Guest blogger, Producer Peter Ireland.
There’s no easy way to make an existential generalisation, so I’ll just dive in.
If you’re an emerging filmmaker, listening for wisdom, pushing yourself, hustling to get your projects into existence…I am you. You are me.
It’s very likely that our only point of difference, is that I have had the insane good fortune to have been on the Emerging Producer Placement Program (EPP), via Metro Screen and Screen NSW, for the last six months. This means I have observed a few things, gleaned some insights for emerging filmmakers on the ground, that I’m happy to bring back to the tribe.
The first thing you need to know, despite the cynicism and uncertainty in the arts, is that there are mountains of opportunity out there for you as a screen storyteller. This is a very real profession, and there is a place for you if you are willing to persevere and keep developing your voice. From funding, to box office results, to subscription VOD numbers, to original commissioning; there is a cornucopia of good news out there that points to the health of the industry. Films are being made. Episodic programs too. I’ve seen it first hand. There is a voracious hunger for engaging and original screen stories. All of these news bites should encourage you that, despite the disruption of new technologies on the film and television industry, the audience is out there for you.
The second thing you need to know, is that the barriers to entry can be high, but there is a way through if you approach with finesse and preparation. Industry professionals are naturally curious for new stories. They will read your script outline/screenplay. They will watch your trailer. They will hear your short elevator pitch. What a professional will absolutely NOT do, is give precious time to you, if you haven’t put an ounce of effort into your own project proposal. For you, this means writing a story outline of your script at least. If your concept is on the back of a bar napkin, or an idea floating in your head, it’s not good enough. If you haven’t practiced your thirty second elevator pitch, identifying the tone and the key story beats, it’s not good enough. If the pitch is simple enough that you could have shot some basic footage, or edited together some reference footage into a proof of concept, and you haven’t bothered, it’s not good enough. The less you prepare, the closer your chances of breaking through get to zero. Think and act like a professional.
Third, research, plan and know what you need to get your project made and into the world. Know the ‘gap’ between where you are now, and what it will take to get to that audience who are waiting for you. Is it funding? Is it crew? Is it distribution partners? Is it knowledge of how to write a feature film budget? Is it an Executive Producer, with the credits and the relationships to get your project into good shape and qualify you for development or production finance? What do you actually need? If you know what you need, you’ll know what to seek out, and you’ll understand what barriers your project needs to overcome.
And finally, be conscious everyday of enjoying the process. Australia has the highest number of single feature-film makers in the world. I believe, and have seen, that this is in large part because the goal of completing a project overrides the joy that can come from enjoying the creation process, warts and all. But you have to work at it. Through the frustrations, you have to consciously remind yourself that we are fortunate to be able to tell stories for a living. To know that this is a lifestyle, with no real “big break” moment. The journey never really ends, you just move onto the next story, and the process begins again; which can be a blessing if you love it.
I’ll see you on the frontier.