Who Are Filmmakers And How Can You Become One
Do the names Martin Scorsese, Stephen Spielberg or Stanley Kubrick mean anything to you? Well, they should! These household names are rated some of the best filmmakers of all time. That’s a pretty impressive title! Famous filmmakers such as these have inspired generations of people and non-filmmakers alike.
I’m guessing you’re here, reading this because you are an aspiring filmmaker yourself? Or maybe you’re already established as a full-time filmmaker? Well, no matter your current position, this is the article for you! We have everything you could possibly need right here to help further your career from general filmmaking information to crucial advice on breaking into this industry.
What Is A Filmmaker?
Are responsible for every aspect of a movie. From the writing of the script to casting, shooting, financing and even editing. This line of work requires a creative individual with strong leadership skills to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Filmmaker definition: ‘A person who directs or produces films for the cinema or television.’
The work of a professional filmmaker is never done. Work hours are long. Much longer than your average 9-5! And, you are often required to work weekends. Not ideal for those of you that like your Sunday lie-in!
As with most jobs, there are different ways to approach filmmaking. All of which depends on the individual’s work style.
- Independent (DIY filmmaking)
Creating a film without the attachment of any movie studio. This can prove very difficult when matters such as funding are concerned. However, the rewards are much greater! Many have made very successful careers through indie filmmaking.
Not attached to one movie studio. They are free to work with whoever they choose – A great position to be in if you want to pick and choose your work. However, this can prove to be a challenging job. Especially for beginners with a limited film resume.
Working exclusively for one movie studio. This can be very beneficial for the individual as there is a strong guarantee of work. However, such work can be limiting, forcing them to work on projects they have little interest in.
Why Become A Filmmaker?
There are, of course, many benefits, especially in today’s industry where media can be found and consumed literally anywhere!
Being a film maker allows you to be creative for a living. You can dream big and earn money doing so. Yes, this can sometimes be a stressful job but the reward far outweighs any stress you may endure. An independent filmmaker’s life is especially advantageous – No movie studio executives looming over your shoulder and the financial benefits can be very inviting.
Ok, ok… I hear what you’re asking! How much do filmmakers make? Well, that can depend on a lot of factors. The salary can vary depending on your level you are working at and the success of his/her films. On average, independent filmmakers make $118,190 annually whereas a big Hollywood film makers could make millions on a single film. That’s a lot of money at play! So, how do you get into filmmaking?
How To Be A Filmmaker
There are four basic elements to filmmaking: Camera techniques, editing, sound, and lighting. Of course, there are many more elements surrounding filmmaking such as casting, writing, and directing skills. However, for this article, we’re focusing on the basics of filmmaking – The essential elements that make for a great media product!
It is essential to master the industry-standard techniques that surround these basic elements. Without them, your media quality may suffer. In addition to these general techniques, it’s also important to consider the basic filmmaking conventions (common features) found in popular films. For example, basic horror film conventions would include: Jump scares, gore, murder and tension builds. Exploiting these common conventions can aid you in general with direction and storytelling.
How And Where To Learn
Filmmaking for beginners can seem like a daunting task. But, in today’s world, it couldn’t be easier to learn filmmaking! There’s a multitude of resources right at your fingertips. Just by searching ‘How to be a filmmaker’ on YouTube will provide thousands of answers from full-time professionals. Stephen Spielberg didn’t have that – lucky you!
Here are some other ways to learn the basics of filmmaking:
- Filmmaking books
- Online courses
- Academic courses (School / University)
- Filmmaking articles (Just like this one!)
- Internships at your local film studio
Of course, the best way to learn is by doing! Get out there and film! Nothing is stopping you from grabbing your phone and recording a short film with your friends. Everyone has to start somewhere. Test different lighting techniques, different camera angles and get to grips with a variety of editing software. They always say success is 99% preparation and 1% luck. So get out there and start preparing for your future as a full-time pro!
What Camera Do You Need?
Technology is fast advancing. That filmmaking camera you bought yesterday will most likely be outdated in a year’s time. It’s the nature of digital filmmaking. But, don’t worry! This can play to your advantage as you no longer need a professional camera for filmmaking. You could even use an iPhone thanks to today’s technology!
Finding the best camera for beginners can be difficult. Not to mention finding the best camera for filmmaking on a budget! We won’t dive into the world of camera models and brands in this article, that world is far too big. However, we do have some advice for those beginners out there, looking for their first budget camera.
