August 18, 2015

Video: How Can You Tell if You Have What It Takes to Be a Filmmaker?

We all have big dreams of becoming (better) filmmakers, but how do we know if we actually have what it takes to be one?

In this video, Film Courage offers up an answer in an interview with filmmaker James Kicklighter, who shares some indispensable knowledge about the harsh truths about what it means to be cut out for a career in filmmaking.

Kicklighter makes four crucial points about the differences between "strong" and "weak" filmmakers (a little Darwinian for my taste, but I digress) that will help put your career into perspective:

Is filmmaking a long-term or short-term thing for you?

This is one of the best points Kicklighter talks about, namely because it's a little obscure. If you're working on a project right now, do you know what your next is going to be? If your answer is yes, have you determined how your current project will help you make your next one? This seemingly simple question will open your eyes to the difference between filmmakers who are hobby-minded and those that are career-minded.

Do you have the stamina to make films?

Developing, planning, shooting, editing, marketing, releasing -- making a film can take years, so this work is not for those who don't have endurance. Kicklighter makes a great observation in the video; he says that there isn't a finish line when you make a film, but a series of them. Filmmaking is an arduous journey, and you have to be able to persevere through the many, many mental, emotional, and physical obstacles that will be set before you.

Do you have the capacity to troubleshoot?

Everything goes wrong during every stage of production, and your ability to solve the problems that come your way will determine the kind of filmmaker you are. Having a Plan B, C, D -- Z is essential for being successful, because one snag -- a corrupt file, a difficult actor, an empty bank account -- can derail your whole production.

And remember: don't go to bed angry -- with your film

Filmmaking is a marriage. You will get stressed. You will get depressed. You will second-guess every single decision you make. There will be days where you will be convinced that your film is out to ruin your life, and you will want to abandon it. But one of the biggest differences between a career filmmaker and a hobbyist is maturity. Are you going to let every stumble, problem, and piece of bad news frustrate you to the point of quitting, or are you going to tough it out long enough to remember why you started making your film in the first place?

What qualities do you think make filmmakers career-minded? What has helped you on your journey? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment

19 Comments

Troubleshooting means you need to be creative on creative, technical, logistical, communication, psychological levels. Mentally more flexible than a boneless yogi could ever be.
And realisticly optimistic: knowing there is a solution you will find and recognizing it when you found it.

And then step by step you'll cross every finishline, one by one.

Making checklists not only helps to not forget, but it also gives you a sense of victory when you can check something from the list, because there will be times the checklist is the only sign of progress...

August 18, 2015 at 4:15PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9016

You are completely correct Walter. I just finished shooting my short film yesterday... I want to choke something. In order to do all that is mentioned above you need the patience of an angel, to the point which I believe is almost unhealthy.

August 18, 2015 at 10:18PM

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Edgar More
All
1192

You can always go to a newssite and try to force choke a bad guy ;-)

Don't forget to relax :-p

August 19, 2015 at 6:17AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9016

Just keep going. One foot in front of the other.

August 18, 2015 at 4:39PM, Edited August 18, 4:39PM

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Gordon Ian Green
Producer, Director, Writer, Editor
93

Recognize a bad idea and reject it immediately.
( too many people polishing turds that they should have thrown away a long time ago )

Know how to find the financial resources you need to make your film.
( probably the biggest hurdle most of us will face )

August 18, 2015 at 4:47PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
29803

Point #1 (ref: turd) is brilliant. All too true.

August 28, 2015 at 11:00AM

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Marc A Hutchins
Writer/director/producer
67

I think one of the biggest things when starting out. Is that daunting feeling you have when you realize how many things you still need to learn. Whether its different aspects of gripping, gear, directing, rigs, software, and I could go on. But the thing I notice with a lot of people who kind of quit is they find out its a bit more than just setting up a camera and hitting REC and that discourages them.

Simple quote I like to tell people which almost oversimplifies it:
Every expert was once a beginner.

