What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

This filmmaking article is challenging to write. The reason for this is simple. It is tough to admit that a movie you made (that you once thought was brilliant) totally sucks.

Cringing at the sight of your old work is a good sign. The emotion means that you’re growing as an artist. But I don’t know. After having made a few feature films and prior to that, a whole bunch of shorts – I can tell you that many of my movies are embarrassing.

Don’t believe me? Check out this little gem I produced over a decade ago:

Watching this movie makes me queasy. Aside from the fact I once thought it was brilliant, poetic and profound… Full transparency here – I actually sent this out to people. Hollywood people. And worse, I was convinced that having such a great movie would assure my success in the movie industry.

As you can imagine, my big break did not come. Nobody wrote me back. Nobody cared about my movie. And I had to go back to my crappy day job with hope no-longer springing eternal. I was discouraged. I thought my career was over.

What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

Luckily I had a group of filmmaker friends who encouraged me to keep going. So I kept making movies. Through the process, my friends reminded me not to worry if my filmmaking sucks. One friend even told me to make as many bad movies as possible – That way I could get all the stupid ideas out of my head.

Thankfully I kept going. Over time, I successfully produced my first feature. And after that, a few more. So in the event your filmmaking sucks, I want to share the following tips with you:

  1. Accept the fact that your first five movies are going to suck, no matter how brilliant you are. Make your first five movies so you can get past the suck.
  2. Surround yourself with a team of good people. You cannot attain filmmaking success alone. You will need the support, feedback and collaboration of other like-minded creatives to keep going.
  3. Realize that some sucky movies still make money. I include this tip to remind you that sucky movies get produced all the time. Many of these movies find an audience. Many of these movies make money.

Here are two examples of movies that should not have worked (but became successful!)

Birdemic: Often referred to as the worst movie ever made, the story reveals what happens when you screw with nature. This movie was so successful, they produced a Birdemic sequel.

The Room: I don’t know what to say about this movie. I have seen it and it frankly makes very sense. But it is remarkable. And special props to Tommy Wiseau – he now describes the movie as a “quirky black comedy” as well as “the best movie of the year.”

It is important to remember that every filmmaker starts somewhere. Maybe your first movie won’t win an Oscar. Maybe your third movie will have poor lighting. But sooner or later, if you keep working on your craft – you will learn from your mistakes. You’ll get better. You will achieve great things.

If you are interested in learning how to get your movie made, seen and sold, you might want to check out my professional filmmaking tools.


How To Avoid Your Biggest Filmmaking Mistake

The biggest filmmaking mistake you can make is waiting for someone else to give you permission make movies.

Believe me. I’m speaking from experience.

After college, I was like a lot of people. I wanted to make movies, but I had no idea how to get started. As a result, I took the conventional route. I spent a whole lot of time sending out resumes to production companies.

I know what you’re thinking – Sending resumes to Hollywood from rural Pennsylvania was a huge filmmaking mistake. . .

Back then, I actually thought the only way I could be taken seriously as a filmmaker was to work for a major studio like Warner Brothers. And the problem was, none of the studios had heard of me. Nor were they willing to see value in my lack of experience.


Your Biggest Filmmaking Mistake

Back then, it was easy to make excuses. I mean, do you blame me?

Nobody in my small, rural, farm oriented hometown knew anybody in the movie industry. And every time I sent a resume to New York or Los Angeles, I was ignored.

I could have quit.

It would have been easy to get a job selling insurance. (But that would have been a blunder of a filmmaking mistake.)

And in retrospect, I realize my experience is like a lot of filmmakers.

Does this sound familiar?  You have the passion to make movies, but you have no idea how to get started. You don’t have a camera. You don’t have a Hollywood network. You don’t have money.

These excuses will stop you if you let them.

To be perfectly frank with you, these excuses almost stopped me. But one day I heard this quote from the famed success guru Brian Tracy. He said: “You can have anything you want in life if you are willing to pay the price.”

Quitting would have been a filmmaking mistake.

I wasn’t sure what it meant to pay the price. Again, like you, I didn’t have much money.

But what I had was time and the willingness to do whatever it took to get what I wanted. For me, that meant finding a local video production company. Since I didn’t have a business relationship, I cold called them. I got the owner on the phone – He said they didn’t have any availability. They were not looking to hire.

But that didn’t stop me.

Through sheer determination and boldness, I talked the owner into meeting me.

During our meeting, we hit it off. While they didn’t have the budget for a new production assistant, the owner offered to let me work as a janitor.

Imagine coming out of college and working as a janitor.

I could have rejected this job. Many filmmakers would be insulted at the prospect. Many would pass up the job. But that would have been a major filmmaking mistake.

I took the job because I saw it as opportunity. Cleaning the office got me in the room. And once in the room, I made friends with the production team.

In the weeks that followed, I started getting invited to set and was able to participate in productions. Months later, the owner of the company put me in touch with a former intern, turned New York producer.

This producer eventually hired me for my first job in New York.

From there, I made friends with a new production crew. Those connections led to an indie producer. I became his assistant and learned how to make movies. In the process, I learned how to stop asking permission. I learned how to make things happen. I stopped making excuses.

And that made all the difference.

It would have been a major filmmaking mistake to quit. And while nobody enjoys mopping floors and cleaning toilets – I found that if your vision is strong enough, nothing can stop you. The crappy jobs are stepping stones. There is no shame in doing them. The only shame is giving up. And giving up is your biggest filmmaking mistake.

If you’re ready to stop making excuses and start making movies, I invite you to explore these professional filmmaking resources.

