September 8, 2014 at 3:46PM

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How does one get started in filmmaking as a complete beginner?

I've taken a ton of college courses on film, but I've never experienced anything hands-on. That said, how would a person go about getting started as filmmaker? What are some basic requirements? And what are some jobs that could help towards that goal?

10 Comments

I´d suggest two things. One, apply for jobs as an assist, runner, or even a boom operator on low-profil shoots. Just by being on the set You´ll learn a lot if You watch carefully.
Two, go and shoot something. I guess the best way to learn is to do it (or at least try), and shoot a shortfilm. Start with thinking about a story, ask friends to help out with acting, get a camera & tripod and think about how to bring the story to screen. And then shoot plenty of material, get home and start the process of editing. Don´t be disappointed if Your first piece sucks - I´d suggest that every filmmaker did some crappy pieces at the beginning - but that´s where You learn. You develop Your style by discovering what You like and what You don´t like, get experience about shooting techniques that work and don´t work, and over time You enhance Your results.
In the end, always get some people around You that are blunt enough to give You honest feedback.

September 9, 2014 at 1:43AM

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Vincens von Bibra
Producer
116

Student projects and your own personal projects are a good way to get started. Don't worry if it isn't perfect at first what you make, practice makes perfect!

It is also good to think about what is your end goals of where do you want to end up a few years down the track? As that will impact what you do now to reach that, depending on what your goals are.

September 9, 2014 at 3:23AM

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David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer
2300

The one thing that stood out to me in your question was "I've taken a ton of college courses on film". If you're near a college that offers film theory course, then they should hopefully also offer film production courses! If so, there will be plenty of student films for you to resume and portfolio build with.

I think the important part when starting out is to really say yes to everything... This infuriates the older established people because people who say yes to every job lower the pay standard of the industry, but a year full of pro-bono work for various filmmakers in your area will gain you an extensive network of filmmakers who will most likely come to you with paid work if you're passionate and have a good work ethic. That being said, you can get these same results by working on paid shoots as well, so I think the key is to take jobs that will:

- Help you learn as a filmmaker
- Pay you with creative control
- Be amazing to put on a resume
- Reward you with actual money

I think these are all pretty level in terms of gain and a project which offers any of those benefits to you is a project worth doing. The important part is just to get out and start shooting, even if its by yourself or with friends or with complete strangers. The only way you get better is by doing and failing and learning from those failures. The access to unlimited online knowledge taps is fantastic, but its still no replacement for on-set experience.

September 9, 2014 at 10:20PM

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Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer
1498

I would love to take those classes at my school but even upon having a senior standing I still have difficulty registering for them since our registration is conducted by number of credits. So, being on an indefinite leave-of-absence from the university, I've never really had a chance to get that hands-on experience. I would also love to know that basics when it comes to what kind of camera/equipment I should get to start out. Thank you for the advice though, a lot of it is very insightful. I figured as much but its nice to know that someone with life experience can confirm what it's like to work in such a position.

Andy Newton

September 10, 2014 at 2:50AM

My first teacher is always YouTube. Until you find actual hands-on jobs, watch as many videos. They really help. Try to get jobs that are related to this field.

Try move into wedding industries or commercial. These industries not only enhance you're experience but also gives you cash to upgrade your equipment.
Do any job that is related to your field, it will be worth the mention when someone asks one day.
Go Facebook, type out production. Get into open groups-there are tonnes of people out there whom have the money but very less manpower to start something. At least join a shoot that pays nothing at all. Don't care if they don't pay, no matter how tired you feel; end of the day if you have the genuine passion for film making-you'd value every second spent on set. CONNECTIONS are very important, as you join these sets, you get to know more people whom share the similar interest. Even if you're not fond of someone, get closer. He might know someone who wants to make a film and wants more people-chances are high he'd call you to join. Slowly slowly you'll build a profile filled with experience.

I haven't taken a single course related to film making, heck i'm a computer science student. YouTube and whatever i told was what i did/used and now i'm a cinematographer for my first feature length film produced and directed by actual professionals.

September 10, 2014 at 4:19PM

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Santosh Thayaparan
Director, Story Writer,DOP,Editor,Photographer
92

Try acting.

You can find all kinds of student films looking for actors on craigslist. As an actor you have an awesome opportunity to observe and learn from the crew on the set. You can also take the opportunity to talk to people on breaks and begin building your network.

Furthermore, going on auditions and experiencing what it's like to be an actor will make a more well rounded filmmaker. Actors are a strange lot, and being one on occasion will help you understand them better.

September 10, 2014 at 11:14PM

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Douglas Henderson
Director/Writer/Producer/Actor
956

Making your own short film(s) with people in your local area would be a great way to start.

September 11, 2014 at 2:25AM

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Crystal McGhee
Director/Writer/Producer/Actor
213

You know, saying "getting started as filmmaker" is like saying "getting started as a medicine doer". There are many different professions in the field of medicine - pharmacist, doctor, nurse, surgeon. The same goes for film. Work (for free) on as many sets as you can, and explore the different jobs - start PA'ing, try some boom op, try some gaffing, 1st AC, DP, and of course give writing/directing a try!

If you want more of a baseline, I'd recommend Vimeo's excellent series on filmmaking:
http://vimeo.com/videoschool
Check out the "where to begin" section on the right, as well as the categories.

Final two tips:
1.) BE A NICE PERSON. Filmmaking is a team sport.
2.) Keep reading No Film School, of course. : D

September 11, 2014 at 5:47PM

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Benjamin Dewhurst
Writer
writer/director

Also, it occurs to me I didn't exactly answer your question (sorry). If you need hands-on experience, getting on those sets I mentioned can be accomplished in a number of ways.

The easiest is work on Craigslist films. This is incredibly hit or miss (cmon, it's Craigslist), but if you have ZERO connections, you have to start somewhere.

Seek out production companies in your area, and offer up to PA for free and for experience. Type up a nice resume, dress up, and hand it to someone in person at their front desk. Be friendly.

Interning is a more direct way of doing this.

Join your local filmmaking organization. I'm from Indiana, and we had Indiana Filmmaker's Network, for example. People would always come in with project ideas, and sometimes they didn't have all the help they needed to get something done - perfect opportunity for someone such as yourself!

And finally, reach out on social media - perhaps Meetup, even. Facebook search for productions in your area. Be attentive to casting calls for indie films - because they're going to need crew, too, and cheap (free) is good. Just make sure they feed you. : )

Benjamin Dewhurst

September 11, 2014 at 5:53PM

Work on what you have...and make a story out of it. Don't have the budget? Bring the art into it (No lighting, keep it raw to make look like an art film).

September 12, 2014 at 5:50PM

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Jassem Nilong
Director/Editor
93

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