How To Break Into The Film Industry

How to Break Into The Film Industry

The way you are going to break into the film industry is by answering this question, “What are you really good at that the film industry values, according to you and others?”

Is it in creating beautiful frames and capturing defined shadows? Is it in designing a soothing soundscape that the audience can melt into? Is it in creating wonderful characters and stories around them that people can see themselves in? Is it in becoming a character and portraying it masterfully in front of a camera?

What Are You Good At?

You have to choose. And choose not only based on your own observations, but also based on what others whom you trust tell you you are good at. Then you know you are not bluffing yourself.

If you are good at it, you will keep doing it, over and over. By making your own mistakes you will find what works for you and what doesn’t. You’ll find what the industry wants and doesn’t.

To be able to make your own mistakes you need to be in those positions where you can experiment. An actor needs to be on set/stage acting, a writer needs to be writing scripts/stories and so on.

How to Break Into The Film Industry as an Actor

If you are an aspiring actor just waiting for an opportunity to act, then you are probably doing it wrong. If you are not getting cast in feature films, then maybe find theatres groups nearby and act in that. Acting is acting, be it in films, theatre, ads or wherever. It, like any other craft, is honed only with constant practice. If even theatres are not hiring you find people who are making short films and act in that.

If no one is casting you in short films, even after offering to act for free, or driving them around, or offering to buy their food, then you need to really ask yourselves the question “why”. Have you done the work? Have you studied acting? Have you stood in front of an audience/camera and believably became a character? What can you show to make the director trust you to deliver a satisfactory result on screen?

Breaking in Faster

If you need things to happen faster, write your own short stories and create your own short films. Convince your jobless friend who is interested in photography with the latest camera to shoot your short film over the weekend. If no friend will help out, do it solo.

In 1995 nobody was casting Vin Diesel (of Fast & Furious). He needed to do something and out of his frustration he directed a short film about that. It got seen by Steven Spielberg and cast him in Saving Private Ryan and you know where he is now.

If it is a filmmaker you want to be, you can either be creatively coming with excuses—the producer isn’t giving money, or the actor didn’t give you dates, or someone stole the script—or you can make a film. In this day and age, if you are not making films on your own, you are only fooling yourself. If we can do it, so can you.

“If you absolutely need something, you will in time find a way. Else it is only something you would like to have.”

We need to learn to take responsibility and accountability of where we need to be and work towards it. If you do not do that, nothing bad is going to happen to you. You will remain where you are, dreaming of a so and so life, forever.

Take The Risk on Yourself

Be in those places where you have to make it happen or die. If you can’t put your whole life on line for what you believe you are good at, and what other trustworthy people tell you are good at, you are not ready.

Few years back an aspiring actor was dead broke. He wasn’t getting cast in any role anywhere. He attempted to write screenplays, so that he could then act in it. For one of the scripts he wrote, a studio one day offered him $125,000, but they did not want to cast in the role. He turned it down.

The studio wanted the script and offered him $250,000. His wife had left him. He had to sell his dog, his only companion, for $300 to even keep himself fed. He was that broke and still he said no, because he knew where he needed to be and was ready to get there or die trying.

The studio raised their offer to $325,000 and still he turned it down. They finally agreed. But paid him only $35,000 and cast him. The film went went on to win that year’s Oscars, including being nominated for best actor and screenplay. His career skyrocketed from there, spanning borders and become one of the biggest action heroes.

You guessed it right. The film’s name was Rocky and the actor was none other than Sylvester Stallone.

You Will Break Into The Film Industry

Build up your knowledge and break your fears one by one. Expand your comfort zone, little by little, taking small jumps. Eventually people will give you whatever resources you need. Directors will cast you because you have now built a following and trust that you can deliver on screen. Producers will give you the money to go make your film because you’ve earned the money back in your previous films. A star will give you dates because people seem to always fall in love with your characters in every one of your films.

And because of all the works you’ve done, the mistakes you’ve made, the lessons learnt, the skills you acquired, when that opportunity comes, you will have honed your craft so well that you can take it on without fear and deliver.

Pick something that the industry values that you are really good at, not only according to you but also according to others whom you trust. Keep doing it with conviction and courage, building up your skill and confidence. If you are doing something that you love that the industry wants, it is inevitable that you find your place and break in.

Additional Resources

Hey Aspiring Filmmaker,

I debuted my film career making a feature film for ₹5 lakhs ($7,000) on an iPhone. I’d like to help you do the same. So I wrote everything I learned into a book. It is now available on Amazon, called The Indian Indie Film (or Make Your Film for rest of the world). Enjoy!

Follow My Work