April 22, 2016 at 9:32AM


Too impractical?

I am a rising senior in high school. This year I took a class on the History of film and attended my first film festival, and I fell in love. I want to make movies, and I would love to pursue this in college. The only issue is, I am afraid that it is too impractical. My parents are somewhat supportive, but they feel that it wouldn't be practical to even minor in film studies. Are they right? I would like to minor in film studies or film making in college? Would this even be a good idea?


You got to follow your star!

April 22, 2016 at 11:03AM

Cary Knoop

It's a lot harder to have a successful career in film/video than almost any other profession. Here in Canada they estimate that only 3 percent of film-school graduates will have full-time employment in film production 10 years after they graduate.

So yes it's a big risk, one that you should think long and hard about before you commit to film as your career plan.

Otherwise, you can be one of the many part-time filmmakers who have regular jobs and make films in their spare time.

April 23, 2016 at 11:37AM, Edited April 23, 11:38AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Like most art-related industries, you've got to evaluate your own abilities, motivation, and privilege.

If you are lucky enough to not have to worry about supporting yourself, that's great. If you aren't, you will have to make sacrifices.

April 23, 2016 at 12:04PM

Andy Zou
Filmmaker / Creative Director

Hi Jazzlyn, I've been a full-time filmmaker for about 2 years now. It's going well so far, but I'm not out of the woods yet in terms of a stable career; and I may never be (I know a 60 year-old who still hustles just as hard as I do to find work).

First, video/film production is NOT an impractical career path. You wanna know an impractical career path? Psychology. English literature. Philosophy (been there done that one). Great disciplines, but not likely to give you financial security. Video production can be an extremely lucrative business, but you have to be smart about it and know exactly what you're getting into.

First, you will not make movies. At least not at first. OK, you MIGHT be a cinematic genius and get lucky, but you PROBABLY won't make profitable movies for a long time. To give you a sample statistic, Sundance accepts about 8000 feature film submissions every year; they screen about 120 of those, and I would guess that less than half of those films get a distribution deal (could be wrong on that last bit). TL;DR even if you miraculously make a movie, you probably won't make any money off of it. You will need to make money in other ways until you somehow figure out the distribution thing with feature films.

The good news is that EVERYBODY wants video content these days. And the even better news is that most people who try to make content aren't very good at it. If you are good at making friends, contacts, and charming people into working with you, you only need a modicum of talent to put yourself on the top of everyone's list. Seriously, charisma and a great work ethic/attitude go miles in this business; talent comes third.

There are so many avenues to make money in video production; you just have to find your niche and go for it. Commercials, online branded content, tutorials, reviews, cooking shows, fashion, lifestyle, vlog, corporate videos, industrials. You name it, someone needs to make a video of it. The hardest part is finding those clients, and essentially making THEM money. You have to provide value to your clients; they have to want to hire you because you provide a product that ultimately profits them. Maybe an airline needs to instruct its crew members how to be better hosts. You make a cool video that people pay attention to; the crew become better hosts; people fly the airline more often; airline makes money; airline hires you again for the next gig.

But it takes a LONG time to learn to think like that, and it's even harder to keep those business goggles on in the moment, when you're trying to sell your services or negotiate. That's why my biggest piece of advice is this: Do not major in film production or film history. Major in business. Minor in film history. Sure, take a production class if you want, but even better would be to try and get on some local video productions--you'll learn more in a couple days there than a whole semester of production class.

Movies are your passion; you want to make movies. Don't forget that. You may have to put the dream on hold for a few years, but don't let it die. That's why you may still want to minor in film history or at least follow some syllabi for film history classes and watch all the movies they watch. People don't understand how many awesome films are out there that they have probably never heard of. Film history will educate you; it will make you a better filmmaker; it will inspire you. It will help you stand out because you will by taking notes from films that nobody watches rather than taking notes on the latest and greatest (like every other video guy out there).

