How to survive as a professional filmmaker

If you say you’re a filmmaker to most people who don’t know the business, they’ll assume that you make feature films.  While I’m sure that all filmmakers aspire to make features, very few of us can actually make a real living doing that.

The harsh reality is that feature films are an elective, luxury purchase on the part of the audience, so there is no market imperative to drive the value of your product – the feature films that you make.  This means that your chances of generating income from your filmmaking in this sphere are slim and precariously balanced at best.  We therefore need another way to survive as filmmakers.

“How do I make a living making films?”

Award-winning director Brian Barnes directing a shoot

Award-winning director Brian Barnes directing a shoot

All filmmakers hope that they can sustain themselves by their filmmaking alone and don’t need a “real” job.  Because of the market economics, feature films are not going to achieve this goal for the vast majority of filmmakers.

You make money as a filmmaker by getting people to pay you to make films for them.  In the case of feature films, you achieve this by pitching your investment opportunity in a persuasive enough way that investors will effectively ask you to make, market and sell your enticing film on their behalf.  It’s really tricky to persuade people to put in the cash that you and your film need.  And so, you’re going to be struggling to survive if you’re constantly waiting for a feature film to pay your way.

The simplest (and crucially most sustainable) way to profit from your filmmaking is to work in a market where there is greater demand for your filmmaking services.  My favourite market is corporate videos and it’s the market that I always counsel new filmmakers to break into.

“Corporate videos are how you pay your way”

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

Award-winning director Brian Barnes persuaded a car finance company to commission him to direct a commercial for them

Companies and individuals are always going to need video communications to get their brands out into the world, so there is a readymade market demand for your services as a filmmaker.  In very many cases, you will be pushing at an open door when you approach potential clients.  If you’ve been used to the hard work of trying to persuade potential investors to back your feature film dreams, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get corporate videos commissioned in comparison.

The corporate video sector can be fairly easy to negotiate and thrive within, but there are some key trips and traps.  You can get some useful pointers in my free guide “7 Keys to Making a Living Filmmaking”.  Sign up to the mailing list below or on the right hand side to get your free copy.

To your success!


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