Getting Into, and Staying In, the Movie Business

(Guest blog published in Metromode Aug. 27, 2009)

Posted by Carrie LeZotte

 

I think the first thing you need to consider is a broader definition of what the movie business actually is.  While even just fifty years ago, you could say the movie business was Hollywood, today there isn’t one place to make movies.  In addition to making movies, production has morphed into television, gaming, internet, advertising and news, all starting somewhere in the imagination of kids who liked to play dress up, tinker with gadgets, and tell stories.  Because whatever the platform is, it’s always about the story.

So while making movies may be your ultimate goal, it’s not a job with a direct path to success.  One of the cool things about the business are the many different talents it brings together.  Beyond writer/director, there are technical positions like assistant camera that put you right next to every shot, the accounting department, where you make sense of the money involved, or computer related jobs in post-production. Pretty much any skill can be put to use.

To get started, I’m going to give you three tips:

Love it.  That’s the easy part.  It’s the most fantastic business you can be a part of and loving it will get you through the bad pay, long hours, drama, and aggravation that you’ll experience along the way.

Show up.  Lots of people want to be in the movie business, and honestly, not all of them will show up.  This is a lot harder than it seems, and it can lead to frustration (see tip above) when you show up for something that doesn’t seem worth the time, or it’s 3:00 in the morning and you’ve been working for twenty hours.  Showing up isn’t just being physically there, but being early, staying late, and being engaged in the process.  And it’s not just for one job, it’s for every job.  It’s a way of life you’re signing up for, because you can’t stop showing up.  That’s what the stars are doing when they walk the red carpet.  It’s not always fun.  It’s part of the gig.

This year I attended the Reelscreen summit in Washington D.C., Aspiring Filmmakers Bootcamp in Detroit, spoke at the Michigan Makes Movies Expo, and will be in LA for the Film Independents’ Filmmaker Forum in October.  That’s in addition to countless coffee meetings, films, hours on-line, and networking events.  I almost forgot – the actual days of production!  You’ve got to actually produce work as well, not just talk about it.

So where do you need to go when you’re starting out?   Check out mandy.com to see what productions are crewing up locally.  While many productions do post there, most of the time it’s going to be hot referrals from someone you’ve met before that will get you on set.  Festivals, workshops and volunteering on a short are all good ways to meet people and get started.  When someone hooks you up with a connection, don’t be afraid to follow up and keep calling until you touch base with someone.  Local cable stations are good resources as well.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time over at the cable station in Dearborn.

Finally, create your own opportunities.  Part of showing up may mean moving to where there are more jobs and people doing what you want to be doing.   I didn’t ever make the move to one of the coasts, where there would have been a lot more going on than here in Detroit.  I did get a job in the business, but even while I had that job, I was creating opportunities for myself and doing the work I was interested in.

There are 48 hour film projects that can get you started, or check out the contests on Youtube, where you can win prizes or cash for the videos you create.  This business isn’t just about getting a job, it’s a lifestyle that revolves around telling stories.  So take whatever talent you have, team up with other people that share the same vision, and make it happen.