In this essay I will discuss my chosen specialism, my end goals and how I will achieve them by researching different career pathways. Furthermore, I will research and analyse my specialism and look into the issues that affect it in the changing film industry. For my specialism I have chosen to look into directing fiction films as it is the aspect of film that I am most passionate about and enjoy. To reach these goals I will take the independent film path, by gaining work experience and creating my own films, whilst seeking funding to help my films develop. Throughout this essay I will discuss these points in more detail.
My end goal is to become a director of independent fiction films, I will research and develop this in my essay.
To help understand and achieve my end goal, I need to look into styles and techniques that are being used in fiction directing currently. It’s important to look into what’s being used now to help me develop as a filmmaker. Specifically, I want to look at films with political themes, as it is an area I’m interested in going into.
The themes of political films change over time, alining with what the major problems are in the current time period. A lot of political films currently are focusing on equality between gender, race and wealth.
Wealth has always been a major theme in political films as it’s always been an issue which people focus on. However, the main change that there’s been in the last 50 years of political filmmaking is how it is presented. A trend for political films used to be that they were put in unrealistic or fantasy situations to show perspective and use metaphors. Films like Animal Farm (1998) or Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), both originally George Orwell books, are popular and well known political films which use this technique. Nineteen Eighty-Four is put in a futuristic style and shows what the world could be like with segregation. Animal Farm shows the same message but instead it does it by making all the characters animals. The technique of putting a deep meaning into films makes the viewer detach and think ‘what if’, instead of ‘This is happening now’. Furthermore, both these films were very much written for the period they were in. Animal Farm was written in a time of communist revolution in Russia, and Nineteen Eighty-Four was written after the war.
Over time, films have developed from putting them in unrealistic or futuristic situations, to putting them in real life modern settings of what could happen. In the 1950s/60s there was a British film movement called ‘Kitchen Sink Realism.’ These films followed a theme of harsh realism, focusing on depicting the life of working class showing present problems like abortion, homelessness and heavy drinking.
Later on in the 80’s, themes developed into national or worldwide problems that can effect everyone, not just the working class. This also regually included a large threat or something that brought fear into a wide range of people. An example of this is the films Threads, which was produced by the BBC. The film follows characters in Sheffield where a nuclear attack happens. The politics of the film, once again, mirrors current events as at the time there were nuclear threats and worries. It shows the dangers of nuclear war and why it should be stopped.
In the past few years, political filmmaking has developed once again. Now films are being made with realistic characters, realistic stories and realistic situations. They are a lot grittier and truthful then they’ve ever been. They focus on the here and now, instead of what could come in the future. An example of this is I, Daniel Blake. The film is set in modern day, with very real characters and storylines as it follows a family on the poverty line in Newcastle. The technique in the filming has also changed. Nineteen Eighty-Four uses a lot of wide shots to set the scene and show the characters surroundings more. This is to show the horrible world he lives in, as that is the main message of the story. In comparison, in I, Daniel Blake, they use a lot of close shots because the main message of the films is to show the characters situation and who they are. Therefore, the main technique that’s changed works with the themes as it’s changed from showing a world that we could live in, to a person that is real currently.
There are groups and organisations that will help me become an independent director. This includes opportunities that will help me develop as a filmmaker or help make my film become more professional.
An example of an organisation that can help me is BFI (British Film Industry.) They have funding schemes to help filmmakers create better and more professional films. (1). They will also advertise your film and help it get more views by putting it in newsletters, on their website or on their film channel. As a filmmaker, this gives you an opportunity for people to watch your films world wide, and be noticed by important filmmakers. One important person seeing it and liking it can be the start of a professional and important career. Furthermore, they offer funding called ‘BFI First Feature Funding.’ This is for young people wanting to fund their first feature film. To qualify, you need to have strong portfolio of short films and a lot of experience in the film industry.
