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How to Become a Filmmaker

The world of film has a glamorous allure for many of us. The chance of collaborating with filmmakers and actors stands alongside the opportunity to pull back the curtain and learn how the magic of onscreen entertainment happens.

This goes for grownups who love films, as well as kids growing up dreaming of being part of the incredibly competitive film industry. It can seem a mysterious industry to outsiders, and while it can be a challenging career, it’s possible for anyone with the right level of passion and commitment to start building a film making career. Particularly with the incredible shortage of skilled crews now and in the foreseeable future, with studios growing by leaps and bounds. 

Watch Films, Watch the World

Watching movies or reading scripts is vital if you want to understand more about how films work. But you mustdelve a bit deeper than just watching films you enjoy for passive entertainment.

Learn to watch films critically, maybe watching the same movie several times to try and analyse how it was achieved. Consider the script, camera angles, the lighting, the location and props, music, effects, and scene cuts. Every second on the screen has been created and managed, whether in script, production or editing. It all comes together to create the experience, and as a filmmaker the aim is to start understanding how it is done to tell the story

At the same time, look at the world more critically. Pay attention to people, how they interact with each other and communicate, and how personality is often reflected in physical appearance. Films mirror the world, spotlighting human conflicts and dramas. 

The best films resonate with us and make us think, and it’s not dependent on genre; a tender romance can be just as insightful as a harrowing wartime docudrama. Time spent watching, observing, and interacting with people is never wasted for a budding filmmaker.

Make Films, Build Your Portfolio

If you’re not already, start making your own short films. Regardless of where you are in your career journey if you have a smart phone, you have the basic means to write a story, capture the sound and edit moving images that are your essential building blocks.

Whether you plan to pursue a self-taught indie career or your ambitions lie in a formal filmmaking education, your portfolio of work can help open doors.

But beyond building a catalogue of evidence, your film portfolio is a personal growth timeline. You can look back on early work and see how you’ve progressed, and you can identify areas where you did well or where you didn’t quite achieve what you intended. Reviewing your body of work critically (acknowledging the good as well as the not so good) is a powerful learning tool.

If you’re a beginner, consider taking a short course or two. London Film School offers various short courses in different aspects of filmmaking, including a summer school programme for intensive director training. There are also online events and masterclasses, some of which are free to view or take part in.

Taking part in a film workshop is also a great way to start building a network of contacts in the industry. To some extent, the ‘who you know’ advice holds fast. But you don’t need an inbuilt, ready-made list of contacts as anyone can network through courses, screen events or festivals and even social media.

Study With Professionals

When you decide to study filmmaking seriously, there’s a world of choice out there. From the previously mentioned short courses and workshops to post graduate study with an MA in Filmmaking, or MA Screenwriting you can immerse yourself in the world of film and learn from industry professionals.

Entry requirements into a film school can seem a little daunting at first, but not so much when you look closer. If you have a degree with Honours and have storytelling capabilities, you’re off to a good start. 

Bear this in mind if you’re still going through formal education. While the allure of filmmaking is strong, you still need to get your academic qualifications done and dusted. There’s nothing stopping you continuing to build your film making portfolio as you work your way towards film school.

If you’ve already completed formal education, don’t despair. Given a strong portfolio of work and a demonstrable passion and commitment to filmmaking, you can still apply to film school. If you feel it’s your calling, you have nothing to lose. 

Investigate Funding

While it would be lovely not to talk about money, studying filmmaking comes with a cost just like any other study programme.

The good news is that there are various funding options available to help with the costs should you need it, including scholarships, help for women graduates and from charitable organisations. A little research will help you uncover any programmes you may be eligible to apply for.

You could also contact admissions and recruitment teams, whose job it is to advise potential students and make them aware of options they may have overlooked. It’s always worth asking your questions to find your way forward.

Plenty of people dream of a career in the film industry and if you’re one of them, or maybe one of your kids is passionate about storytelling and making films, now is the right time to start working towards making it happen. 

There’s a shortage in the UK of skilled film crews, from people of all backgrounds, and with 20 new studio sites planned in the UK over the next few years you could help plug the gap, and become ‘set ready’.

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