August 18, 2015 at 5:46PM

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Charles C.
Editor/ Director/ Director of Photography/ Wannabe Thinker
1068

Yeah but don't get too hung up on trying to know everything, this can be paralyzing. It was a problem I had myself for years. Thinking I was never good enough because I didn't know everything I could about this or this. Really, filmmaking is a team art project. You have to be good at finding the people that can do the things you can't and trust them to do that. You can't know everything. You can know a little bit about everything, but you can't be a master of it all. What you can do though, is learn to be good at getting what you want out of others. That is skill number one as a director as far as I'm concerned.

October 5, 2015 at 2:35PM, Edited October 5, 2:35PM

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Mike Tesh
Pro Video / Indie Filmmaker
732

Seems to me he's still a bit wet around the ears to be giving " professional " advice as he's only made a few shorts an nothing related to a studio or a network.

August 19, 2015 at 12:57AM, Edited August 19, 1:01AM

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Mooey
138

My thoughts exactly. I think he made some good points but I didn't like the tone of this interview given that he's in the same boat a lot of us are.

August 19, 2015 at 4:24AM

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Liam Gilroy
Director
100

I agree as well. While he made a few solid points that every filmmaker should understand, this interview felt like a verbal handjob to me. Hard work, passion and dedication are not lacking in the film industry and as far as I see it in NYC at least, and the cream doesn't always rise. There are so many factors that play into it. There are a lot of dedicated people vying for limited opportunities. The qualities he mentions are the baseline for the film industry.

Another point I'll make is that filmmaking doesn't always involve the typical roles. Not everyone is trying to be the next indie darling.

August 19, 2015 at 9:28PM

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Jonathan Fantucchio
Architectural Digital Visualist & Dreamer
72

Question: How Can You Tell if You Have What It Takes to Be a Filmmaker?

Answer: By making a film

These are my favorite NFS reposts........and here's some relationship advice from O.J. Simpson.

August 19, 2015 at 1:21AM

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Howard Roll
Boss
181

I think he made some interesting points here. Where I think it is important to choose what you do and how you do it to progress up the ladder, I think what is most important is artistic integrity and enjoying filmmaking with a passion. I also think it's important to never be an asshole, detach yourself from ego and have fun - Filmmaking is a wonderful and unique thing.

August 19, 2015 at 4:30AM

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Liam Gilroy
Director
100

It is all true and all that, but let's not forget that a film is just a product. Being successful filmmaker is like being a good businessman. Every creative decision is actually a business decision. All struggling should be paid of by a profit or recognition of the product, otherwise why bother...

August 19, 2015 at 5:11AM

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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1268

Passion, love, art, maybe a desire to share your vision. Seriously what do I know I'm a DP not a salesman. What would Michael Bay do?

August 19, 2015 at 7:04PM

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Howard Roll
Boss
181

Wong Kar Wai got so tired of editing Ashes of Time that he had to take a break. In that time he made a little movie called Chungking Express. He went on to finish his epic Ashes of Time.

Moral of the story: Don't worry if you get exhausted during production or post-production...if it's taking too damn long, you might be doing something wrong in the first place.

August 20, 2015 at 11:42AM

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Nathaniel
Budding Cinematographer
83

This is a great video. There are so many short-term, small filmmakers that are willing to be on a show, but not capable/willing/interest in taking ownership. I used to get frustrated with these folks because I wanted them to be as driven as I am, to care as much as I do, and have the capacity to dive into a project with the level of ownership that I exhibit -- and I'm talking both my own films and films I crew. But the truth is that the "producer" (most often director/producer, and you might as well throw in "writer") -- the TRUE producer -- is a rare entity. Accepting this has eased my drive to push others toward ownership. Now, I gladly embrace being "that guy" who stands out, dives in, takes risks, and is known for his ambition. One day, I will be on the set of my dreams, while the others will still be grinding away in their "backyards" talking about the film they'll never make.

August 20, 2015 at 1:49PM, Edited August 20, 1:49PM

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Marc A Hutchins
Writer/director/producer
67

For me, is about having passion, perseverance, and tolerance to failure.

August 20, 2015 at 3:12PM

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Gustavo Quirós Álvarez
TV/ Film production student.
88

Make a film.

August 20, 2015 at 6:10PM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3496