The Hidden, Yet Simple Truth Behind Success At Filmmaking (and anything else really)

Filmmaking Success Hasn’t Gotten Easier, It’s Just Changed

Success is never easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be that special. Think about it, we judge those individuals who are special who can do something very few others can do. The more rare their talent, the more that person is idolized, and ultimately the more money they make. It’s this mindset that we must consider when we look at how to become successful as filmmakers.

In the past, the most challenging barrier to entry into becoming a paid Director was in actually filming something. The costs were enormous. Film was expensive, film development was expensive, and camera equipment wasn’t readily available. Filmmakers had to find creative and difficult ways to raise money, and they had to be super creative with the way they shot their films because often there wasn’t enough money for a second or third take.

This difficulty kept many potential wannabe filmmakers out. The ones who weren’t dedicated enough, who weren’t creative enough, and who didn’t want success bad enough were blown out before they even began. That was the barrier to entry.

Cut to today’s filmmakers and you see a different story. Technology has made creating a short film easy and cheap. Now, even a 2nd grader can whip together a little project and be a self-labeled filmmaker. This has created a new barrier to entry: white noise is everywhere. In other words, getting a break using your film is harder than in the past because there are so many films being cranked out. Or, another way to put it, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself from others.

This is not worse or better than the past. It was difficult back then, and it’s difficult now. The only thing that has changed is how it’s difficult. The difficulty level is the same, the barrier to entry has changed.

I think this is an important point to realize, because it’s empowering. When we watch other films by new filmmakers and we’re astounded by their special effects or their storytelling, it can be easy to become jaded. It can be easy to say to yourself, that person has a chance at making it in the film industry, but what chance will I have? How can I differentiate myself when so many talented people are making so many talented films?

But the reason this is empowering to you is because once you realize that it’s always been a struggle, that it has to be that way, then you realize that your success or failure squarely rests on you. Wouldn’t you rather be the captain of your own ship than feeling like you’re in the doldrums with no control whatsoever? A ship destined to failure for simply having a bad fate?

So take the first step in your career by embracing the challenges you will face in becoming recognized as a future paid and successful filmmaker. Pull up those boot straps and prepare to dig in for a fight for the long haul.

Let me give you a quick epiphany I had regarding becoming successful. I remember a few years I was thinking about going back to school to get an MBA. It was during my darker days when I didn’t have faith in myself or my future in the film business. I mentioned that I was thinking about getting this degree to an Assistant at the firm I was working at, and she asked me incredulous, why I would ever want to do something like that? It would be so hard.

And I thought, what in life worth having is easy? Nothing. This poor woman had resigned her life to failure, because it was easy. She would never become anything worthwhile because why even try? To her, success was a challenge not worth undertaking.

So ask yourself right now, are you willing to take the challenge, the hard work, and the dedication to become successful, or are you willing to settle for mediocrity?

The second piece of advice I can give you is to treat filmmaking as a craft. This is no different than painting, or playing an instrument, or writing a book. There are some who will get to success through blind luck, but they will never be masters of their craft. Masters will set themselves apart from the pack. They will be able to accomplish their craft with seeming ease and others will say of them, “they were born with it”.

This is a lie that unsuccessful people tell.

The truth is that the masters worked harder, studied longer, and treated their passion as the craft it is. And when reached the level of master, others simply believed that’s the way they always were.

Work towards become a master and you will be head-and-shoulders above everyone else. Sadly, masters are in rare quantity.

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