At What Age Do Directors Typically Make Their First Feature Film?
Age ain't nothing but a number, right? Then why is your creative clock ticking more ferociously the older you get?
Alright, gang. It's time to talk about something that almost all of us have or are or will go through as filmmakers. (And I only use "almost" as to not make sweeping generalizations, but, yeah—all of us). It's the obsession over how old we'll be when we make our first feature film. If you're like me, you wanted to be a friggin' wunderkind like Orson Welles and make a masterpiece and not even be able to go to the bar afterward to celebrate. If you're like me, you also blew right past that milestone, settled down, had a couple of kids, and looked at your sullen, aging face in the mirror and wondered if it's too late for you to become a feature filmmaker. "Am I too old to make a movie?"
Well, Andrew Saladino of The Royal Ocean Film Society might have some pertinent insight for you. For this video, he culled through the biographies and histories of some of cinema's greatest directors, from Billy Wilder to Christopher Nolan, to calculate how old, on average, directors tend to be when they make their first film. Spoiler alert: there's more than one answer and it's older than you might think.
I'm 32—waaaaaaayyyyy past the age at which I could potentially be recognized as a tender Wellesian genius, and guess what, I've never made a feature film. Dun! Dun! Dun! I didn't get serious about filmmaking until I turned 21 and decided to 1.) write a feature-length screenplay, which I 100% believed I would make, and 2.) go to college to study film.
I finished the script in about a month, college in 5 years, as well as a handful short scripts and films and videos. I was gearing up for my final semester at the UofO when I got the call that I would be writing for No Film School, and the day before walking to receive my diploma, I was named Managing Editor. I was so excited to have a job that combined my two passion (writing and film) right out of the gate, but it really didn't leave me with much time to sleep, let alone make a movie.
Fast forward five years, I have a lot more time on my hands, a lot more freedom financially and professionally to pursue a creative project—but I'm older. And for some reason, I think that's bad. For some reason, I think that my time, my prime, has already passed. I'm not the budding filmmaker fresh out of college anymore, I'm—aging. Yeah, and for some weird, mysterious reason, I think that's bad.
But then I see that the median age for a director to make their first film, according to Saladino's research, is, what do you know, 32.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not waiting for permission from anyone to be a filmmaker. In other words, just because being a 32-year-old first-time filmmaker is "normal" doesn't make me feel more "allowed" to be one. What this statistic does say to me is that everyone's story is different. Filmmakers aren't made in a factory or bred on a ranch. They come from everywhere, from every background, at any age. Just because my story doesn't look like Darren Aronofsky's or Quentin Tarantino's or Sophia Coppola's or Martin Scorsese's doesn't mean that mine won't be told. I'm the teller, for god's sake, so I decide.
Filmmaking isn't an art form for the young or for the old, for women or for men, for the well-educated or for the unschooled. Filmmaking is for everyone. And that includes you, whoever, wherever, whatever you are.