Thanks to massive changes in digital video technologies, both the production and distribution of filmmaking have become democratized. This in turn has meant a huge influx of independent filmmakers creating feature films. Some of these have garnered critical acclaim and even widespread popular success. However, the majority lack the creative and technical flair that this competitive landscape demands.
So, how can you be sure you’re meant to make films? Here are ten ways you know you’re cut out to be a filmmaker.
You are a great planner
When it cost an arm and a leg to shoot film, everyone had to plan carefully. It’s not like that anymore, but that doesn’t mean that attention to detail is no longer important. You need to plan how millions of details of dramatic beats, nuances of editing, lighting, motion, and staging will all come together to tell your story and conjure up a unique mood. This requires masterful planning—never wing it.
You understand film technology
A great filmmaker understands the many technological elements that make a great film, and knows what is and is not feasible. For example, lighting separates amateurish productions from those which are truly beautiful; a skilled filmmaker knows how to work within natural and artificial lighting constraints, and doesn’t aim to light the impossible or ignore the conditions on hand. Even a budding filmmaker strives to understand the technical details and existing technologies.
Filmmaking is your long-term path
The best filmmakers are ambitious, doing whatever they need to for their art. How does your current project fit into your entire long-term path as a filmmaker? Can you see that answer in your mind? What will you be working on next? How does what you’re doing now support your next steps? If filmmaking is your career, these are questions you should be able to answer.
You are creative, and a gifted storyteller
Filmmakers tell stories above all else. They know a great story when they see one, and they can identify both strengths and weaknesses in a script. Learn to find dramatic high and low points, character flaws, problems with relationships, story and acting beats, and other crucial storytelling elements. These skills aren’t something we’re all either born with or not; they are learned over time with lots of hard work.
However, all of these elements start with creativity! If you have a creative mind and a sense of originality when it comes to the stories and ideas you see, you might be a filmmaker waiting to happen.
You have the drive and stamina to make films
Filmmaking seems glamorous and lively, but the truth is that planning, writing, developing, shooting, editing, producing, marketing, and releasing a film is strenuous work that can stretch on for years. It’s filled with emotional losses, rejections, and plenty of “back to the drawing board” moments.
You are a great communicator
Gifted filmmakers are also gifted communicators. It’s not easy to explain what happens in your imagination well enough to make it happen in reality, and they must be able to communicate effectively just to make what they want to happen on screen take place. Filmmakers must be able to articulate their production goals clearly and explain to each member of their production team how to accomplish their goals.
You have authority and can inspire people
Great filmmakers must have a strong sense of authority. Yes, we’ve all heard of difficult directors who can make the lives of actors hellish, but this shouldn’t be your goal. Filmmakers lead their teams in the pursuit of film excellence, and they need to know how to get the most out of other people to create truly wonderful films.
You never miss even the tiniest details
Forget the “I’m a big picture person, you take care of the details” attitude if you want to make films. You need to notice every angle, every shot. You need to notice every inconsistent movement in your shots, every cut that isn’t quite right.
You are open-minded
Even the most established and authoritative filmmakers need to stay open-minded. Filmmakers often see changes in their stories, ideas, and final celluloid products. In fact, the ability to accept constructive criticism and consider other points of view can only improve you as a filmmaker.
You can budget and work within financial limitations
All filmmakers need to negotiate budgets and financial constraints as they make their creative visions come to life. Great filmmakers learn to troubleshoot, addressing financial problems during production quickly as they arise, and finding innovative ways to solve them without going over budget. If you’re good at sticking to your budget and finding new ways to stretch a dollar, you may be a filmmaker waiting to happen.
Do you see yourself yet? The great news for aspiring filmmakers everywhere is that some of the most important traits for filmmakers are very basic. The ability to communicate well, stick to a budget, inspire others, tell a creative story, and generate a solid plan, for example, are all critical to great filmmaking. This list isn’t the last word, but these ten ways you know you’re cut out to be a filmmaker are excellent ways to get a sense of whether you might be right for the industry.