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10 Common Pitfalls For Filmmakers

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Top Mistakes New Filmmakers Commit When First Starting Out and How to Avoid Them

                  Are you looking to turn your passion for filmmaking into a business, or have you already begun? Well, you should be relieved to know that several other pioneers have already struggled through this process. Here are some common mistakes that filmmakers make while starting out and some techniques for avoiding them.

1.     Establishing Prices

It can be hard to come up with competitive, fair pricing. One foolproof method, especially in the beginning, is to ask your clients what their budget is and what their requirements for the project are. This will enable you customize a package that is acceptable for both parties.


2.     Becoming too Attached to the Project

As a creator, the tendency to over-criticize or over-appreciate your own work can come easily. Artists of all mediums are often so invested in the product they create, the story they are telling, that it is hard to separate the work’s value from their own opinions of it.

To help objectify this, you can create a rubric for each project to keep up with your client’s requests and objectively measure the qualities of your final product.  


3.     Poor Communication
Have you ever made an appointment to see the doctor, arrived at the office on time (if not early), and still had to wait for an hour before being seen? That is the same feeling you are giving your clients if you are not communicating with them in a timely or effective manner. Effective communication is one of the most important aspects of any business. If you listen to your clients, you will do a better job of delivering a product they value.

Effective communication will help you establish the desired structure and narrative of the video early on. Additionally, earning your client’s trust and respect is crucial to the lasting success of your business, so when you give a client your word about a due date, when you will follow up with them, etc., keep it. To keep yourself on track, stay organized and create a follow-up schedule so that you never miss a check in or due date.


4.     Rogue Narrative
When a client comes to you with a specific vision; respect it. If you have a different idea for the content, it is okay to express that to them. It is not okay to ignore their ideas by going rogue and surprising them with a video that reflects your ideas rather than theirs. As a filmmaker, every video must capture the correct narrative and effectively communicate the message that your client has asked you to send.

 Throughout your entire career as a filmmaker, you should be keeping an updated, professional portfolio. This will allow you to prove to clients from day one that you know how to take their ideas and create valuable, compelling content. Additionally, such a portfolio may help your clients to let go of the reins and give you the creative freedom that you desire.


5.     Being Afraid to Ask for Testimonials and Reviews
It may seem intimidating or like you are potentially opening Pandora’s box, but testimonials and reviews from previous clients can help build your reputation quickly. Being able to display other people’s opinions of you and your work can make all the difference to prospective clients.


6.     Not Creating a Business Plan
Creating a business plan is essential for the growth, health, and organization of your business. A business plan allows you to set out your goals and keep them in sight. It is important that you have a method, other than profitability, for measuring the growth of your business.  It is equally important to spend time regularly reviewing that metric and course correct as needed.


7.     Skimping on a Contract

Don’t skip the contract!  Having a contract in place (and signed by both parties) is good for your business, as well as your client.  The contract will help clearly set expectations on both sides and prevent any misunderstandings down the road.  This is an area where it pays to have an attorney look over your agreement, just to ensure your language is correct.


8.     Failing to Network
Everyone knows someone who is a photographer, and with the boom of video marketing and other videography work, we will soon all know someone who is a videographer (if you don’t already). For this reason, you must network so that people know who you are as well as the quality of work you produce.

Join Facebook groups and talk with other likeminded individuals. Offer to do free work from time to time to help build up your portfolio. If you are talking with someone who may have residual projects for you, offer to do the first one for free under the condition that if they like it, they will give you a contract for the remaining videos. Network and negotiate.


9.     Being Afraid to Say No

This is a tough one for many filmmakers, especially those just starting out.  As your business begins to grow, you are going to be excited, overwhelmed, and hopefully, overworked. This does not mean you have to say yes to all projects that come upWhile it may be difficult to turn away work, quantity is not as important as quality.


10.  Technique before equipment

Of course, your equipment as a filmmaker makes a difference on the quality of your content. However, good equipment can only get you so far in the competitive world of filmmaking. Everyone in this field wants to be the next Spielberg – known for their creative genius, but few achieve such lofty goals. Even though showing up at your next shoot with a 50,000 RED camera sounds like it would ensure your success, it won’t.

 In fact, most of your clients, especially in the beginning, are not going to care about what you shoot on as long as you get the shots you need. Focus on learning the fundamentals and creating captivating, compelling content; prioritize technique and skill over equipment.

When you do go to purchase equipment, be sure to do your research, consider buying used equipment, and think about renting equipment before you purchase it (or if you only need a specific setup for a limited period).

The initial stages of opening any business are challenging. However, you are not the first to go through this experience. Take the time to listen to the advice of those who have gone before you. Make a conscious effort to understand the business side as well as you understand the artistic side of your exciting endeavor.

People always say that if you do what you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. You are already on the right track because you know what you are passionate about, so make it easier on yourself in the long run and set your business up for success from the beginning!

Chad Brown