There’s been lots of significant technological advances that have affected my chosen area of the industry. The main change is the price and accessibility to equipment. 10 years ago, the price of cameras and other film equipment were too expensive for someone with the average wage to own. Since then, cameras have become more accessible to own and a lot cheaper. It means that more people can make high end and high quality films with less money, making films develop as there is more types of people creating films because it’s not just an upper class job anymore. Along with this, it’s meant that crews have got smaller. A small shoot can be done with few people as cameras can now record sound and can be put on a tripod that can be carried by one person. Some film crews are now fewer people, especially in documentary filmmaking. This will make job availabilities harder to find. Furthermore, individuals in film crews are expected to know and do more on set, including the director. It used to be one person directing, one person using the camera and one person doing the sound. Whereas now, a director is expected to know a lot more, especially in documentary filming.
As well as significant development in technology, theres been a development in viewing platforms and how audiences find films. 25 years ago, the only way to see a film was in the cinema, on a video or sometimes on TV. Now, there’s a lot more viewing platforms for filmmakers to use. Online streaming has now become popular with the rise of mobiles and the internet.
A viewing platform that has become more popular in recent years is Netflix. On their share holder letter they sent out in January they reported they had over 93 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 49 million in the United States. (2) As well as letting viewers/subscribers see TV shows and films, it also creates its own original series. All together they have made 126 original Netflix series, which is one of the main advertising points of Netflix, as you can only watch them if you subscribe. Netflix has changed the film and TV industry by: making people watch more online streamed films and TV shows, rather then watching them on TV; watching them in the cinema; or buying the DVD. In research by Nielsen they found that traditional TV watching by 18-24 years olds was down by 40% since 2011. (3). This shows that the future in TV and film is in fact online viewership. We shouldn’t see the decline of TV viewership as a negative, but see it as an opportunity to create and develop new viewing platforms.
Theres been a lot of political developments recently which will affect my access to the industry. The main change is the UK leaving the European Union, which will affect where and how I work. In 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU which has negative effects if I wanted to work outside of the UK. It used to be that anyone in Europe could travel anywhere in the EU and work there. This was good for filmmakers as it meant you could go and travel if they wanted to shoot in another country with ease. However, now we have to apply for a visa if we want to travel outside the UK for work, which is more expensive and more hassle. Furthermore, a lot of film funding comes from the European Union. On the Creative Europe Desk website it states that ‘From 2014-2020, €1.46 billion is available to support European projects with the potential to travel, reach new audiences and encourage skill sharing and development.’ (5)
There’s a lot of access opportunities for people wanting to direct and make films within the industry ALSO FIERCE COMPETITION. Access opportunities are ways of getting a chance to get into the film industry. An example of this is course and summer schools that offer opportunities through learning and meeting new people. An association that is good for these courses is Met Film School. A course that I could look into that will help me gain industry access in the 2 week directing course. It offers an in site to being a director and working with professional crews and actors. (4)
I want to be a director, but to get there I need to set out a plan. I will start off by getting more work experience and expand my film social circle whilst still working full time in a job. Once I can afford to travel around, I will start looking at small film jobs then work my way up by gaining more experience, whilst making my own films and getting a bigger portfolio. The biggest potential barrier is money. This can get in the way of me traveling to jobs, accommodation and other expenses. At the moment I can’t even afford equipment, so I need to keep saving up. Another obstacle that is linked to money, is moving out of Lancaster. There isn’t any industry around Lancaster, therefore it would be best to move out to somewhere where there is jobs and availabilities.
As I have decided not to go to university this year, I think it’s important for me to look into other ways of getting further education and training. I’ve already looked into courses at Met Film School, which could help me but they are very expensive. Another way I could get further education is online courses, for example the film courses they offer at Lynda. (1) They run online course which you make a monthly amount for, which you can get a qualification at the end. This could help me by gaining experience and having more information from the film industry. However, it does have downsides. A lot of industry professionals might not see an online qualification seriously, as it might not be seen as working hard for it. Furthermore, I’m not good at listening or reading, then taking in the information. Therefore, I might not learn a lot so the courses would be pointless for me personally.
