• For posts related to budget, finanace, legalities, distro, and marketing (including festivals) please post in Film Biz.
    Rule of thumb:
    Filmmaking for directors (creative)
    Film Biz for producers (buisness)

directing How would you best spend 50K and free time to start a directing “career”?

Let me know if this is the wrong category to post under.


I’m a former software engineer, and an LA native. Due to the DINK life, I’ve saved up 50K specifically for filmmaking - directing being my dream career - and the ability to take a few years off of work. Living expenses are covered; the 50K is purely for trying to start a directing career.

I have no filmmaking experience, but I’ve been studying the process for the past couple of years. (Read all of the popular screenwriting and directing books, wrote a few shorts, watched relevant Masterclasses, etc.) Still consider myself a practical novice, but not completely uninformed.

My current plan is to use the 50K to become proficient. I’d spend the next couple of years writing and shooting 10-15 shorts to sort of shake off the beginner-ness. During this time I’d write a low budget genre feature (thriller/horror), and hopefully link with a producer who could help raise something like 200-500K with the best of my shorts serving as a “resume”.

On the other hand, I’m wondering if I should instead volunteer on as many sets as possible over the next 2 years, shoot 2-3 shorts for 10K, and use the remaining 40K for a micro-budget feature. I figure having a feature (granted it’s good) would make it easier to raise for a larger one than having some good shorts.

One path gets me more directing experience before diving into a feature, the other - I think - increases my chances of raising money for a larger feature (thus kickstarting a “career”)

What would you do with 50K to start a career? Is there a third option I’m not thinking of?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
A directing career sounds like you want to be a working director, not a filmmaker that suffers for his/her art and makes no money unless they make just the right film at the right time to jumpstart that career. A needle in a haystack. If this is the case, you are seeking a career in directing (like a day job/steady job) I'd try to get some AD (Assistant Director) work, or some form of production work in the production office, network, and work your way up.
 
A directing career sounds like you want to be a working director, not a filmmaker that suffers for his/her art and makes no money unless they make just the right film at the right time to jumpstart that career. A needle in a haystack. If this is the case, you are seeking a career in directing (like a day job/steady job) I'd try to get some AD (Assistant Director) work, or some form of production work in the production office, network, and work your way up.

Not to highjack the thread but in regard to the bolded portion, since OP has no filmmaking experience, what would be the best way to go about doing this? I'm not in the same boat as OP but somewhat similar. How do you get that entry level crap job? Thanks.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Let me know if this is the wrong category to post under.


I’m a former software engineer, and an LA native. Due to the DINK life, I’ve saved up 50K specifically for filmmaking - directing being my dream career - and the ability to take a few years off of work. Living expenses are covered; the 50K is purely for trying to start a directing career.

I have no filmmaking experience, but I’ve been studying the process for the past couple of years. (Read all of the popular screenwriting and directing books, wrote a few shorts, watched relevant Masterclasses, etc.) Still consider myself a practical novice, but not completely uninformed.

My current plan is to use the 50K to become proficient. I’d spend the next couple of years writing and shooting 10-15 shorts to sort of shake off the beginner-ness. During this time I’d write a low budget genre feature (thriller/horror), and hopefully link with a producer who could help raise something like 200-500K with the best of my shorts serving as a “resume”.

On the other hand, I’m wondering if I should instead volunteer on as many sets as possible over the next 2 years, shoot 2-3 shorts for 10K, and use the remaining 40K for a micro-budget feature. I figure having a feature (granted it’s good) would make it easier to raise for a larger one than having some good shorts.

One path gets me more directing experience before diving into a feature, the other - I think - increases my chances of raising money for a larger feature (thus kickstarting a “career”)

What would you do with 50K to start a career? Is there a third option I’m not thinking of?

Ridley Scott started with commercials and then transitioned into film.... if you did commercials you could recoupe some of that money.
If you did 15 short films.. all the money is gone.
 

Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
On the other hand, I’m wondering if I should instead volunteer on as many sets as possible over the next 2 years,

IMHO, this is the place to start. Work any job you can get on any project you can find. This is your first film school. The negative lessons are at least as important as the positive lessons. You also start to build your local network, those with whom you would like to work and whom you would not. Network, network, network!!!

As you have ZERO experience you need to learn the basics. What does the production sound team do? Gaffers? Production design? H/MU? Post production? Marketing? And the dozens of other crafts involved in making quality films, including the 'boring' jobs such as accounting, and the service crafts like food, sanitation, safety. You will never become expert at any of them, but you will have to know how they operate and the 'mind-set' so you can communicate with them efficiently and creatively.

