This question comes in from Benjamin on Twitter.
What’s the Fastest/Best Way to Get a Head Start on My Filmmaking Career?
This is a difficult question to answer because I think every person you ask will give you a different answer but, since you asked me, I’ll tell you what I would do (and what I did) to get a head start on my video production/filmmaking career.
When I first started in video production I wanted to learn by practicing my skills in a real world setting. As such, I volunteered my time to shoot and edit promotional videos, wedding videos, graduation videos, music videos, concerts, lectures, and just about anything else I could think of. Since I was still very much a beginner, I made it clear to the people I was working with that they were not obligated to use my videos. I also didn’t charge them because I didn’t have the skill to offer enough value to charge.
This may seem counter-intuitive. You are asking how to get a head start in you career, and I’m telling you to go work for free, but allow me to elaborate.
Video production and filmmaking is an industry dominated by freelance work. As a freelancer, you are only as viable as your network. The only way to make money is to work for clients as a freelancer, so you need to get a lot of clients if you’re going to piece together consistent work.
The best way to get clients? Give them some work for free, prove your skills to them, and then charge them for future work. If you’re smart about it, you can slowly raise your prices over time until you are earning a fair wage for your work. If you do this enough times and develop your client base wide enough, you will actually create an environment where clients are willing to pay a premium for your work because they enjoy working with you and because they know that if they don’t book you someone else will.
Now, you may be asking yourself how this helps you if you want to make films. Films, after all, are quite different than promotional videos, wedding videos, etc.
True, but the best way to improve your skills is to practice them consistently. The best way to practice them consistently is to get paid to practice them consistently.
If, in between paid gigs, you want to create a narrative or documentary film, you have the skills to do it.
Better yet, if you work for clients that have a high profile, they may be willing to promote your work as well.
Eventually, you may become viable enough as a filmmaker that you don’t need to do the other kinds of freelance work videographers often find themselves doing.
But, in the meantime, if you’re looking to get a head start, it’s best to go out there and work for free.
This approach also reduces the risk. If you currently have a job, you can do video production work on weekends or in your time off. Slowly, over time, you can transition to doing video work full time and expand from there.
This was the approach that I took and it worked out for me. I hope it helps you, too!
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