On the other hand, there are other pathways for me to take for further education and training. There are lots of training workshops that can help people concentrate on one aspect of filmmaking and become more educated in it. A company that holds these workshops is London Film School. (2) For example, a workshop I could go to is ‘Directing Actors.’ (3) This covers lots of different tips to help you be a better director. I don’t think this is something I would do in the next year, but definitely something I would do in the future, as it helps you become more skilled in certain areas you might not be as good at.
Funding work is one of the problems that most young filmmakers come across. I think that getting money to help me develop as a filmmaker is going to be one of my biggest future struggles. Something I have started doing, is saving up. I work part time as a self defence instructor, which helps me get money to pay for things. At the moment, I don’t earn much, but I’m working on getting a qualification that will help me run self defence courses during the day. If keep doing other jobs, I should be able to afford getting my own equipment and saving up for films.
There are other options long term that will help me raise money for making films, like funding. I have already talked about BFI funding schemes but there are other ways of gaining money for films. An example of this is entering film competitions. Normally, there is some sort of cash prize for film competitions. By winning, you can fund your next film, and get more funding each time you make a film and win in a festival or competition. Although I don’t think it’s something that I can completely rely on to help me fund films, it’s always worth entering competitions, even if you don’t win money. This is because more people will watch your film and it could get noticed by someone important. An example of a film festival is The Raindance Film Festival.(4)
To make sure I have a sucessful career, I need to find a geographical location that will help support my future. A place that I want to aim to move to in the near future is Manchester. Manchester is now the home to lots of media and film companies, and also where a lot of production companies base there offices. BBC in 2012 called it a ‘magnet for movie-makers’. (5) There’s normally job openings and opportunities in Manchester if you look on film websites or job websites. (6)
I understand that it’s hard to move to Manchester, so I would have to move to an area that isn’t affluent to begin with. This would mean moving to an outer part of Manchester. From research I found out that you can get shared housing or rooms with everything you need for just under £400 a month. (7) On top of this, I would need around £200 every month for food, and around £100 for other expenses. Then around £150 to travel, unless I can bike. Thats around £850 a month which I would need as my minimum.
To be able to do this, I would look into getting a permanent job that is film related. I also am trying to get my self defence teaching certificate so I can start taking my own self defence courses, or work for a large self defence company in the area. People can pay up to £600 for a six week course, so I could afford the monthly expenses.
I think that it’s hard to work freelance straight away, especially someone like me who hasn’t got a university degree, equipment or a lot of money. To start with, I would like to work for a company. I am good at organising and planning, so I could start by applying to help assist on sets or be a general assistant. This is a good place to start as it means you get to know a lot of people who make films by working closely with them. I can then keep working my way up by showing people my films and gaining trust. To do this, I can apply for jobs I find online. I can find these jobs by looking on certain job finding websites that are designed for filmmakers like Production Base. (8) On the site, employers can upload jobs that they need people to, and you can search for very specific jobs in specific locations. This would be good for me as I can keep looking for permanent or non permanent jobs which I can do.
Whilst writing this essay, I have conducted research to help me reach my end goal. The main information I have discovered is that I need to keep working and finding funding to help me stay on my chosen career path, helping me afford equipment, filmmaking and living somewhere that is close to the film network. I have also discovered that I need to be patient as it takes a long time to get where I need to be. Furthermore, I need to be positive and motivated to keep me going.
These critical pieces of information have shaped my career plan by making me realise I can’t go straight into doing exactly what I want, and that it will take time and effort.
In light of the research I’ve undertaken, I found that I need to work my way up in the business. I’ll try get a job in a production company, whilst trying to carry on with education by doing short courses, and keep working my way up by showing I am dedicated and talented. My final goal is to be an independent director and make a feature film with political and social themes. The challenges I will face is not being able to afford living in Manchester and still being a filmmaker. Furthermore, staying focused and motivated even if I’m doing little, boring jobs.
My first step is finishing college, and getting more work experience in the film industry. I need to keep building my portfolio up and getting my name out there. I will also try to keep making films and putting them into film festivals. In conclusion, I understand that what I want to do is difficult and will take time, but I have the motivation and have the passion to keep going to reach my end goal.