films
Oscar History: 1 Nomination
4. Peter Jackson
Mr. Jackson is a three-time Academy Award-winning New Zealand filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, best known for The Lord of the Rings trilogy adapted from the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. He is also known for his 2005 remake of King Kong.
He won international attention early in his career with his “splatstick” horror comedies, before coming to mainstream prominence with Heavenly Creatures, for which he shared an Academy Award best screenplay nomination with his partner Fran Walsh
Jackson has no formal training in film-making, but learned about editing, special effects and makeup largely through his own trial and error. As a teenager Jackson discovered the work of author J. R. R. Tolkien after watching The Lord of the Rings (1978), an animated film by Ralph Bakshi that was a part-adaptation of Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy. After leaving school Jackson began working as a photoengraver at a newspaper company in Wellington, and shooting a feature-length vampire movie that was later abandoned before completion.
Oscar History: 8 nominations, 3 wins.
3. Sir Ridley Scott
Scott is a British Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe, Emmy Award and BAFTA Award winning film director and producer known for his stylish visuals and an obsession for detail. His films include Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down,Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster and Body of Lies. At age 28, Scott made a black and white short film, ‘Boy and Bicycle, starring his younger brother, Tony Scott, and his father. The film’s main visual elements would become features of Scott’s later work. After directing over 2,500 TV commercials, Ridley finally made his feature directorial debut at age 40 making The Duellists. Can you believe that? 40 years old when he made his first feature film. If that is not inspiration for you, I don’t know what is. You’re never too old to become whoever you want to be.
Oscar History: 3 Nominations
2. James Cameron
Mr. I’m the king of the world is an Academy Award-winning Canadian-American director, producer and screenwriter. He has written and directed films as disparate as Aliens andTitanic. To date, his directorial efforts have grossed approximately US.1 billion domestically, unadjusted for inflation. Cameron is noted for his films¡Xwhich are often highly innovative, artistic and financially successful¡Xas well as his fierce temper and confrontational personality
Oscar History: 3 wins.
1. Steven Spielberg
Where should I start?
Steven Spielberg is an American film director, screenwriter and film producer. Forbesmagazine places Spielberg’s net worth at .1 billion. In 2006, the magazine Premiere listed him as the most powerful and influential figure in the motion picture industry. Time listed him as one of the 100 Most Important People of the Century. At the end of the twentieth century,Life named him the most influential person of his generation. In a career of over four decades, Spielberg’s films have touched on many themes and genres. Spielberg’s early sci-fi and adventure films, sometimes centering on children, were seen as an archetype of modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking. In later years his movies began addressing such issues as the Holocaust, slavery, war and terrorism.
Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director for 1993′s Schindler’s List and 1998′sSaving Private Ryan. Three of Spielberg’s films, Jaws (1975), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993), broke box office records, each becoming the highest-grossing film made at the time. To date, unadjusted gross of all Spielberg directed films exceeds .5 billion worldwide.
Oscar History: 12 nominations, 3 wins.
Everything good that can be said about Spielberg has probably alright been said so the best compliment I can give this Hollywood icon is that I saw “Jaws¨ when I was five years old. Now I’m thirty-four and still get a little freaked out when swimming in the ocean, all because Spielberg made a timeless and classic shark thriller.
I hope this article leaves you with the belief that the most important characteristic needed to become a successful movie director is determination. Not schooling, not money, not being a child prodigy and not your contacts.
I would like to end this article with a quote from James Cameron.
“I think the most important thing if you’re an aspiring film-maker is to get rid of the ‘aspiring’… You shoot it, you put your name on it, you’re a film-maker. Everything after that, you’re just negotiating your budget.”
To Your Success!
Filmmaker & Author of “Stop Waiting and Make Your Movie”
P.S. Get info about my new special report, “30 TIPS to Increase Your Success in the Film Industry” at:
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With the proliferation of television and cable stations and our nations addiction to ‘all things visual’ especially movies, more and more students are choosing to attend one of the nations Film and Television schools in order to enter the world of entertainment and broadcasting. As someone who has attended both the NYU and USC film/television programs, I thought I should outline how to make the most of a structured film program to increase your chances of success in the industry after graduation.
Explore Then Specialize
One of the great things about film school is that it gives you the chance to explore different areas of film and television production. During the first year or two I always advise students to try the unfamiliar and take risks with different roles, styles and techniques. Perhaps you thought before enrolling you wanted to be a director but after you do the lighting for a film you realize you love cinematography. Or perhaps you never worked with sound before and find yourself spending hours and hours creating amazing soundscapes for something you or a friend shot. One thing to be sure you delve into is screenwriting. While a discipline in itself that is separate from production, being familiar with story and screenplay and tv structure is very important for anyone working in the film or television business.
