Stop asking permission to make your first feature. As a film producer, you do not need someone else to validate your talent. You do not need permission to be successful. Success doesn’t work that way. Success is attracted to you by the way you think and the actions you take.
In Hollywood, power is measured by your ability to get a movie made. Most people don’t have the power to make movies. Most people only have the power to say “NO!” And if you’re a filmmaker working to make your first feature, you’ve probably heard this word.
“NO, we don’t accept unsolicited submissions. And we don’t work with first-time filmmakers. No! We don’t think there is an upside to helping you make your first feature. No, we will not fund your movie. Go back to Idaho.”
Stop Asking Permission
You know what? I hate asking permission to make movies. Early in my career, I spent over two years trying to get a feature film going through the “permission route.” I had met a producer who had just produced a feature for $1.5 million. So I believed he had the credibility and power also to make my film. I was wrong.
Every time I tried to get this “film producer” to give me the green light on the picture, he responded with some new reason why the film wasn’t working. He would give me a list of stupid notes that didn’t make sense. This went on so long that one day I got fed up, and I had a thought. Why was I waiting for permission to raise money and produce my feature film?
At that exact moment, it was like I had permitted myself to rise above my limitations and create my success. Since that time, I have raised over 25M in private equity, producing multiple feature films. And here is what you need to know about becoming powerful:
The Powerful never ask permission to create their world.
Make Your First Feature
When powerful people want to accomplish something, they do it. Powerful people never ask someone else to produce their features. Instead, they look for collaborators and partners. “I’m producing a feature. Is this interesting to you? Would you like to collaborate?” This is a subtle, but profound mindset shift.
If you are working to make your first feature, your mindset is the number one thing that needs change. Think you can do it? You will find a way. And if you think you can’t do it, you’ll be right every time. One way to further reframe your thinking is to leverage the resources you already have.
“Given the resources that you have right now, what is the feature you can make within a year?”
This little question forces you to think creatively. Answering it allowed me to get my first feature made. Unfortunately, it took me several years to figure this out. And learning from my mishaps, I believe adopting this “no permission needed” philosophy can accelerate your film producing career.
Your Mindset Is Most Important
Going beyond this question, the big reason you may not make your first feature is fear. If you’re like most creative types, you’re afraid of failure. What if you make your first feature and you find out you don’t have talent? What will you do with your career then?
This sort of fear is self-made fiction. The truth is, any movie you produce this year will suck in ten years through the lens of your experience. So knowing your work will suck anyway, you may as well make your first feature now. And even if your movie fails miserably in festivals and never garners traditional distribution, you’ve still accomplished a great feat. And you can learn from this, change your approach, and make an even better feature next time.
I believe success is possible for anyone smart enough to read this. And if Hollywood power is defined by your ability to make movies, there is only one course of action. You need to take action and make your movie now!
Level Up To Your First Feature
If you’re not ready to make your first feature, you can do something today. Shut off your computer, get your hands on a phone, and start making short videos for YouTube. Focus on creating funny shorts that can take place in limited locations with just a few characters. Or make horror shorts, or dramatic shorts, or whatever genre you love.
You’re welcome to get ambitious. This will help you find cost-effective and creative ways to tell your story without much money. And that is precisely the point of this exercise. If you condition yourself to stretch dollars on a small scale and still create compelling stories, these skills will be invaluable when you level up.
After a few of these small projects, you’ll naturally gain the confidence to try bigger projects. When it comes time to make your first feature, you’ll have experience and a body of work. And depending on your movie marketing plan, you might even have a pretty good YouTube audience. All of these small steps build up to a much bigger career. Take action!