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How to Become a Filmmaker: It’s Now More Possible Than Ever Before 

how to be a filmmaker

What Is a Filmmaker? 

The definition of filmmaker has broadened with the advent of digital technology. Historically, a filmmaker was a director or producer—someone who was responsible for overseeing a film’s creative, technical, and financial decisions. The title also used to carry some mystique with it, as previously there weren’t many opportunities to be a filmmaker as there are today.  

The industry has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Anyone with a mobile phone can make a film now, and thanks to YouTube and other social platforms, have an instant audience to watch, comment on, and share. The introduction of streaming services such as Netflix, Paramount+, Disney +, etc., means professionally made films and series are more in demand than ever. This translates to more opportunities for filmmakers. The website Career Explorer rates filmmaker job satisfaction in the United States as very high, in the top 6% of careers, and they have been predicting the filmmaker job market to grow by 12.2% between 2016 and 2026 

Most filmmakers today no longer use film to tell their stories, it has been replaced by digital technology. Digital drives are much cheaper than film, easier to use, and you can see the results instantly—although some movie lovers do argue that digital image quality is not superior to film. In fact, when a film director does insist on shooting with film, it’s a unique situation that makes the news 

But throughout all this change, the moniker ‘Filmmaker’ has survived, and its definition has broadened: anyone producing original-based content regardless of whether it has been shot on film or not can claim the title of ‘filmmaker.’  

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How Do I Start a Filmmaking Career? 

Filmmaking is a technical and creative process involving specific skills. To get a clear grasp of filmmaking and all that it entails, it’s best to get a higher education in this field. Even though you may have set your sights on becoming a filmmaker, look for a film school that will give you a clear grasp of what each crew member does on a set or behind the scenes. This is so realistic expectations can be set when it comes time to do your own production.  

When searching for a film school that’s right for you, we suggest you look for a curriculum that teaches you: 

  • How to write a proposal and screenplay. 
  • How to produce and direct a variety of projects (films, commercials, music videos, documentaries, TV series, and more). 
  • The industry lingo. 
  • Set protocol.  
  • How to block a scene. 
  • Tips for casting and directing talent. 
  • How to develop professional relationships with crews (by understanding everyone’s roles).  
  • Operation of a camera. 
  • How to edit a sequence or story. 
  • How to incorporate sound design and visual effects. 
  • Colour correction. 
  • How to network successfully. 

Remember to check out the faculty bios to see if your instructors are still working in the industry. Look for a film school with studios on site and one that will supply you with industry-grade camera gear that you can produce your assignments with (you want to be working with the same cameras Hollywood uses). Lastly, you’ll want a school that teaches you not just the creative and technical, but the business of film. A filmmaker today needs to understand financing, budgeting, contracts, distribution, and marketing to be successful.  

Narrow your list down and take a tour of the film schools that seem promising. Ask them if they provide networking opportunities or arrange industry events for their students so that they can get a head start on networking before graduation.  

What Does It Take to Become a Filmmaker? 

Besides a proper education, you need a love for the craft, and patience. There is a saying on a film set: “hurry up and wait,” because most of the time spent in actual production is in setting up a scene with the camera, lights and audio, and blocking the actors’ movements. Actors often wait lengthy periods of time between shots (which is why they have stands-ins to take their place and trailers to relax in). 

People who work outside the film industry are often stunned to learn how long it takes to make a movie. This is because often a production can be stalled due to unforeseen problems, such as script rewrites, a disagreement between the director and the studio, loss of financing, or the film going over budget.  

According to Backstage, it typically takes between one year and two and a half years to complete a film (this includes pre-production, production, and post). If that seems long to you, it isn’tas a filmmaker, you would be involved in every aspect of the production process and would want as much time as you could get to plan and produce the movie you envisioned. 

Is It Hard to Be a Filmmaker? 

Maybe, maybe not. This question can be applied to almost any career pathis it hard to be a mechanic? An airline pilot? A data analyst? Most people find that if they have chosen a profession they love and get a proper education, it’s not hard except for when trying to break into the industry. An education from a highly rated film school (as of this writing, Toronto Film School gets a 4.6 rating on CourseCompare) that provides expertise on building a proper demo reel and arranges networking opportunities for its students can help you get your foot in the door faster.  

How Do I Become a Filmmaker With No Experience? 

This is why schooling is so important. Even if you were hired to work on a film set, how can you assist if you do not know the basics of film production? Find a film production program, volunteer on your fellow students’ productions, network and keep on the lookout for entry level jobs that will get you started. When you do get an interview, research the company carefully and prepare your questions in advance, questions that align with your career path. Potential employers will be impressed by your initiative.  

What Does a Filmmaker Earn? 

Earning potential depends on the position and company being worked for. Typically, larger organizations, networks or studios will pay higher salaries and provide more benefits (vacation, health insurance, bonuses, etc.) than smaller companies. 

Can I Learn to Be a Filmmaker Online? 

There are a lot of online companies out there that promise to make you into a filmmaker without the need to go to film school. But will they supply you with the studios, equipment, and manpower (that’s your fellow students) to make your film? What if you have a technical problem, can you get immediate help or replacement gear? 

In Toronto Film School’s Film Production Diploma Program, you will be provided with use of the school’s studios and equipment as part of the program. You will learn hands on in a collaborative environment and get immediate feedback to your questions. You will be taught the business of industry and hear firsthand from industry insiders who have been invited to talk at the school. And you will make new friends and connections that will last a lifetime.  

Garry Murdock
Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

Garry Murdock

Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

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