DSLR VS Mirrorless
There are two main choices when looking for the best budget camera for filmmaking, DSLR and mirrorless. Which is best has become a frequent debate in the filmmaking world…
DSLR cameras work like traditional analogue cameras. They use mirrors to capture an image and provide a viewfinder for the user to see what the camera is pointing at. They’re commonly heavier and larger than mirrorless cameras but provide better results in low light. There’s also a larger collection of camera accessories available for DSLR cameras which can prove advantageous in the long run.
Mirrorless cameras are small and lightweight. Ideal for keeping your rig travel-friendly! These cameras commonly don’t have a viewfinder but instead display your image on a digital screen. More expensive models can offer both a viewfinder and a digital display.
Generally speaking, mirrorless cameras provide a higher quality video due to their better phase detection. However, DSLR cameras are quickly catching up and can provide an equally high-quality video.
Which model you choose will depend on personal preference and depend on what you require the camera to do. Hobbyists and beginners may better benefit from a mirrorless camera due to its lightweight and ease of use. A DSLR may be the best camera for indie filmmaking or those further into their career due to its range of additional accessories.
Additional Filmmaking Equipment
The kit doesn’t stop with the camera. There’s a whole list of filmmaking gear that is essential to those wishing to pursue a career in this world. We’re not saying you need everything at once but you should definitely be aware of these items.
Lenses – you’ll need a variety of lenses. They’re essential for capturing high-quality images and even allow the film maker to film with different zoom options. Often, you and photographers would rather use a lower quality camera with a professional lens than a high-quality camera and a poor quality lens! They matter that much! Take the time to research which lens is best for you and your filmmaking needs.
Filters – We all love a good filter! No, I don’t mean the dog filter on Snapchat! I’m talking about camera filters… Although not an essential piece of equipment, filters allow you to adapt an image on the go by changing how light enters the camera. They can be used to change the color and even increase the aesthetics of your image if used well. You can utilize these in a variety of ways to both increase the quality of their media and to aid storytelling by creating specific moods.
Lighting – Lighting is a very important part of filmmaking. It can make or break a shot. However, many famous directors managed in their early years with very basic light sources – So, do you really need them? Lighting rigs can be very space consuming and very expensive. Beginners should consider whether lighting sources are really needed at this stage of your career. Those of you on a tight budget could attempt to make your own lighting sources with LEDs and battery packs.
Sound Equipment – You can’t make a high-quality film without high-quality audio. Most built-in microphones on cameras won’t provide the same results as an external sound rig. DSLR cameras actually compress the audio recorded by their inbuilt microphones.
Trust me, you don’t want that! Adding an external microphone such as a shotgun mic to your rig will greatly improve your sound quality. Most midrange cameras will even allow you to plug your mic into your camera via an XLR cable. No adaptors needed! If your movie is more dialogue focused, you may want to consider a Lavalier mic – A small and discreet microphone that can clip onto an actor’s clothing. You see these a lot on TV!
Editing Software – It’s not all about shooting the film – You also need to know how to edit your footage. There’s a long list of video editing software out there at varying costs. Which is best for you will depend on where you are in your career and what your individual requirements are. We recommend Final Cut Pro X for those of you looking to take the next step in your editing and the humble iMovie for those of you just starting out.
Miscellaneous Equipment – There’s a long list of filmmaking gear that hasn’t made it into our essentials list. It’s important not to forget the simple but necessary pieces of equipment such as tripods, batteries or a slate (for lining up audio and video when editing).
Getting started with filming can be a daunting and expensive venture but it’s definitely possible to make films on a budget.
How To Find Filmmaking Jobs
Unfortunately, there’s no formula for achieving a career in filmmaking. Like with all jobs in the entertainment industry, it’s largely built on your network. However, before you try to make the big leagues, make sure you’re well educated in your discipline. Spend time to study your craft. Most professionals working for major film studios all have university degrees in filmmaking.
Don’t wait around for filmmaking jobs to land in your lap. Get out there and make the work for yourself. It’s vital for you to have a resume and there’s only one way to make that – Make your own projects like short films! Get out there and make films for yourself. Create experiences that you can learn and develop from; because let’s be fair, your first film isn’t going to be a Hollywood blockbuster. It takes practice!
When you’re not making films for yourself, try interning at your local film studio. It’s surprising what opportunities become available to you when you’re in the right place at the right time. Work your way up that filmmaking ladder!
