The Business of Film: Practical Advice for Filmmakers

On this week’s episode of The Filmmakers Podcast, we chat with film data researcher Stephen Follows in the second episode of our series The Business of Film Explained. Stephen chatted with hosts Giles Alderson and Phil Hawkins about becoming a director.

Becoming a film director is a dream for many people. Being the creative head behind a film, creating a story that resonates with people, and bringing that story to life on the big screen is an exciting career choice. However, becoming a director is not an easy process. It takes years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to make it in this competitive industry.

Is there a typical route to becoming a film director?

Stephen, who conducted a study, discovered that there isn’t a standard route that guarantees you a place as a director. ‘There are patterns, but there isn’t a standard route that you can do and expect to end up as a director.

We did realise that most people’s path to directing had three things they had to tick off – three challenges, achieved in different ways or in a different order.

– You had to get good at directing.
– You have to learn the industry.
– Get known, and to some degree be liked or trusted by the industry ‘gatekeepers’.

Phil believes that, as a director, you need to be proficient in the technical aspects of filmmaking, such as camera work, sound and storytelling.

He says that ‘what makes a better director, for me personally, is having lots of strings in your bow; by having worked in all the different departments’. He advises all directors to try editing and acting, even if they are not good at it, as it helps to understand what it’s like being on the other side of the camera.

Understanding the Business

Apart from knowing the technical aspects of filmmaking, you also need to learn about the industry – the film business. When it comes to getting your film seen by the public, there are different routes you can take. The rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix has given filmmakers a new way to get their work seen by a global audience.

Giles and Phil both agree that having your film on Netflix can be beneficial, but Stephen shared a story about a friend whose film was exclusively on Netflix and while ‘it did very, he described the anti-climactic nature of your film being released on Netflix as it is uploaded to Dropbox.

It lacked that narrative catharsis that directors are used to. And he said it was really hard to deal with. This might be something new in the director’s toolbox of things to expect.’

We all know that getting your film onto Netflix is not an easy process, as Giles mentions it involves a lot of hard work with distributors and sales teams. For Three Day Millionaire they pushed for a theatrical ‘release first because, at least that way, we could make some money back through the cinema release and streaming services before Netflix.

Once it’s on Netflix, and it’s free, people won’t buy it elsewhere.’

For more about ‘The Business of Film Explained: How and Why You Can Be a Filmmaker’, listen here.

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