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April 12, 2012

Becoming a PROFESSIONAL Filmmaker

by Howard Suber

Professionals in all fields have a way of looking at the world, a set of values and procedures that tells them what they need to pay attention to and what they can ignore, those things that are either relevant or irrelevant to their goal and method of work. So, too, do filmmakers.

“Anyone can make a movie,” is true in the same sense that anyone can play baseball or write a sonnet, but few become a Babe Ruth or a William Shakespeare.  Becoming a professional requires not only a higher degree of skill than most people obtain; it also requires a mindset about the profession that is quite different from that of the weekend golfer, open mike comedian, or summer filmmaker.

Many books try to help you appreciate and understand how films work. (I’ve written one myself, The Power of Film.) A slew of others tell you how to write screenplays or master the technical aspects of filmmaking. This book is not about these things.  It is about the process of becoming a professional filmmaker.   

Professional filmmaking involves (1) the creative process, and (2) the process that makes creation possible. Novelists, painters, or poets can wake up every morning, immediately begin creating and continue doing so all day long. If they have the inner resources and will, they can do this every day of their lives. They don’t need anybody else’s permission or support to begin working, and they can complete their creative works all by themselves.

Professional filmmakers are not so fortunate. While screenwriters can write “on spec” to their heart’s content (although few do, and even fewer do so for very long), directors, actors, producers, cinematographers, editors, etc. can’t begin to work until all of the many elements required to complete the film have been provided, especially, the large sums of money and large numbers of people who are required to make a feature film. As a result, most filmmakers spend only a fraction of their lives actually creating films and spend far more time trying to get their films made.

This book is based on the idea that the combination of creativity and an understanding of the realities of how films get made are what makes one a professional filmmaker.

This is an excerpt from Letters to Young Filmmakers/Creativity and Getting Your Films Made. Copyright (c) 2012 Howard Suber

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