Code of a Filmmaker: 12 Principles That All Filmmakers Should Live By

Not telling you how to live, but this code of ethics might help you be a happier, more productive filmmaker.

You know what, gang? I've been thinking a lot about our little community here—I think about you guys a lot, actually—and I was thinking that we're all in a little need of some positivity in our creative lives.

Am I wrong? (If you said "yes", then I think you might need some of that positivity.)

We're always in need of some positivity, which is why I think Basic Filmmaker's "Code of a Filmmaker" is worth sharing. It's a list of 12 "rules" or guidelines that might help you be able to visualize the kind of filmmaker you want to be and then work toward becoming it.

Why would anybody impose rules and laws on themselves? Like, why? Rules are dumb, riiiiight?

Okay, here's the thing about rules...they can help us grow. Just ask Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, and the other directors that formed Dogme 95. Their manifesto, the "Vow of Chastity", included 10 strict rules that a film had to conform to in order to be considered a Dogme 95 film, and that restraint certainly pushed and pulled them creatively. Vinterberg said, "Personally, I found it extremely uplifting and fantastic making Dogme movies."

Now, Dogme 95 might've been a set of creative rules meant to help filmmakers grow through restraint, but Basic Filmmaker's "Code of a Filmmaker" is a set of behavioral rules meant to help filmmakers grow through adopting a positive ethos. Essentially, the code wants you to be a decent person and avoid being a negative douchelord.

It's super simple and you're probably already doing most of this anyway.

Basic Filmmaker's Code of a Filmmaker

  • I promise to create the best works I can, using the time, knowledge and tools I have available and complete those works to the best of my ability. 
  • I promise to not explain or make excuses for my work but to improve my competence by learning and practicing my craft. 
  • I promise to help others when I can with those things I know and to not pretend I know something when I don't. 
  • I promise to not make less of my own or another's work and to not damage another filmmaker's reputation or status. 
  • I promise to give advice to those who ask for it and to keep my advice constructive and helpful. 
  • I promise to ignore and not engage those who are super-critical and irrational. 
  • I promise to not condone the theft of another's work, and will legally obtain, license and credit another's work as required. 
  • I promise to get the proper releases and permissions I need for my work as required. 
  • I promise to treat those around me with respect, courtesy, and understanding, and to help them understand the film making process and its terminology.
  • I promise to not permit unauthorized photos, shots, sound recordings, or information given to me in confidence, to be passed on to anyone for any reason. 
  • I promise to not condone any type of discrimination of any filmmaker because of race, color, religion, creed, age, sex, or national origin. 
  • I promise to recognize and support filmmakers, knowing their true intentions are to have their ideas brought into being, shared and enjoyed by others.

What do you think of the "Code of a Filmmaker"? What would you want to add? Let us know down in the comments.     

Your Comment


I promise to surround myself with the best people so that I can talk less and listen more. I'll keep in mind that some of the very best scenes were re-written on-set by the cast & crew because they often have a lateral view and actually know and feel stuff that I don't.

March 7, 2019 at 8:57PM

Len Savage
Producer / Director; TV & film

Where do I sign?

March 7, 2019 at 9:22PM

giles smith
Director & writer

I promise not to be a sucker when someone tries to take advantage of my knowledge or kindness

March 7, 2019 at 11:36PM


Let's not forget Hunter S Thompson's quote about the T.V. business to keep some perspective.

“The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

March 8, 2019 at 1:59AM