Music For Filmmakers
A film wouldn’t be complete without music. It’s vital for conveying emotion and driving a story forward. However, finding music for film can be a difficult task. It’s not as simple as downloading a song from iTunes for the final edit. You need licenses, from both the artist and their publicist – Both of which can be pricy.
If you want to know how to add music to your video, we’ve written an entire article on it! Read it here: How To Add Music To Video
So now, where can you find music and the appropriate licenses for your film? Well, from music libraries of course! Music libraries offer thousands of tracks, all ready for film sync and all at varying cost to best suit your budget. They can even offer ‘One Stop’ tracks; which are songs owned 100% by the artist. No third parties involved. Some music libraries even offer royalty-free music which is free to use in your film however you wish. Result!
At Music Gateway, we happen to have an extremely large music library and sync licensing service ready for you looking for your next soundtrack. And, it’s growing every day! We have most genres and styles so be sure to take a look or get in touch.
Get Out There!
Well, there you have it – The basics of filmmaking! Although the filmmaking world may seem like an untouchable, daunting dream; I promise you it’s more achievable than you might think. Take your time and learn your craft. Work hard. Get out there and just practice making films as it’s that hands-on experience that will rocket you into the next levels of your career.
If Steve Jobs can start Apple in a garage, you can start a filmmaking career with a simple camera and a laptop. Good luck!
Q1: What does it mean to be a filmmaker?
A filmmaker (film maker), also known as a moviemaker (movie maker) is a high-level term for someone that is a producer or director of motion pictures (films), especially that is working in all phases of the production process. It’s commonly defined as someone that makes films.
Q2: What is the difference between a director and a filmmaker?
A film director is responsible for having the creative vision for the film, directing the films actors and on-screen performance and action. The producer is more concerned with the business side of the filmmaking process, keeping films on time, budget and oversees all aspects of the filmmaking process, without interfering with the creative vision of the Director.
An indie filmmaker is someone who writes and develops his own productions out of self-interest and art. Directors are a hired person responsible for directing the movie.
Q3: How much does a filmmaker make a year?
It’s reported that the average earnings for a filmmaker in the USA are $73,000 or £65,000 per annum in the UK
Q4: What does it take to become a filmmaker?
A degree in filmmaking will be your best starting point however, it’s all about gaining experience and knowledge in the craft of filmmaking. This includes the DIY route of making your own films, student projects or approaching producers and building your reputation.
Television is a good stomping ground to cut your teeth and learn about filmmaking and production before you move onto the movie industry.
Q5: Is a producer a filmmaker?
Outside of the filmmaking industry, the role of a movie director and a filmmaker can be slightly confusing. Both functions carry authority on a film but for example, in lower-budget films, some directors take on the tasks of the film’s producer.
Q6: What’s the difference between cinematography and filmmaking?
A cinematographer also referred to as the director of photography (DP) is the person in charge of the camera and lighting crew on a movie set or on other productions. In simple terms, the cinematographer is the person accountable for a film’s cinematography, the art and science of the motion picture’s photography.
Q7: What do directors do in movies?
A film director controls the film’s creative, artistic and dramatic flow and visualizes the screenplay (or script). They guide the technical crew and actors in the fulfilment of that vision. The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, music and all aspects of the creative filmmaking process.
Q8: Can you be a producer and director?
Yes, you can and in a lot of low budget film making, this is the case simply due to the fact the producer can’t afford an established director. The director will interpret a writer’s script and collaborate with the producer to create motion pictures, live theatre, television shows, and other performing arts productions. They would normally select scripts and cast members through auditions as well as hire stage and or film crew freelancers.
Q10: How can I be a good filmmaker?
- Work within your budget and timeframes, time is money, so planning is key to any scene
- Keep your expectations grounded, you won’t beat a $200M budget Hollywood blockbuster for action scenes, but you can still get fairly creative.
- Learn by doing, for example, working on student films and small projects where you can experiment
- Test yourself and get out your comfort zone, try new things which will help fast track your learning
- Do screen testing, it’s key.
- Stick with the basics first, before experimenting so you nail the standard shot before trying something more complex
- Be unique and stay focused on the end goal
Q11: How do I start a filmmaking career?
- Get a cheap camera and start recording, be creative
- Learn at school, the earlier you start the better
- Get yourself a degree in filmmaking
- Get an internship at a film production company or with an experienced filmmaker
- Build up a good portfolio of work
- Networking is key in the film industry, do it at all times