How to be a Filmmaker (Part Three)

In Part One we defined film-making and looked at two of the superpowers a film-maker needs in order to thrive. In Part Two we covered the next four superpowers.

In this final part, we’ll look at the last four superpowers.

Director's chair

Superpower #7: Make time

Gear you’ll need:

A calender and a clock.

What it costs: The price of a calender and a clock.

How to use this gear: Never leave home without it, always refer to it, and keep a backup.

Time this will take: Lifetime.

Questions to ask yourself:

Do you know that with every passing day your life on earth reduces? Do you know that, depending on how you decide to pass your days, the ones close to you will also have to make adjustments? Do you realize that their adjustments will affect your life in turn, and there’s no way to extricate yourself from this circle?

What is the value of your time? How much will you wait for anything or anyone? Why should you wait? Is patience your virtue? Is it a virtue at all? Do you know the difference between when a person deserves extra time as opposed to when they are willfully wasting yours?

Do you keep track of time? Are you punctual? Can you control your sleep cycles? Do you show up on time? Do your friends, family, colleagues or partners show up on time? If you make a time-bound commitment do you honor it? Are you capable of honoring a time-bound commitment? How much value do you put on being punctual?

Do you record your meetings in a calender? Do you prioritize your life based on your calender? Are you good at estimating the time it takes to complete tasks? Where can you find information on how much time a task takes? Is it a good idea to go through each task yourself to know why it takes so much time? Can you do it better, or faster? Or, are you slower?

Do you know a movie takes years to write, fund, shoot, finish and distribute? Do you have that kind of time? Do you know that if you can manage a career making 30 movies in today’s age you are considered prolific? How many projects can you work on before it is time to stop?

How much time do you need to write a script? How many times will you rewrite it? How much time will that take?

How will you prioritize your projects? Can you control this? When will your projects ‘go on the floor’? When will they be released to the public?

Superpower #8: Make money

Gear you’ll need:

A bank account and a business (No credit cards, please).

What it costs: Whatever it takes to set up a bank account and a business.

How to use this gear: Keep it honest and straightforward.

Time this will take: Lifetime.

Money

Questions to ask yourself:

What is money? How much money do you need? Why? What will you do if you can’t get it? What will you do if you get more than you bargained for?

How much does it cost to complete each task associated with film-making? Why does it cost this much? Can you find a way to reduce costs without compromising? At what point should you compromise? Can you live with it?

How much money do you have right now? How much money can you borrow from friends and family? When can you return it, assuming your project flopped? What will you lose, if you can’t return your money? Are the personal loans worth it?

Do you know any investors in your area who might be interested in funding your enterprise? If yes, do you know the legal way to approach them? Do you know what to say and how to say it? Do you have enough experience in marketing yourself to guarantee a positive outcome? What terms are you willing to settle for? Why?

Do you have a fan following? Is it big enough to test on crowd-funding platforms? Is a crowd-funding platform available in your area? Is it legal? How are you going to manage these funds, if any? What are you going to do once you have the funds in place? How are you going to keep in touch with your backers? What value will you offer them? Why should they put their money on you, and not another project? Have you looked through and studied the thousands of film-making projects on crowd-funding platforms? How and why have they succeeded or failed? How thorough was your research?

Do you know a good accountant and lawyer? Did you know that a good accountant and lawyer can open ‘doors’ for you? Do you think the charges they levy are worth the investment? Can they provide sufficient value, other than pushing paper? Do you know any professionals in your immediate family or circle who might help you free of charge or for a reduced price? Why should they, and what value do you provide to them?

Do you know enough accounting to manage your money during the chaos of a project? Do you know the difference between an invoice and a receipt? If not, where will you begin? Do you know spreadsheets or accounting software? If not, how are you going to overcome your deficit in accounting knowledge? You do realize that film-making involves money, and without money skills you’ll go kaput?

How are you going to earn from your projects? What is the value of your project? How much is it worth to the audience?

How much have you ear-marked for yourself? Have you considered taxes and commitments? Can you live with what you make? Can you run a family and fulfill your lifestyle needs? Can you buy a house? If not, should you re-evaluate your goals and financial situation? Are you in debt? Do you know how you are going to get yourself out of debt?

Do you know how to put together a film budget? Have you estimated the costs of marketing your movie? Have you looked into the costs of submitting your project to various festivals? Can you afford it? Are you sure your movie is worth the effort? Do you have the money to four-wall a theater? Can you fill it on show-night? How will you go about it? What guarantee do you have of its success? If you can’t succeed with a four-wall in your city, what chances do you have of succeeding country-wide or worldwide?

If there is no access to money at all are you willing to work to earn it? How many months or years are you willing to spend to earn the budget of your project? Do you know you can spend that time writing and prepping for your project? What jobs can you do? Are you educated? Where can you place yourself to learn new skills and earn at the same time? How can you leverage the contacts you’ve made to help further your career?

How can you use yourself to earn money?

Superpower #9: Be the Shepherd

Gear you’ll need:

Your voice.

What it costs: Nothing, except throat lozenges, maybe.

How to use this gear: Talk with passion.

