As a budding film maker and screenwriter, a few years back I wrote several screenplays for feature films and a TV series. I then set about trying to get the TV series made as I got a lot of good feedback from people who read it. The characters are well written! The scenarios are familiar to a lot of people! It’s funny! It’s punchy!
Cool, I thought, should be straightforward to get a producer or company interested then.
Turns out, no it isn’t straightforward at all. So what has been the problem?
First of all it’s essential to understand that making any film or TV production costs money. Even the simplest show with minimal actors and locations will cost you a few pennies and then promoting it will cost more. You need a crew on board, I will come back though to the fact that you can make it yourself…
But if you really want to get a film or TV show produced, here are the issues I have come up against.
Getting someone to read it
One of the most important things is getting someone to read your script and by someone I mean someone in the position to make it. Now I know quite a few people in the film and TV industry and I live in London. But somehow I kept coming up against brick walls with regards to anyone who can produce TV shows.
I went to the networks directly to start. Their response; we can’t read it unless you get an agent and approach through them. OK fine, I understand that.
So, I went to a few people I know who either have their own production companies or are quite influential. Sorry, we don’t do that kind of thing, good luck with it though. OK fine, you’re busy with a job that’s paying your bills, I’ll come back later.
I started going to networking events and I spoke to people who were looking to make a project or had an investor behind them looking for the right project. Somehow these people either never got back to me, despite enthusiastic early meetings, or on occasion they also told me to get an agent.
So the lesson learned here is; Get an agent.
Getting an agent
Now, I don’t have an agent yet. The reason for this is as follows. To get an agent you need to either:
- Have a body of work behind you.
- Have won a competition such as screenwriting or short film.
- Be part of a group that has made something.
- Know an agent.
You need basically a show reel or portfolio. My film making show reel is quite old, basically from my uni days and then a few years following that when I was a production assistant for a mate of mine. So this brings me on to my next point for film making success…
Make some films
This sounds obvious and at the same time goes against the whole ‘film making is expensive’ statement from earlier. But, to get represented you need to have a show reel.
Most people will know a mate who has a Canon 5d or equivalent quality DSLR (digital pro camera) for film making. You don’t even need a 5d these days, a standard DSLR will suffice or in all honesty a smart phone.
If you’re a creative then you’ll be able to come up with an idea and make a 1 minute short. Make another one of those then progress to 2 mins, 5 mins etc until you have a solid show reel of random little films. Make a YouTube channel and build a following and before you know it you’ll have a showreel online accessible to anyone.
Well, yes and also no. I started shooting a web series last year based on my current full time job. For various reasons everything went wrong and it never got finished. First of all my main actress pulled out so I ended up using my girlfriend who wasn’t happy to do some of the episodes, so we filmed one. Next we needed a skeleton crew who we had for one weekend and they have since all been involved in other things. And to top if all off, I realised it might not be good taking the piss out of my job while I’m still in it. Especially as it’s quite high profile.
But I’m a screenwriter, I’ve got loads of ideas and several written films ready to go. Let’s do this…
However making a film isn’t as straightforward as that, especially if you have a day job and a social life. Scheduling, other peoples commitments and your own technical expertise can all hinder any production. HOWEVER… We are about to put the finishing touches on a film that we started shooting in October 2016 (due for completion March 2017), a two day shoot that had a few setbacks. In the meantime I have been prepping for the next short which will hopefully be done not long after.
Budget Film Making
I mentioned earlier that it costs money to make a film. But of course there are plenty of budget films being made (The DuPlass brothers for example) and you can easily make a low budget web series or YouTube blog and build up loads of followers. A documentary about your home town or comedy situation with friends gives you ample opportunity to be creative.
I have been there and made lots of silly films with friends in uni (most of which are lost to Mini HD tapes or old misplaced hard drives). But at the moment, myself personally, I’m aiming to make a well produced and good looking piece of video.
If you’re looking at getting into film yourself then making any short films is a good step in the right direction.
Have a game plan/be persistent
I am nowhere near giving up and in fact if anything I feel like a breakthrough is coming. And the thing is, I do have a gameplan as a result of my knock backs before. Said game plan is as follows.
- Make several short films (25% complete).
- Keep writing (on going).
- Once a short film is online, restart promotion of TV series, try and get an agent.
- Aim to make a feature within next year or two (aim high).
- Try and sell one of my screenplays.
- Keep trying to get an agent.
So if the worst comes to the worst and the TV series never gets made then I am at least aiming to sell a feature screenplay, which I would count as a success. Making my own low budget feature would also count as a success, even if it just lived on YouTube forever.
Film making does rely on talent but it also relies heavily on persistence and sheer bloody mindedness. Not to mention a lot of sweat and tears.
So keep at it! Are you making a film or trying to sell a screenplay? Tell me about it in the comments below.
There are a lot of resources for film makers online.
Stage32 has been very good and is basically the Facebook of film making. Check that out.
ShootingPeople is a UK based resource for film makers. If you’re looking for crew or you need a job then go there.
Raindance has a regular meetup in London which is worth attending for networking. They also do classes which I’ve heard are excellent.
Meetup has loads of film networking events so make sure you sign up and check that out too.
ProductionBase is for jobs in the UK film and TV industry.