By Leo Andronov
Director, screenwriter, producer, playwright, musician, copywriter, magazine publisher, production designer, art director, set-dresser, sound guy, actor, assistant director, storyboard artist, editor, cameraman – this is an incomplete list of skills and professions Leo (Leonid) Andronov has covered. He is a writer-director living in Los Angeles and he has some thoughts to share about being a filmmaker.
In the few years after film school, most of us give up on our dream to make movies. Some don’t know what to do with their final film. Others achieved a beautiful festival round experience, but they then find out they emptied their pockets and have no idea what to do next. There are also some who earned awards and even have a new script written for their next movie, however, it may take years to complete another masterpiece. No matter where you stand, each experience can be frustrating.
Every filmmaker has his or her own path. We know it’s not easy. Even people with connections and money have difficulty taking another step forward. I wrote this list that every filmmaker scraping by should do to maintain productivity and will to reach their dream.
- KEEP WRITING AND SHOOTING
I know how stressful it can be to stay in the business when your plans seem to be falling through. The worst thing a director can do is stop creating. It’s incredibly easy to give up writing or shooting. We must maintain our level of professionalism. No matter which you find easier to do, it’s important to keep producing content.
Time flies. In a blink if an eye, you can see that five years pass by and you seem to be standing still. It’s important to have at least one film script per year and some side projects completed. How? It sounds harsh, but you simply have to do it. Maybe you can’t work on set. That’s okay. You can still set a time to write after work. Don’t let excuses get in your way of producing something great!
- KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR IMDB
The best way to check where you are on the film map is to check your IMDB page. When was your last project made? If it was this past year, it’s time to think what are you going to produce this coming year. This is a perfect indicator for you and (especially) others to see if you are creating or not. I believe you need to have at least one IMDB credit a year to stay in business.
However, don’t stop there. Not everyone will check your IMDB. Post to your social media and let your followers see what you’re currently working on. It doesn’t matter if your attempt turns into a movie or not, most projects crumble on their way to production. It’s okay. People in this industry experience this all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should give up after your first attempt.
- CONTINUOUSLY LEARN SOMETHING NEW RELATED TO FILM
There is always something to learn. With everything rapidly changing and new professions appearing today, you need to keep up with the times. AI is making its appearance and it’s terrifying to think it could overtake our jobs. However, have you done any research into how it works? You could find a new area to thrive. There are areas you could try that you hadn’t considered before – color correction, editing, photoshop, social media, etc. You may need to shape some of your skills to help you not only earn an extra buck or two, but also broaden your network.
- MEET NEW PEOPLE
I remember an agent told me: “You must have ten new acquaintances a day. Go right now and do it.” Because you never know who it can be or how they can help you. We tend to remain in the same circle for a long time. Some of us even despise all human interactions. I can even relate. But this is the way to nowhere.
New acquaintances can provide new ideas, teach us something new, or can introduce us to other people. Don’t sit in your room and waste away the day; go out and talk to strangers. Tell them about your passion project without hesitation. You can’t imagine how valuable the hardworking person pursuing their dreams is.
Not every new acquaintance will be able to help you. But that doesn’t mean it’s a useless endeavor. It can be the perfect tool for you to polish your elevator pitch before you meet a mega-producer you want to impress.
- ATTEND FILM FESTIVALS
This is part of your job. You should remember this. Even if you don’t have a film at the festival round, you should attend to socialize, watch new, upcoming movies, and to understand the trends.
Again, for emphasis, this is part of your job. Attend the parties! It’s the main attraction at any film festival. Round tables and conferences are cool, but it’s not the place where everyone will be. Parties are a must for attendance.
If you are too shy, you probably need to consider a less social job…like a librarian, for instance.
If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. This is how you should think.
The bigger the festival, the better. Yes, it’s expensive, but if you want to be on the red carpet one day with your film and crew, it’s worth the expense.
- BUILD YOUR OWN BRAND
I’m certain you’ve heard this many times before. Everyone is talking about it. The media is crazy about it. It seems like random people are suddenly famous on Tik Tok. And it can get frustrating. Any true creator despises it. But let’s look at it from a different perspective. Building your brand is important because people prefer to interact with a personality. They want someone who attracts them.
It’s naïve to believe one day a stellar agent from CAA will find you and make you – a grim, grumpy genius – a star. You will get overlooked by someone brighter and more charismatic. Especially if you’re still sitting in your room. You want to be in a position where people say your name and know exactly who you are, what do you do, and why you are extraordinary at it. It’s your job to build that image.
People prefer a fun, easygoing person with an awesome job. How can you build that impression? There are plenty of materials to find out how. See point 3 of this article.
- READ MORE!
As filmmakers, our creative wellspring isn’t limited to what we see on screen; it’s also influenced by the stories we read. Reading expands your horizon, enriches your storytelling abilities, and helps you discover new perspectives. Flex your brain muscles! Dive into literature, explore diverse genres, and don’t limit yourself to movie-related content. You’ll find that books can provide a wealth of ideas and inspiration that might lead to your next cinematic masterpiece.
- CONTINUE WATCHING MOVIES AND TV SERIES
I know what you’re going to say: it’s easy. Well, it depends how you’re doing it. Filmmakers watch movies differently. They analyze it. How was it shot? What’s the director’s approach? They use a cinematography perspective to understand how and why they used a technique to shoot a scene. They notice mistakes – and you should do too. They are up-to-date on the latest trends, just as you should. You need to understand who is who in the film world – new actors, directors, cinematographers.
Who are you planning to work with on your next film? Do you have a list of names? By watching blockbusters, you’ll never be able to make one. Watch indie and arthouse films, as the most talented people are there. Discover new names among actors. You’ll need it.
- SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE MORE TALENTED AND MORE EXPERIENCED THAN YOU
There is a saying: “If you are the smartest guy in the room, you are in the wrong room.” When starting a new film, you will need people who will help you improve your story. Those with more experience and talent than you will do just that. Honestly, if you believe you are doing something meaningful and you’re truly passionate about your project, you will eventually find that most film professionals around you are more knowledgeable than you. They all work more than directors in general, so they will know more about the industry itself.
Make those individuals your allies. If they respect you, they will want to help you. Remember this.
- BE NICE TO PEOPLE
You will meet hundreds to thousands of people on your creative journey. The film world (I would dare to say even the world itself) is too small, so if you treat people badly, others will soon find out about it. Your reputation is built on the simple things, like a sincere smile or a helping hand. It’s not about reputation or karma. I truly believe this is the way of life. What I’ve learned is that others want nice people to thrive. Nobody wants to help a jerk, even if he’s successful.
Thanks for giving me your time. 10 THINGS EVERY FILMMAKER SHOULDN’T DO is on its way. See ya!