I’ve been working for years in film studios. It began as a surprise to me, I was just a cashier at Panera Bread when a friend asked me to help make a short commercial for them. They loved what I made so much that they said, “If you can do video editing like this with no experience or training, then we need to hire you and get you some experience! You would be indispensable!”
So just like that I was hired on the spot. My job in the bakery soon transitioned into a career in film where my whole life was turned on its ear. I moved from my cozy home in Orlando, FL where my family lived, to California with my wife to work at Little Light Studios.
In the beginning I was green. I knew nothing about making videos. I was thrown into the position of “Technical Director”. Regardless of what that actually means, the guys said it meant “it’s your job to know how EVERYTHING works and to maintain all cameras and studio equipment and keep us up to date on the newest trends we could tKe advantage of to make our technical side of film making better”. I’ve never been more intimidated in my life, and I’ve never been so good at a job either. I took to it really well cause techie stuff is my forte.
But there came a time when I was ready to spread my wings and fly. To collect my things, wave goodbye, and pursue my dream. What dream you ask? The dream of striking out on my own in the world of independent film. And good grief, I didn’t know what I was getting into. But I didn’t care, because I was in love. In love with moving pictures. In love with the emotional connection we feel from a powerfully edited scene. In love with stories, with cameras, with trying to memorize the manuals for equipment I don’t even own. I’m head over heals in love with making videos. I could live at AbelCine or Film Tools in LA all day long and always find something new to see, or visit Pardee’s Camera in Sacramento and “Oooooh!!! Ahhhhh!!!” at the museum of cameras there until I pass out. Bu above all I love telling stories, especially true ones.
The following is the opinion of someone who is new to working in independent film, but I still feel very strongly that it is true and worth sharing and so I take it with a grain of salt.
So how to break in? How to get my start. I had ZERO client base, no portfolio, no camera! What was the secret? Maybe it was getting the best camera that money could buy, or maybe it’s aligning myself with someone with a lot of confidence. Perhaps if I just read a lot and learned a bunch until I could succeed and finally make some money? Well lean close and I’ll tell you a secret… None of that is it. I tried getting a friend to start a company with me and it was just a disaster. It was an excuse to ask someone else to help me overcome my fears. I bought the best camera my money could afford, but no one was going to just hunt me down to shoot there commercial or corporate film simply because I own a Sony FS100.
The thing that finally got me work? It was that I kept getting back up. In fact here’s a thought: 100% of people who fall down and don’t get up again, will stay down. See how that works? Just because you are on your feet doesn’t mean you won’t fall back down. In my case though it was how to stand up for myself for the first time. The principle of getting back up has lots of implications though and can be divided up into more specific secrets.
1. Network: Talk to your friends, family, strangers, enemies. Anyone who might know someone through the grapevine who needs your services. It will happen, but if you stop you might miss it. Dedicate time to passing out business cards each week between taking care of the kids and feeding the family. If you don’t, they won’t pass out themselves.
2. If they say “No!”, good! That means you don’t want that client. Don’t mope, , don’t whine, stop crying! Being rejected is good! They might not have money to pay you, might not know what they want, or maybe they are a jerk. Just keep getting up and get out there and look for the RIGHT client. You don’t want the one that rejects you anyways so when you are rejected by a potential client, tell yourself that.
3. Don’t set your rates low just because a competitor has! Since when does your competitor tell you what to do?! So what if they are low balling the market? That doesn’t mean you roll over. “But if I don’t make my prices competitive I can’t make money!” BS! Don’t cheat yourself! Besides, what you’ve done if you take that client is chosen to not make money! Which clients do you really want, the $100 client or the $5,000 client? Then learn to say to yourself, “I’m sorry ‘self’ but I want the right client. I will hold out for the client that pays me what I am worth.” If you have to get a second job do it! If you need to educate your client why you are worth the fees you charge then do it! Be professional, be courteous, but be firm. This industry is NOT cheap. You get what you pay for, and that is what you must make your client understand. Now if you WANT to do a inexpensive job for a close friend, cool. But as a general rule, YOU-ARE-NOT-CHEAP!
I have done my best, committing myself to getting back up every time something set me back. I’ve gone from NOTHING 7 months ago to having 5 jobs lined up. Paying jobs. Why? Because when I was down, I got back up. Time for us all to encourage each other and to stop accepting the bottom dollar value. of course clients will always shop for a deal. but they don’t realize that if they are paying bottom dollar they will get a bottom dollar product. i’ve committed to throwing those fish back in the pond until I catch the clients I actually want. Time for us to get out there and learn to be unafraid of being told “No!” and also not be afraid of telling a client “No” either!
So the single secret to succeeding? Keep getting up. If anyone reads this, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
***This article accidentally was published too soon, but now it’s done. If you saw it before, at that point I had meant to save it as a draft, sorry.***