The idea of becoming a filmmaker or improving your skills feels otherworldly. We look up to some of the fantastic filmmakers of today and yesterday and think that their godly status is unachievable. How does one become a Barry Jenkins or a Spike Lee? How is it even possible to create a film like Moonlight? Talent plays a considerable role, but in my humblest opinion, talent is only a head start on the path of mastery.
The uninformed may think film school is the only way to success, but that’s just an intro. Like with any other diploma or degree, they do not guarantee you work or a successful career. I’m also in the camp that believes you don’t have to go to film school to succeed in this craft, but that’s a hotly debated topic.
Whether you decide to pursue film school or not, below I have a list of approaches, ways, and tips to become a better filmmaker. This list is varied and all-encompassing. Whether you’re just starting or you’re already a seasoned vet, you can always continue to practice these points.
1. Read biographies.
2. Watch DVD commentary on films (you can find a lot of them on YouTube).
3. Watch behind the scene featurettes.
4. Read scripts.
5. Watch movies.
6. Watch documentaries.
8. Go to film school.
9. Skip film school and learn on your own.
10. Learn photography.
11. Go to theatre plays.
12. Read theatre play scripts.
13. Watch film interviews.
14. Visit Filmcourage.com.
15. Eavesdrop on conversations in public for story and character ideas.
16. Take your headphones off when in public and observe the world.
17. Go to film festivals.
18. Find and join filmmaker groups and meet-ups.
19. Shoot a film, and if it’s terrible, learn why it was bad, and shoot a better one (repeat and repeat).
22. Join “Hurlbut Academy” to improve your cinematography.
24. Watch movies with no sound to analyze edits and visual storytelling.
25. Volunteer on a set as a PA.
26. Write a script, finish it, then write another.
27. Submit your script to a script reviewer or script reviewing service for a feedback.
28. Enter your scripts to contests (start with less prestige contests and work your way up). 29. Always try to challenge yourself with a new project, never stagnate.
30. Create a daily writing habit.
31. Work on short films, then move on to a feature.
32. Read the Trade magazines.
33. Find events to network.
34. Find a mentor.
35. Learn how to make your musical score.
36. Learn how to edit your films.
37. Make a schedule for your productions with deadlines. Follow them.
38. Develop a unique style that you can call your own.
39. Find an affordable rental shop and rent equipment that will improve your film’s look.
43. Signup for masterclass.com and take all the courses related to filmmaking.
44. Take acting classes.
45. Take a role in your film, or someone else’s for the experience.
47. Study film eras and periods (French New Wave, Italian Neorealism, etc.).
48. Take periodic breaks from creating to experience life in general.
49. Gain a working knowledge of all film departments, such as sound, lighting, set dressing, wardrobe, etc.
50. Don’t be afraid to make bad art in the journey of improvement.