When I was a sales agent, I met a lot of filmmakers. There were certain conversations that would make me twitch and put on my best polite smile. They’d go like this:
Me – “What do you do?”
Them – “I’m an actor-writer-director-producer.”
My Inner Monologue – “Oh. A multi-hyphenate.”
They’d then go on to tell me how they’d written, acted in, shot, directed, edited and produced a film themselves. It was their baby, their pride and joy.
If they were looking for representation, I’d take a business card and check out the trailer. You never know where or how you’re going to find a good film. 99% of the time the films were completely unsellable. Multi-hyphenates fast became a warning flag.
Film is a collaborative process. It’s a team effort. Great films happen when a group of talented people get together to tell a story. Great films are great because of the cast and crew’s collective expertise. They bounce ideas off each other. They share their specialised knowledge to make the best film possible.
Yes, there can be overlap across different aspects of filmmaking. There are some fantastic writer/directors – Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, George Lucas and James Cameron.
There are also great actor/directors – Clint Eastwood, Kenneth Branagh and Gary Oldman and some standout actor/writers – Jim Rash, Emma Thompson and more recently Zoe Kazan, who gained critical acclaim with Ruby Sparks.
Then there are the extraordinary, the auteurs, who can do everything. Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Takeshi Kitano and Spike Lee to name a few. On television, they tend to crop up in comedy like Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Louis CK. These are rare talents. The uncomfortable truth is you’re probably not one of them.
I get it. You’re starting out. You’re sick of waiting for someone else to give you a break, so you’re making your own opportunity. Write a script, find a camera, make a movie, edit it, get it out there and get seen. I applaud that energy and drive.
But, if you’re doing everything yourself, you get tunnel vision. You’re too close to it. You can’t see that the script lags in the second act and disintegrates in the third. Or that long lingering shot you’re letting breathe is destroying the pace of your movie. You don’t have the experience to see it.
Then you’re shopping your finished film only to find out your heartfelt drama is going to be near impossible to sell. You’re not plugged in enough on the producing side to know if your film is commercially viable. You might have spent a year making a movie which doesn’t get seen and isn’t going to progress your career.
Writing, acting, directing, editing, producing. These are all skills in that take time to master. No one can be great at everything. Find a team who can bring their experience to the table and help you make your movie. There are plenty of other talented people in all aspects of the industry looking for their break too. Collaboration helps you, them and your film.
Shooting People is an amazing resource in the UK for independent filmmakers. There’s Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, networking events run by organizations like Film London, BAFTA, Women in Film & Television and Creative England. Take a course, go to workshops and film festivals. Build up a community of people. Support each others’ work. Offer advice using your skills and expertise. Go make a movie together.
Your film will be better for it.
Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Want to talk about your favourite writer/director/actors? Hit me up in the comments.
Photo Credit: Orson Welles, 1951 by Jane Bow