A couple of years ago I had a mid-life crisis. I was feeling a lack of meaning and that I had a lot more to contribute to life than what I was giving. I always knew that hidden underneath the layers of bitterness from working jobs I hated and the beer gut I put on over the years that I have a voice that is unique, powerful and needs to be heard. I decided that I wanted to pursue the one true passion I have in life and produce movies.
No, you probably never heard of me. Hell, even some of my closest friends have never heard of me. Even after reading this article, you probably will still be unaware of my existence. But the fact is that I got together with people who wanted the same thing: we wanted to make movies. And so we did. No, you won’t see our shorts as nominees at the Oscars. Yes, we made some mistakes and need to improve. But our movies are out there, forever. This all happened simply because we wanted to make movies and we made it happen. That simple.
First let me say this: do not waste your time and money going to film school. Why should you get into colossal debt so you can hear Professor Hoity-Toity Thompson give you 1,001 reasons why Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time because the NY Times critics or whoever film farts says so? If you want theory, go to the library and take out theory books or look up theory stuff on the internet. Better yet, form your own theories merely by watching all kinds of movies. Unless the courses are teaching technical skills such as camera operations or sound recording, save time and money and find a way to get onto a set and learn from the pros.
For years I had let myself become intimidated by the stigma that comes with starting a film career: not finding work because I don’t have a film degree, finding work but it’s not steady, finding work but not getting paid for it or getting paid very little, struggling to make a living, arrogant film people squashing your pipe dreams of becoming the next great director. These thoughts must be controlled or overcome in order to achieve your goals. Whether you have the stomach to take on these challenges will tell you whether you have the desire to last in this business. I find that it’s best not to think, just do!
Once you decide to jump in, unless you have skills with a camera, lighting or sound recording; you will most likely have to get started as a production assistant. While it may not be the most glamorous work, it can be an opportunity to get experience and network with people for future work. It all depends on how you approach it. Chances are you will not get paid for your first few PA jobs. That is the unfortunate reality. Try to look at it as an investment for potential paying work in the future. If you stay the course, those paying jobs will come.
How do you go about getting on a set? Stay tuned…