How to manage the way people perceive you as a filmmaker

One question that’s come up quite a bit when talking to other filmmakers about the corporate video sector is their concern that they will be typecast or pigeonholed as “just a corporate filmmaker”.

Award-winning director Brian Barnes directing a comedy commercial for car finance company Carloan4U

Award-winning director Brian Barnes directing a comedy commercial for car finance company Carloan4U

“Am I seen as just a corporate filmmaker?”

I certainly worried about this myself in my earlier career – I deliberately kept my drama and corporate video work separate and made sure neither side knew about the other.

I suppose this comes from a fear of being thought of as “not creative” or “authorial”, if your drama clients see that you’re making corporate videos.

But you have no control over how people perceive you.  You can only control what you tell them about yourself.

Award-winning director Brian Barnes pitching projects in Cannes

Award-winning director Brian Barnes pitching projects in Cannes

After a few years, I’d done so much work that it became impossible to keep track of whom I’d told about what, so now I just tell everyone about everything.

And the great thing is that this broad spectrum approach is actually working better for me.  When I’ve been pitching to producers in Cannes, to Screen Yorkshire or to Creative England, people are really impressed with my corporate video client list (which includes Google, Apple and Microsoft), as well as the multiple awards I’ve won for both the drama and corporate work, such as the Snippies Award for the Intel film and my Best Film Award for ‘The Urge’.

In effect, the perception that I’m creating in their minds is that I am a credible, professional and accomplished filmmaker, and it doesn’t matter what field I turn my hand to.

Poster for the multiple award-winning psychological horror short film The Urge directed by Brian Barnes

Poster for the multiple award-winning psychological horror short film The Urge directed by Brian Barnes

What I’m doing by telling everyone about all my work is sometimes referred to as “cross-selling”.  I talk about this in some detail in part 7 of my video seminar.

“You can’t escape death, taxes or typecasting”

Of course, there is typecasting in any business – you can’t change the laws of physics.  The trick is not to dwell on it and get on with developing your career and business.

You are in the business of making films – it shouldn’t matter to anyone (least of all you) what kind of films those are.

In more than 25 years, I have directed over 500 hours of live TV, made 25 short films, hundreds of corporate videos, a few dozen commercials and 3 feature films.

How would you typecast me?  I don’t know how to describe myself as anything other than a “filmmaker”, because what I do is “make films”.

Therefore, if you don’t want to be typecast as any one thing in particular, make sure you do loads of different stuff, so that nobody can describe you as just one thing.

Award-winning director Brian Barnes working with the cast and crew of the feature film ‘The Redeeming’

Award-winning director Brian Barnes working with the cast and crew of the feature film ‘The Redeeming’

The flipside is that people will have a problem pinning down what it is that you do, because you’ve done such a wide variety of things.

So you can’t win – whatever you do.

You might as well ignore them and get on with whatever you want.

It’s certainly what I’ve always done.

15 thoughts on “How to manage the way people perceive you as a filmmaker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*