5 Red Flags you’re not serious about filmmaking

by | Feb 25, 2023 | Blog, Directing, Filmmaking, Producing, Production, Screenwriting

How do you know you’re serious about being a filmmaker? 

Here are some red flags that might reveal you’re not as serious as you think you are. No shame here, but hoping this lights a fire for you to change things up and motivate you to go after your goals and make your dreams come true. 

#1-You’re not learning about filmmaking.

If you’re not making a film then you can be learning, finding inspiration and getting ideas about making your film. There are millions of podcasts and Youtube channels constantly churning out free educational content, (not to mention books) that will help you, inspire you and light a fire to get those films made. To quantify it, every week you can do at least one thing to move your filmmaking goals and career forward and one of those things is learning. I listen to a podcast at least daily.  I also meet with a screenwriting group weekly. Activate your film goals by doing something like this weekly. When/if you do this, you are serious.

#2-You don’t have a specific film project you are working on. 

After listening to all that great, free film school you hopefully have a film ready to go. Do you have the story?  Do you have a script ready or at least in the works? If you do, you are a serious filmmaker. (Producers: read this blog I wrote about what it takes to be a rockstar producer). If you don’t have a film project ready to go, you are not serious about your craft. So, I ask why don’t you? (Excuses see red flag #4) Most serious filmmakers have many projects, multiple scripts in the works because they can take so long at different production phases. This leads to my next red flag.

#3-You don’t have a film production on your calendar. 

Ok, so if you have at least one script somewhat ready to go (nice!), why are you not planning to make it? If you want to be a filmmaker, you have to make films. Again, I don’t make the rules. But you have to make a film to call yourself a filmmaker. (Otherwise you’re just a film thinker. Ha, sorry). So, have you made a film in the last year? Celebrate. Are you planning to make a film this year? You have twelve months in a year. Plan it out. Pre-production on a short can be one to three months. Production can be one to seven days. Post can be one to three months. You can make at least ONE short film in a year if not two or three. So why are you not?  The biggest lie we tell ourselves as filmmakers is “some day I’ll make a film.” 

Recently I had Keena Ferguson, multi-hyphenate filmmaker in Los Angeles, on my live show. Keena said she puts her movies on her calendar regardless of having the money or cast because that type of commitment incentivizes actually doing it. Creative people like us are good at talking about projects but we have to get better about bringing those projects to life. Just put it on the calendar otherwise…

#4-You’re making excuses.

“I don’t have the money, my go-to DP is too busy, my editor quit on me.” I’ve said these things because it has all happened to me. I never seem to have all the support I need, especially when it comes to the funding. (See # 3 on my producer’s blog). If you want to be a filmmaker you have to do away with excuses and find a way to get stuff done. “Brave your way” as we say at BraveMaker (we even have t-shirts). There will never be enough money. People will always not be available for you and there will always be people who ghost, quit and flat out just don’t show up. Welcome to filmmaking. But don’t let these things stop you. Real talk: Make it simple. You need a script, an actor or two (and yes you can make a film with one actor), a camera (can be a phone) a sound recorder and an editor. Sounds easier said than done but don’t make it so complicated. Start small, start somewhere. Get it done and then build up bigger and better. Your first, second and third films are probably not gonna get an Oscar nomination but be real. If you are censoring yourself because you think your work won’t garner awards, you’re not in this for the right reasons.

Excuses often come from a real place of fear and real challenges, problems that make it hard to do our work. It’s scary and full of disappointment and rejection. Fellow BraveMaker blogger Jason Fong wrote about how to deal with rejection (as an actor) and I think if we want to be serious about this work we have to figure out how to cope with all the difficult, ridiculous forces that come against us. They can be surmountable at times. 

I feel like a lot of my life has been me waiting around for that email, text, phone call from someone who’s going to “make my project.” I was constantly waiting for an agent, manager, executive producer, a donor, friend etc to help me out. Sometimes they do, a lot of times they don’t (it seems). I got tired of waiting and had to take the reins and make my films a reality. In 2023 the two short films I have in the works have all come out of my pocket. They wouldn’t have been on the calendar if I didn’t take a leap of faith and believe in myself. And the beauty of this being able to create stories that give actors and crew opportunities to work that can lead to creating a production team that can lead to more filmmaking. 

#5-You don’t have a crew of frequent creative collaborators. 

Sure, there are some very select filmmakers who can do it all. Film, record sound, edit, act, compose, etc. But most of us need at least one or two ride or dies, if not five of them. We need those trustworthy (not always easy to find) talented and committed people who show up when they’re supposed to, follow through and are good to work with (and even better if those collaborators can help shoulder the fundraising). I have my go-to cast and crew and I’m always looking to build more of those types of people that work hard, are fun to be with and believe in my films and my vision. It can take a while if not a lifetime to build this, but it’s worth it. When you find those people it makes it easier to get your films made. So get out there, attend film mixers, text up your friends, get make it happen. It can start with you!

Now go make a movie. Greenlight yourself. Turn these red flags into green flags. 

If I can help, let me know. 

BraveMaker is all about making films and doing it with people that love the art and craft of storytelling to create meaningful stories that educate, entertain and create conversations and community experiences. 

Comment below and let me know what you think.