It is through experimenting that you can see where your natural strengths and weaknesses lie. Remember, although many people are in film school have dreamed all their lives of being a great Director or Producer, the vast majority of time you must work your way up through the industry by working in a specific area. Eventually, through various ways you can make the leap to Directing or Producing your own projects. The ways to go about making that leap is complex enough for many articles so we won’t go into that here, but it is a good idea to have an idea of what kind of position you want after you graduate and hone your skills in school for that specific role while you are still a student.
The Film and Television industries are very social industries. The vast majority of people in ‘the business’ work with many of the same people over and over again and it is all based on friendships and close working relationships. Film school is your first opportunity to create a starting network that you will then leverage when out of school to make the leap into the legitimate industry. Make sure to be involved in as many clubs and go to as many functions as you can. Make your goal to meet every person in your class, as well as the classes above and below you. The larger your network of potential contacts and friends then the greater your source will be to find out about jobs in the industry. Also, it is a good idea to work on as many fellow student films as possible so you can both meet the other students as well is see who the most talented at specific roles are. This is especially useful if you plan to direct a thesis or do a production after graduation and want to hire friends that are the best at what they do for your production.
Internships can be an incredible resource for the aspiring film and television careerist. Through internships you can not only get great experience in an area you are interested in, but you can also create great relationships that often lead to your first job out of school. Also, for those thinking of moving to NY or LA that go to school outside of those areas, an internship with a recognized company is a great thing to have on your resume to stand out from the crowd and land your first gig. The more specialized your interest and the more specific you can make your internship to ‘shape’ your resume the better.
Depending on the Film and Television program you are in, you might have the opportunity to do either a Thesis or Final project. Often this involves Directing, Writing and sometimes Producing your own project along with other students as part of your ‘crew’. This project can be used for several purposes depending on how well done it is and what format and length it is in. Some use it as a chance to enter short or if long enough, feature film festivals. Still others use it as a way of showing off the particular talents that they are good at. This could be a short film that has very exquisite and complicated lighting scenarios or camera work for those trying to get into cinematography or camera operation. Or it can be a very well directed or art directed film for those careers. Just as you kept the ‘big picture’ in mind of what your intention is after graduation, the ‘Final Project’ can be a key part in your ‘portfolio’ to obtain work or a job after graduation. For more great information about film schools please visit www.USCfilmschool.com
Trailer – www.youtube.com Behind the Scenes – www.youtube.com “Crime doesn’t take a vacation. But we do.” -Created, directed, edited, and visual effects by Michael Ashton for 0. Lazy Teenage Superheroes follows Ty as he tries to get his new “super” friends, Mitch, Cal, and Rick, to put down the video games, get off the couch, and use their powers to help save the world, instead of themselves. www.LazyTeenageSuperheroes.com Cast Joseph Stricker – Ty Ellis Martin – Mitch Sean Patrick McGowan – Rick Federico Rodriguez – Cal Rafael Cebrian – Solario Julian Cihi – Laser Wing/Blood Belt Anne Costner – Mel Crew Michael Ashton – Director, Producer, Writer, VFX – www.ashtonmike.com Sean Conaty- Director of Photography – http Dave Margolius – Prod. Coordinator Danny Cannizarro – VFX – www.dannycannizzaro.net Tom Ashton – Boom Operator Adam Royster – Writer Dan Teicher – Music – http Kyle Long – Prod. Assist. James Myers – Post Consultant
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Recently, I received an email from a reader ofÂ my blog asking questions about wanting to fulfill his dream of becoming a filmmaker and whether he should attend film school.Â Iâd like to share with you our email conversationâ¦Iâll keep his real name anonymous so Iâll refer toÂ him as Michael:
Hello Ian, My name isÂ Michael and for a long time I have wanted to be a filmmaker/film director.Â Iâm 26 years old and now iâm reading to make filmmaking my career. I was wondering where should I start, since I have no experience at all. Should I go to film school? or learn on my own? I have no idea what is needed. I would really appreciate if you could advice me and guide me thank you.
Hereâs my emailÂ reply back to him:
First, let me commend you for taking the first step towards honouring your dream to become a filmmaker. Within this email I will give you my best advice to help you move forward towards a career as a filmmaker.
1) Get very clear about what you want. When you say filmmakerâ¦do you mean writer/director? Just film director? Writer/director/producer? Do you eventually want to make big budget Hollywood films? Independent films? Documentaries?
Â Â Once you get clear about what you truly want from filmmaking as a career, I would suggest you write down some short term and long term career goals for yourself.
i.e. (short term goal) I will write and direct a short film by June 10th, 2010.
Â Â Â Â Â (long term goal) I will finish writing my feature film screenplay by July 20th, 2010.
Having career goals will give you a sense of purpose and allow you to make better decisions in order to fullfill your filmmaking dreams.
2) Acquire the right experience, knowledge and skills. The best way to do this is from reading books, taking classes and from doing. Simple trial and error. Here are some books that I recommend you read to gain more knowledge about the art of filmmaking.