3 Reasons You Will Fail In Filmmaking (Avoid The Excuses)

Do you want to know the top 3 reasons you will fail at filmmaking? Or better yet, would you like to know how to avoid the excuses and become a filmmaking success? If so, you’re in the right place.

Every week I share my filmmaking thoughts in a newsletter broadcast to over 10,000 filmmakers. And if you’re serious about filmmaking, my newsletter offers tips and tactics on how to get your movie made, seen and sold without waiting around and asking permission.

(I can’t stand asking for permission to make movies.)

With that said, whenever I do an email blast, I get a lot of responses from filmmakers. And while most of these responses are positive – I also get a lot of email from filmmakers telling me why they can’t make a movie. These responses are full of limiting excuses.

And in our short time together, I’d like to help you avoid these.

3 Reasons You Will Fail In Filmmaking

Photo © olly / Dollar Photo Club

3 Reasons You Will Fail In Filmmaking (Avoid The Excuses)

In order to save you the trouble, I thought I would take a moment to echo the top 3 reasons you will fail as a filmmaker.

Excuse #1 “I Don’t Have The Money

I get this one. This was my excuse for almost a decade. Then I got smart. I started hanging out with other filmmakers and instead of focusing on what we lacked, we started focusing on the things we had. One question changed everything: “Given the resources that we have right now, what is the movie we can make this year?” Answering this question enabled us to produce our first feature.

And this was before crowdfunding. Do you understand how crowdfunding changes everything?

Excuse #2 “I Don’t Have The Equipment”

A decade ago, I saved up an entire summer and bought a used Arri BL 16mm camera and a few rolls of 16mm film. I then spent a weekend shooting my first short. After that, I spent the entire fall and winter saving up enough money to process the film, transfer it to video and then edit it.

These days, you can get an inexpensive movie camera for a few hundred dollars that will produce footage without the fuss of film. The days of saving all summer to capture footage are over.

Excuse #3 I Don’t Know Anybody In The Movie Industry”

This is probably the excuse that makes me the most concerned for your future. Do you realize that you don’t need to know anybody in the movie industry? At least not yet. For your first few features, forget about Hollywood. Instead focus on building your audience.

Utilize crowdfunding to raise money and test your movie concept. Build your mailing list. Then tap into internet movie distribution. Seriously, does it matter how your movie gets into iTunes?

The truth is, everybody starts at the same place. You get an idea for a project. You get an idea for the person you want to become. You wonder if you are crazy. Then your friends and family make fun of you. But you decide to take action anyway. You pick up a pen and paper and make a check list of how to make your movie.

A big reason filmmakers fail at filmmaking is because many believe the excuses. But not you. You are smarter and more creative and capable of making movies.

The question is – will you take action?

Or will you sit around coming up with excuses why you can’t make your movie?

How To Start (and keep) A Career In Film

If you’re looking for a career in film, you’re not alone. Each year, thousands of ambitious Hollywood hopefuls arrive in Los Angeles, eager to climb the entertainment ladder.

Unlike you, most of these people come unprepared to face the competitive landscape. Many never take time to create a plan. And many Hollywood hopefuls simply don’t understand the golden rule of Hollywood Success.

The Best Advice For A Career In Film

A few years back, I sat down with Nina Jacobson. She’s a well respected studio producer and a great person. During our meeting, she provided some essential advice that I’ve been rolling around in my mind ever since. She said that the most important asset you have is your reputation. And for this reason, your credibility is more important than money.

The reason for this is simple. Nobody makes movies alone. Having a successful career in film is dependent on how other people view you. In your quest to make a living making movies, people will either hinder you or help you. Relationships are everything.

This isn’t just true for the movie industry. It’s true for all aspects of your life.

Zig Ziglar - A career in film following Zig's advice

Zig Ziglar – Photo from Wikipedia.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Quote by Zig Ziglar

One easy way to build credibility is to help GOOD people reach their goals. Approach each new person with a caring intention. Ask yourself: “How can I help this filmmaker get closer to his or her goals?”

When you come up when an answer, do what you say you’re going to do. And do it fast. Nothing will help you gain success faster than delivering value to other people. Relationships are everything!

How To Start (and keep) A Career In Film

If you need some additional help with your networking, you might benefit from the Indie Producer’s Guide to film fiance. In it, there are major sections devoted to helping you build beneficial relationships with hard to reach, prospective investors and Hollywood heavy-weights. You can learn more about the guide here.

Changes In The Movie Industry

Yesterday I had breakfast with a studio executive from one of the Majors here in Los Angeles. Much of what we talked about revolved around changes in the movie industry and how many of the studio folks are slow to implement new ideas.

With an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 independent movies flooding the market each year, the movie industry is experiencing what happens to any industry when cheap labor, inexpensive production technology and efficient distribution enters the equation. Your once high priced product is now competing with cheaply produced, comparable goods.

In the past, studios controlled distribution which provided immunity from outside competition. So even if you made a movie – odds were good it would never get into the mainstream market. But the internet has forever changed this. These days, any filmmaker can get their title into digital markets like iTunes, Hulu and Amazon.

To put it into perspective, let’s say you have the biggest and best Frozen Yogurt shop on your street. Then one day, over 10,000 small Frozen Yogurt shop competitors open shop next to you. What would happen? Would you spend more to market? Would you create flavors nobody else could emulate? How would you keep the business?

This is the dilemma with the studios. And this is also your dilemma as an indie filmmaker.  With all the competition, how will you make your movies profitable?