There are plenty of videos and plenty of books. My gig is audio post. For that aspect of filmmaking, may I suggest:

The Location Sound Bible - Ric Viers
Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art - John Purcell
The Foley Grail: The Art of Performing Sound for Film, Games, and Animation - Vanessa Theme Ament
The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects - Ric Viers
Audio Postproduction for Film and Video - Jay Rose
Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound - David Yewdall
Audio-Vision - Michel Chion
Sound Design - David Sonnenschein

These books look at the creative aspects of those crafts in addition to the technical aspects. I'm sure that there are other books about the other film crafts.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
He's in LA too so working on sets, paid or not, super easy, just get your hustle on. Over here in NY when I was doing that, I was even picky, and chose directors I wanted to work with... as a PA/intern/whatever. I'd be like, oh I really like so-and-so's work let me call their office. Bam. Get at it man.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I suggest you get a years worth of on set experience – volunteering
on as many sets as possible. Connect with other people. You want
to direct; find someone who wants to DP and someone who want's
to produce. Not someone to raise money, a producer to produce.
You have the money to make several short films. During that time
write at least three shootable feature scripts and half a dozen shorts.

After that first year, keep volunteering on films and make three to five
short films that you finance and someone else produces. Maybe even
direct some commercials as sfoster suggests.

At the end of those two years you will have a better idea of where
your passion and talent lay. (or is it lie? - I dropped out of high school)

Check the local film schools and offer to help on projects. There are
hundreds of people trying to get on sets and that can be tough to start.
Film students always need people to help.

Another great way to meet filmmakers and get some experience it to
sign up as crew for the 48 Hour Film Project.
 

Nate North

Business Member
indieBIZ
I noted that no one offered any advice about the money. I understand why, but since it was in the post title, I'll address it. 50k isn't going to make any kind of dent in a problem like that, and all the above advice is good. Specifically about what I would do, and have done, with money to facilitate the above is as follows.

Get a laptop with an emphasis on portability. An Ipad will work, and can be had for $350. Ipad pro is better, a light tablet pc with foldout keyboard even better. The reason is to allow you to communicate and organize well on the go. Technically you can do all this on a decent modern phone, but things like working with others on storyboards on the go is easier with a larger screen that several people can gather around.. You probably already have this.

Second, and I'll get pushback on this I'm sure, but spend a small amount on wardrobe. People are more superficial than they would like to believe, and if you dress well, it will give you stat bonuses to cultivating respect with the people on the projects you work on. No need to go to extremes, just picture yourself in a group photo, and dress in a way where you stand out a bit. It makes you A: more self confident B: appear to others as someone with their act together, a plus for a director obviously C: people tend to notice you and engage you in conversations more often, facilitating networking opportunities. A single grand spent creatively on wardrobe can be effective. Obviously don't wear a suit for lighting jobs, etc, but if you can land a position in a small gig where a suit makes sense, it can work. Dress for the job you want.

Make a petty cash fund and use it to keep up minor nickel and dime subscriptions. Google drive, CampfireBlaze, just 5 and dime recurring stuff that give you minor edges in pitches, presentations, organization, etc. In short, pay your maintenance bills.

If you want to spend a little bit on something, you might want to buy a basic camera and sound rig, very basic, like under a grand combined, maybe a cheap amazon gimbal and a video capable dslr. This will not really help you directly, but what it will do is give you an entry point into learning about aspects of film firsthand. You cannot imagine the respect I lost for a director on a recent shoot when he gave me the deer in headlights look when I asked him what lenses we would use. I know some disagree with me, but I actually hate working with any director who doesn't know the basics of film. A few months shooting with a real camera can help a lot with that. My personal rule is that I don't give instructions to people when I don't know what I'm talking about. That may sound super obvious, but this is the age of narcissism, and people do it all the time, simply to look important. I've repeatedly over the years brought my cine camera to a set, only to find a month later that people on set have had their picture taken with it, and simply typed the word director underneath the picture and then posted it on social media, without even knowing where the power button was located.

Most of what you need to spend is paid in sweat equity. Once you've spent every dime you need to to optimize for your original question, you should have 48 grand left. If you want to make a giant splash with some particular crew on an indie project, learn about digital adspace, and help out production X that way. You can take a grand, and turn an indie project no one ever sees, into something a half million people see. A move like that will really make you stand out to that group of people.

Overall, and I think everyone above agrees with this, it's more about what you do and who you are than it is about money. Where money comes in is that often you can't do certain actions without it, and that limits who you are. If I had 50k to spare, I'd put in in the bank, and consider it an investment in keeping options open. Trust me there is no worse feeling than knowing exactly what to do, not having enough money to choose the option you know is correct, then facing unearned ridicule later for not picking an option you simply could not afford to. Happens way more often than you might imagine.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Not to highjack the thread but in regard to the bolded portion, since OP has no filmmaking experience, what would be the best way to go about doing this? I'm not in the same boat as OP but somewhat similar. How do you get that entry level crap job? Thanks.
A production office is like any other office. They hire front desk help, shipping and receiving help, office assistants, and various other positions. What you should so is look for these jobs but also let them know you have filmmaking ambitions/experience.
 