Time this will take: Lifetime.

shepherd and flock of sheep

Questions to ask yourself:

Are you a leader? Why? Why do you want to lead? Can you delegate? Can you defer to professional opinion and expertise? Do you have an authority problem? Do you have an unhealthy ego? Do you listen?

Can you care for your cast and crew? How will you display this? How will they know? How do you want them to respond? Are you going to maintain these relationships after your project is complete? If individuals aren’t important enough for friendship, do you really want them to be in charge of your cherished project? Won’t your mistrust show?

Can you accept the responsibilities that leadership brings? What will you do if they need you? What if there is an accident? What if there is an emergency? What if there is a total melt-down on set? Can you handle it? What is your pillar of support?

Will you get your supporters past the finish line? Will they be proud of the project, and in awe of you? Can you make that happen? Do you know the kind of sacrifices you’ll have to make to maintain this aura? Do you want it to be an illusion, or do you want to be a real leader? Are you planning on faking it? When was the last time you led a group successfully to the benefit of all? Will your crew trust you with their careers and money? Why should they? What have you demonstrated to prove this is so?

When things go bad whom will you blame? Are you willing to take the blame for everything, no matter whose fault it is? Can you handle this stress and responsibility? Why do you want to handle it? What do you hope to get out of it? Do you have the health to handle this stress?

Do you realize being a film-maker means stepping into the spotlight? Can you handle the attention? Can you handle the nay-Sayers? Can you handle the cynics? Can you handle the envious? Can you handle the critics? Can you handle those who try to stop you? To what lengths will you go to complete your project? How much is it worth?

Are you aware that being a leader means always bringing your A-game? Do you realize that you can’t let yourself slack or appear to fail? You are human, but do you realize how by being a leader you are expected to take control of situations others can’t handle? In this respect, do you realize you are expected to be greater than human? Do you have that kind of power? Can you create it? Can you wield it without hurting anyone or your project? Are you prepared to handle the repercussions of power?

Can you handle press? Can you handle journalists and photographers? Can you handle stares and comments about you or your life or your loved ones? Do you realize some things should be learnt before they are needed?

Are you capable of putting together a winning team? What can you say or do to bring this team together, and keep them together? Can you motivate, guide and lead by example? If you are compromising on many things, is it fair that you expect your team to be perfect? Are you perfect? Where do you draw the line?

Superpower #10: Rinse and Repeat

Gear you’ll need:

The will to stand up after a fall.

What it costs: Nothing that others can see.

How to use this gear: It must be ready whenever you need it.

Time this will take: Lifetime.

Questions to ask yourself:

You know you will fail at some point, right? You also know that there is life past every failure, right? In between these two events there is the art of getting up from a fall, did you know that? Can you get up after having fallen? When was the last time you got up, all by yourself?

Do you realize that film-making is basically the same thing over and over again, with the only difference between each project being the actual movie? Is your movie so important that you’re willing to spend two-thirds of your time on it on issues that don’t directly relate to it? Do you still have time for art? Do you have perspective? Can you maintain your perspective even through the chaos of a project? What about through several projects spanning many years?

Does your integrity come with an expiry date. Are you steadfast, or a push-around?

How strong is your resolve? Can you motivate yourself? Are you willing to try again? Are you willing to face failure before you have begun? Are you afraid of failure? Can you overcome this fear?

Can you face success? Very few have faced success, but what if it’s you? How will that affect your choices, and your resolve? What will happen when you fail after a string of successes? Will you be able to keep your feet on the ground? Do you realize this is a marathon, not a sprint?

What is your art? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Why? What good will your string of movies do? Will they entertain? Will they move? Will they empower? Why are these things important to you? How does all this connect with getting up after a failure?

Do you see now, that without knowing yourself, your circumstances, your gear, your decisions, your friends, your facts, your opinions, your time, your finances and your leadership skills you can’t hope to stand up after a fall?

And, do you see, that without every one of these superpowers, a film-making endeavor is doomed to fail?

Will you give up?

Summary

I know this article is tough to read. Question after question: who can take such a barrage? But this is exactly what film-making feels like. You are expected to know the answers. And there is hardly any going back. If you don’t do it, who will?

If you’re not the real deal, someone else will step up to the plate. Get over your fears. Be strong.

One thing I haven’t talked about is gear. I’m not going into details, but here’s a quick example. Let’s say I’ve set up a shot, and it has many elements: actors, costumes, lighting, makeup, sets, audio, etc. It is the combined effect of all these elements that make the shot. If I value my art, I am not willing to compromise on any of these effects. Having decided so, I know the makeup brush is as important as a camera and lens, even though the latter costs a whole lot more. I also know that the people using the tools are more important than the tools themselves.

What about a counter-argument? Some might say: If your brush fails during a shot, you can still continue shooting. But you can’t do the reverse.

Why not? In today’s world, if your camera stops working, you can shoot your movie on a smartphone.

That’s unacceptable, you might say. If that’s so, isn’t the loss of a brush unacceptable to the makeup artist? Is the compromising of my artistic vision acceptable or not? At what point does each artist draw the line? I have my own boundaries – you must make up your own minds as to what your priorities are.

My advice to you would be: Stop focusing on just the shiny cogs in your machine.

Film-making is tough. If you can face the music, you are a film-maker. It’s the price of admission into the dance floor. Once you’re dancing, you can dance the night away.