The other guys here are right: this is not an easy industry. But that's not because there's no money in it; it's because it requires incredible drive and focus and a lot of business smarts, which frankly most people don't have. I sure as hell don't.... why do you think I'm here? :)

April 23, 2016 at 9:26PM, Edited April 23, 9:26PM

Kenneth Merrill

I could not agree more!

April 25, 2016 at 8:55AM

You voted '-1'.
Jerald Roberts II

I'm speaking only from my own experience, so take it with a grain of salt.

Short answer: No. It is not too impractical, but it is A LOT OF WORK!

Long Answer: IMO the only way to know is to try it out. Filmmaking is LOADS of fun, but like anything else, if you want to be successful at it you have to work HARD and be consistent. From my experience, life as a filmmaker can be anxious and draining because I am always hustling to find the next job, but it is so rewarding to me to work on films/commercials/etc. that I think the hustle is worth it! The only way to know if the hustle is worth it for you is to go through the process and see if you like it.

I would suggest getting some people together and making a short film to find out if you like the process. Write a short story, film it on your phone or borrow a camcorder, edit it on iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, and put it out on youtube/facebook/etc. Then watch it and see if you like it. If you want to do it again, do it again.

The beautiful thing about the 21st century is that filmmaking tools and technology are EVERYWHERE! You can make a short film for free but it will take up your time.

I guess my main point is that with anything you are passionate about, when you face a problem you can either quit and give up or find a solution and work through it. To me, filmmaking is about constantly solving those problems because you believe so much in what you're doing, that you are willing to sacrifice to reach your goal. It's just a matter of if it is worth it to you or not.

Being in high school means you can try it out now for free instead of investing thousands of dollars in college.

So get some people together and make a film!

Best of luck to you!

April 25, 2016 at 8:53AM

Jerald Roberts II

If you look at statistics, falling in love is an impractical idea. But you fell in love with cinema nonetheless. That's the first and the most important thing.

For a course, I'd suggest you study organic farming or a related field and read books in your free time. Philosophy, literature, film books etc.
Watch a lot of films. Again and again.
Observe life.

After a few years, buy a cheap camera when you think you might want to explore your voice and start making some films. After that, you won't need advice from anyone.

However if your main goal is to succeed commercially, that's a different topic/path altogether.

Best wishes.

April 25, 2016 at 10:00PM

Vikas R.

Even if you don't end up doing feature films or something like that, there is plenty of film/video production work out there. It might not be as glamorous, but there's tons of in-house corporate type jobs that have a steady income.

April 26, 2016 at 12:28PM, Edited April 26, 12:28PM


Depends on what you want to do in the film industry. You may not be the next great auteur but there are tons of great paying jobs in post-production. Just know that it's not the way to "get rich quick" like many film schools try to sell it. But if you love movies and you're dedicated to your craft there's absolutely a future in it for you.

April 26, 2016 at 11:52PM, Edited April 26, 11:52PM

Maury Shessel

Im gonna give it to you straight, The longer you question whether its impractical or not the faster it become impractical. If you know you would rather be living pay check to pay check not making any money and one of your only worldly possessions is your camera and your living eating and breathing filmmaking then you know your in the right career field. But if youd rather be living comfortable then really take a hard look at whether this is the right career field for you. I knew since i was 5 I want to be a film maker and every day since then i have spent every waking hour working on my craft, while you didnt come to this realization as quick as me you did before college which is good. One of the biggest issues i have with modern film making is that the internet is so littered with people who think they can be filmmakers but are taking away from the people who are comepletely head over heals in love with it. Its a difficult field, hands down because for every 1 person whose in love with it and has the skill needed to produce amazing work theres 5 people who think watching film riot is gonna get them the skills and talent they need and charge a whole heck of a lot less and dont produce amazing videos. This is not to tell you not to go into it, this is to tell you, if you love anything with enough passion and desire it unending then your not in the wrong field and i would congratulate you because theres not enough people like you in the world. I look forward to what you say and if this helped any.

April 27, 2016 at 6:42AM

Carsten Weizer
Independent swiss army knife of a film maker

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