IMHO, this is the place to start. Work any job you can get on any project you can find. This is your first film school. The negative lessons are at least as important as the positive lessons. You also start to build your local network, those with whom you would like to work and whom you would not. Network, network, network!!!

As you have ZERO experience you need to learn the basics. What does the production sound team do? Gaffers? Production design? H/MU? Post production? Marketing? And the dozens of other crafts involved in making quality films, including the 'boring' jobs such as accounting, and the service crafts like food, sanitation, safety. You will never become expert at any of them, but you will have to know how they operate and the 'mind-set' so you can communicate with them efficiently and creatively.
This threat is gettig more and mre interesting ...

This may depend on te projects you get. I remember a friend of mine who went this way many years ago. He could not find the right (unpaid) jobs, but wanted to be part of real professional film projects. So he ended up with beeing the driver, set runner, that sort of thing. To my understanding this will not help much. We need to learn from those who do a decent good job, not other beginners.

So getting back to the start of this theat: If someone has three years and 50K, what is the best way?
3 years is not a lot of time. So it is important to get jobs that advance your skills as director.

ulution
 
I'm on this journey. I want to write, produce and direct. To get there, here's what I did:

1. Joined IndieTalk.
2. Went on other peoples' productions. Bought some sound gear and learned how to use it so I could be useful.
3. Shot my own shorts. Learned camera so I could shoot the stuff myself and didn't have to pay a DoP and direct DoPs.
4. Became a professional and am now shooting corporate etc... stuff.
5. Have written 10+ features. Will shoot one of these next year. Will direct, be on camera and produce so I don't have to pay anyone. Will pay a sound guy.

If it was my money, I'd spend:

$5k USD on camera kit
$5k USD on sound gear
$5k USD on laptop with FCP and Motion.

Write 20 shorts then shoot and edit 5 of them: $5k USD.
Write one amazing short and shoot and edit it: $2k USD
Write 10 features. Shoot one, cheap one: $5k USD

At this point, upgrade the camera kit: Another $7k USD

$15k USD: Shoot a feature, including hiring a low grade 'name' actor who might give you commercial potential. If you get distribution, can start making money from it.
 
I would save that cash in an interest earning account for now, and then use it as a spec feature account after you are finished suffering through working for other productions, and finally want to test your own skills.

As you are working for other productions, you can slowly learn what works, what doesn't, and who you like to be with in the future.

Then, when you are full of skills and connections, why not start writing your feature length script or get someone to write it for you. Pay them some cashola and get a really good spec script ready.

Slowly develop your spec script, and then when you are really really ready and have everything prepared (pitch deck, script, budget, etc.) launch a little crowdfunding campaign and make a shorter version of the spec script into a short. This will gauge things like audience feedback and interest, while also saving your money for a bigger version of the film, while also getting possible producers or other people interested in your feature spec.

At least this is the plan for me, when I finally retire from military service and start out on my own. After starting my own production LLC and saving up wedding vid money.
 
Write 20 shorts then shoot and edit 5 of them: $5k USD.
Write one amazing short and shoot and edit it: $2k USD
Write 10 features. Shoot one, cheap one: $5k USD

At this point, upgrade the camera kit: Another $7k USD

$15k USD: Shoot a feature, including hiring a low grade 'name' actor who might give you commercial potential. If you get distribution, can start making money from it.
This seems like a plausible recommendation from my point of view. If you can do that in a couple of years off from regular work (see starting theat) is another question.
 
This seems like a plausible recommendation from my point of view. If you can do that in a couple of years off from regular work (see starting theat) is another question.

I took longer to do it but if I were to do it again and had $50k kicking around, this is what I'd do. I think 3 years and this budget is more than feasible. My journey took 7 years to become professional.

But then again, I had a messy, expensive divorce to deal with which took all my time and money.

Also, I'd suggest finding someone else to talk to about stuff. Someone who believes in the goal and can give a little direction. A major issue for me was trying to work my way between all the advice to find the good stuff.
 
Last edited:
I took longer to do it but if I were to do it again and had $50k kicking around, this is what I'd do. I think 3 years and this budget is more than feasible. My journey took 7 years to become professional.
Thanks for the explanation. I was not so much referring to the 50k, rather to "Write 20 shorts then shoot and edit 5 of them", this sort of advice. That sounds the real advice in it. And, if you really go down to how to do it, I also figure out that each one will be minimum 1K roughly.
 
Top