So, You Like Film and Want to Be a Filmmaker. Why Filmmaking?

By Richard La Motte

Because it captures your imagination?

You think you’d be good at it?

It’s cool?

Those things might be good to start with, but they’re not enough.

Here are some things to think about:

As a filmmaker, you are an Artist, and you continue the tradition started 30 to 40 thousand years ago (and perhaps longer) by your human ancestors when they sought to memorialize themselves on cave walls with their handprints and drawings of their everyday life experiences.

As an Artist, you have the responsibility to learn the best use of your craft. In the case of film, it starts with STORY, then story illustration, including: recording medium, editing, acting, lighting (mood enhancement), art direction, (sets, props, costumes and make-up) and, most importantly, direction.

Filmmaking is a three-legged stool: Writing, Directing, and Production. But to be a Successful Filmmaker, you need a forth leg: Merchandising – marketing and sales.

I know that to some, being commercially successful is considered to be something like a sell-out. But, unless you show a willingness to compete in the marketplace, you may not find the financing to continue your chosen craft. Remember the words of an ancient studio head: “If you want to send a message – use Western Union.” After all they call this, “The Motion Picture Industry”, or the “Film Business”, and ultimately it runs on the monetary returns of distribution.

So, what to do?

Many a nascent filmmaker starts by making a ‘beautiful’ small film and running it through the Film Festival circuit in hopes of finding future financing by attracting attention to their work. Sometimes that works – sometimes not.

Another interesting use of film is the Documentary. I love this medium because it is recorded history. Think about the lack of knowledge we would have today if it weren’t for those filmmakers of old who recorded life as they saw it, and by doing so allow us to participate in the past, gaining a better relationship and understanding of our long-passed ancestors.

Older films do this also, recording as they do, the sensibilities of their times, dress, language, ideas, hopes…

So, in the end, you have to decide up front: “What do I want to use my film expertise for?” To be arty, to be professional, commercially successful? All of the above? You might consider how you want to be regarded by history based on the social value of your film contribution. What ideas and images did YOU decide to put up for the rest of us?


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