Filmmaking Career Advice from Commercial Director William McGregor: 'Get Out of Your Comfort Zone'
It’s typical to see Q&As or ‘In Conversation’ style pieces with major directors in which they discuss their influences or share insights into their filmmaking processes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as hungry as anyone for these glimpses into their creative black boxes, but I’m not sure just how applicable their production methods are to the work of the vast majority of filmmakers. There’s a reason books such as Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew (which featured in our Film School on a Bookshelf) is a much loved tome amongst new directors, and that’s because it applies to those fledgling days of filmmaking, where resources are cobbled together and directorial voices are still being discovered. All this is why I believe that interviews such as Fidgit Box’s recent piece with The Mill Commercials Director William McGregor should be considered mandatory viewing for all filmmakers still in the salad days of their careers.
McGregor echoes much of what I’ve heard and seen played out across the work of many a rising director over years spent interviewing them: get out of your comfort zone, whether that’s creatively with projects that force you to master new skills or socially by approaching someone with the clout to help you onto the next rung of the ladder – pushing beyond what you know you can do ultimately forces you to discover your true potential.
Also, perhaps even more important, is learning how to market yourself and your work:
I also think that you do have to be proactive and put yourself out there. You can make good work, but if you don’t get anyone to see it and if you don’t put yourself in front of the right people then no one’s going to know about you.
As Short of the Week’s Andrew S Allen points out in Greatness—Why Good, Isn’t Good Enough, the internet has brought us a glut of good film work, it’s the truly ‘great’ that’s few and far between now. But even if your films do fall into that exclusive club it’s unlikely curators (and after them audiences) are going to be motivated to hunt them down, you need to bring work to their attention and do everything you can to make it easy for the vanguard to spread the good word.
You can see how McGregor has practiced what he preaches in his final three shortlisted entry for the 2011 Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge. This is the film which landed him the Commercials Director gig at The Mill:
And demonstrating that he didn’t then simply rest on his salaried laurels, here’s his 2012 entry which was an attempt to push himself further into the creative unknown:
Do you agree that relatable advice or inspiration is more useful for filmmakers at the beginning of their careers? What invaluable peer advice have you put into action in your own work?