28 December 2011 1 Comment

The next Spielberg? Become a film director

There is no set route to becoming a film director, whilst attending film school or video editing classes is very beneficial, it’s certainly no guarantee of a job. The industry is very competitive and those that succeed often start out in unpaid internships. Becoming a film director is all about seizing opportunities that are presented to you whilst not being afraid of failure. Steven Spielberg applied to film school but was rejected; he later attended California State University but dropped out to work at Universal Studios on an unpaid internship. He took a big gamble on his future and his bold moved paid off when his internship converted to a paid contract and his career took off.

The right schooling

Attending film school is the natural first step for anyone interested in this industry, the theoretical and practical skills that you’ll learn will be very useful for your career plus you will begin to mix in the right circles. Through your studies, start to build connections with people in the industry. Offer to work in your free time, and over the summer holidays, on unpaid placements with companies connected with your film school. The more work experience you have the greater your chances of finding a paid position.
Some film schools in America have excellent connections with the film industry, in particular the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and the International Film Institute of New York are noted for their high numbers of graduates finding work in the industry.

Build a portfolio
Every budding film director should start to build a portfolio of their work as soon as they can. Your portfolio will showcase your talents and will demonstrate to any potential employer or film school that you have a genuine interest in the industry. Short films and documentaries are best with the focus on quality rather than quantity. You can also upload your videos to YouTube in a bid to promote your work. YouTube is actually an interesting alternative way into the industry with directors of popular videos becoming overnight celebrities.

Become a film director

Get your foot in the door
To get into the film industry you may have to take small jobs or ‘errand boy’ type work to gain some experience. Remember the first steps are all about making contacts with the right people who may later help you to progress within the industry. Quentin Tarantino famously began his career working at Video Archives, a video rental shop in Manhattan Beach. Hollywood producer, Roger Avery also worked there and together they later went on to produce Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

Enter contests
Every year there are lots of film contests to enter for up and coming directors, again treat this as an opportunity to build contacts. Through the competition you will meet like minded souls who are eager to progress within the industry. Should you be lucky enough, or talented enough to win a competition, you will get some public exposure which you can use to your advantage. Contact the judges of the competition and explain you would like to gain more experience within the industry, see if they can offer any work placements. At the end of the day, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

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