(i) Reel to Deal: Everything You Need to Create a Successful Independent Film by Dov S-S Simens
This is an easy and informative read. Very inspiring for someone whoâs interested in making movies. Especially for independent film producers. I really like his advice about âfirst make a movie, then make a dealâ.
Also, Dov S-S Simens has a very successful online and DVD package web film school loaded with priceless industry knowledge that helped launch the careers of several high profile Hollywood directors like Guy Ritchie, Christopher Nolan and Baz Luhrmann. I highly recommend his course, check here for more details.
(ii) The Film Director Prepares: A Complete Guide to Directing for Film & TV by Myrl A. Schreibman
Loaded with a vast amount of useful information for newbie film directors ranging from topics like directing actors to camera coverage to how to be professional and efficient onset.
(iii) Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez is the modern day king of D.I.Y. moviemaking. His book chronicles how he made a feature film for ,000 that launched his film career. What I love about this book is Rodriguez cuts through all the Hollywood noise and b.s. and gives you real,honest, useful tips on what you really need to succeed as an independent movie director.
(IV) The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insiderâs Secrets from Hollywoodâs Top Writers by Karl Iglesias
Based on conversation with successful working Hollywood script writers like Eric Roth, Akiva Goldsman, Ed Solomon, Nicholas Kazan, Leslie Dixon, Scott Rosenberg, Gerald DiPego, Steven DeSouza, Tom Schulman, Michael Schiffer, Amy Holden Jones, Robin Swicord. This book gives you the real deal about the daily routines and how to break into the industry tips from the writers of many of todayâs top Hollywood movies. I really loved what Ron Bass (Rain man) had to say about succeeding as a screenplay writer
(V) Stop Waiting and Make Your Movie by Ian Agard
Â This is a film financing guide with 33 information-packed pages of valuable tips and strategies used by both established and emerging filmmakers to secure money for their film productions. For a beginner or expert. If you are an independent filmmaker who needs ,000 to 0,000 to make your short or feature film, then this e-book is for you. To learn more about it, click here.
Film school vs. learn on your own?
That depends on your current life situation, your personality and financial resources. I personally didnât attend film school because I love to learn from doing, trial and error, making mistakes and learning. Film school will not make you a filmmaker, it simply gives you the tools, the opportunity and resources to play, experiment and find your unique style as a storyteller. You can do that on your own, however, it depends how connected you are with friends and others who will help you make your movies.
If I were starting off with no experience and I wanted to take some filmmaking classes/seminars and I would invest my money in www.webfilmschool.com. Dov S-S Simens offers valuable and affordable filmmaking knowledge via 2 day seminars, DVDs and streaming online. Filmmakers who have attended his seminars are Guy Ritchie, Christopher Nolan and Baz Luhrmann.
Where should you start?
Here are the first five steps I suggest should take to get the ball rolling on your filmmaking career:
1) If you desire to be a writer as well as a director, go to http://www.simplyscripts.com and start reading screenplays of films youâve alright watched. Start getting familiar with the structure of screenplays and certain terms.
2) Go to www.celtx.com and download celtx. Combines full-feature scriptwriting with pre-production support and also enables online collaboration. Mac, Linux and Windows. (Itâs free)
3) Write everyday. Invest at least 15 minutes each day (I write everyday for 1 hour) Just start telling a story. Focus on a genre you love. Horror? Action? Sci-fi? Comedy? Just start writingâ¦it doesnât have to be perfect. I recommend you aim to write 2 or 3 short scripts. 5 to 10 pages long. While still studying other screenplays from simplyscripts.com, learn to stretch your imagination building a rich, complex characters and interesting scenes/situations.
4) Gather a crew (some friends) or post an ad on craigslist.org or mandy.com to hire some actors and crew members.
5) Shoot your movie! Pick the script that you love the most, (passion is important) take your crew and make your movie. Iâll probably encounter setups, problems,etcâ¦this is normal. Just keep moving forward with your production and donât quit until it done and done right.
Â Â Now youâre a filmmaker!
I understand that I left out a lot of important steps like the film budget, get a film camera and equipment, securing shooting locations, editing the film, music,etcâ¦all these steps you must learn and work out on your own only because I donât know where you live, your financial situation and resources. For budget, 0 to 1,000 for your first short film is a good start. Everything else can hire and get volunteers via craigslist.org or mandy.com.
The main things are get clear about what you want, start studying from the right books/websites and take action today!
To Your Success,
So to concludeâ¦is it worth going to film school?
I have friends andÂ acquaintances who have attended film school andÂ theyâve told me itÂ can be a very rewarding and valuable investment into your life andÂ career, however, the bottom line is you must constantly play, experiment and find your unique style as a storyteller to make it as a filmmaker.
Ian Agard, filmmaker/author/entrepreneur
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