Monday, January 18, 2016


I'm asked this question a lot.

'How can I get a career in the film industry?'

It's not an unusual question, particularly given I have a day job providing career advice and planning to filmmakers. But there is a key word in this question that gives a clue to the mental obstacles emerging filmmakers face.

'How can I GET a career in the film industry?'


Like donuts or a ham sandwich.

I have my own answers that I have enunciated, many times over, to the wide-eyed, expectant faces of early career filmmakers.

But I'll spare you.

You're actually in luck. There have been a number of recent film festivals and film events around the globe, and from these glittering bauble-laden extravaganzas, genuinely meaningful tidbits have trickled out.

The first is the keynote speech by indie-film darling Mark Duplass at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Texas. If you have any interest at all in how to navigate fear, doubt, and depression to purse a career that inspires genuine passion, then you should watch this immediately.

WATCH: Mark Duplass SXSW Keynote Speech

He utters many gems, but the theme is the most important: "The cavalry isn't coming."

How often do our dreams and plans rely on being "saved" by some all-powerful career benefactor? We while away the years thinking if we just persist, that someone will notice our undiscovered brilliance. We will be 'picked', and our career will begin.

But what if that benefactor isn't coming?

This was exactly Duplass' experience. The cavalry never really arrived, but he kept pushing regardless. To find out how many small milestones aggregated to a career, you'll have to watch his keynote address.

The second tidbit I came across is older, but has been revived by the ongoing discussion around the changing film and screen storytelling industry. It comes from the artist who inspired me to pursue filmmaking in the first place: Frank Darabont.

Darabont is famous for being broadly anonymous. His film and television shows are household names, even while he is not.

Never heard of him?

How about 'The Shawshank Redemption'? Or 'The Green Mile'? Or 'The Walking Dead'?

Yes, all work championed by Mr Darabont. And he has also faced this same question of career pathways many times.

His answer, which he acknowledges is somewhat vague and possible frustrating, is that "there is no single pathway". Darabont suggests that what worked for him will certainly not work for you, and vice versa.

Never-the-less, Darabont concludes, that he struggled for nine years until making a living in the film industry, and has built a successful career, is proof that it can be done.

And he has three Oscar nominations to prove it.

WATCH: Frank Darabont insight into starting a film career

In both insights, there is a common theme that differentiates the thinking of the emerging filmmaker, and the people who eventually "make it".

'How can I GET a career in the film industry?'

Is a debilitating mode of thought. It must give way to:

'How can I BUILD a career in the film industry?'

Both Duplass and Darabont both state, as clearly as humanly possible, that their careers were built on a multitude of projects, relationships, moments, collaborations, successes and failures.

No one moment defined them. No sudden watershed moment divided their lives between struggle and success. Little by little, they built forward inertia. The boulder is much easier to keep rolling, than to get started.

And so it is for you.

No matter what your ambition is, be it filmmaking, finances or family; momentum is the key.

Waiting for a magic bullet is like firing one into your dreams. Right through the heart.

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