The Importance of Specilaization
We all know that there are a lot of problems with most film schools. The foremost being that while they’re great at teaching you how to make a movie, they suck at teaching you how to make money doing it. While I’m personally working to fix that one, there’s another one that isn’t generally talked about.
Most film schools take a rather blanket approach to filmmaking. They teach everyone the skills of all positions on set, instead of focusing on being really good at one part of it. Because of this, many film schools are failing to prepare students for the real world they will compete in.
The attitude of being a jack of all trades often leads to being decent at everything, but excellent at nothing. Which is alright for someone who wants to make their own ultra low budget movies or make a few not great corporate clients. Unfortunately, we live and work in a highly specialized and extremely competitive industry. In order to find success, you must to be excellent at your craft. Unfortunately, Few Film Schools operate this way. Most teach you to be a jack of all trades, and it's just not possible for anyone to master all the skills necessary to do every job on set.
Not all of this is the fault of the schools. Most of them do offer specialization into Cinematography, Directing, Producing, Editing, Writing, and often even acting. However even with this specialization, many filmmakers are forced to perform most of the jobs on set, and get an attitude that they must do it all. Filmmaking is an incredibly collaborative medium, and it is an incredibly collaborative medium, and an attitude of one person being able to fill any and all jobs on set is counter-productive for the creation of high quality projects.
This is not the case for all film schools. The ones considered to be the best still prepare you to be excellent at one job. USC and UCLA foremost among them. However the same cannot be said for most film schools
When I started Film School I wanted to be a director. In my first semester, I found I was very good at producing. I understood how to manage a team, and the business side of independent film fascinated me. So I re-specialized as a producer. After I moved to San Francisco, I started going to The American Film Market. aftera few years I realized that I was much better at packaging, selling, and marketing films than I was at producing them, so I re-specialized as a producer's rep.
All of the success I've had from that point has been a direct result of that decision to specialize. I'm much closer with the distribution contacts I had before due to that respecialization, and I've had worlds of opportunities open up to me as a result.
If you are set on making a career in Film, TV, and media it would be wise to becoe an expert in an in-demand part of the industry. For example, if you’re an editor then focus on an uncommon form of editing. Everyone wants to edit features and TV, far fewer focus on cutting trailers and promos. I can tell you from experience that there are nowhere near enough people who are good at cutting trailers. I'm continually looking for people who are good at cutting trailers, and I'm not alone. Mastering that skill means work will be much easier to find.
Cinematography is a skill that’s extremely transferrable, if you do it well. And a good cinematographer can always find work. But it is also good for a Cinematographer to know not just how to Light, but why to light. How can you paint a picture with shadow, and how can your dynamic range effect the feel of the shot. As a cinematographer, you must understand how to use every tool in your toolbelt.
A backing in photography is excellent for this, and can lead to a lot of work while you build your career and client base. Having your own gear and an understanding of how to create a stylized look can help you land a very good job with an ad agency or find your own clients while you network to get on projects you're more excited to be working on. However, there's a lot of exciting things going on in the world of content marketing.
Writing is tough, the competition is high and everyone thinks they can do it. I've had bartenders and Lyft Drivers ask me to represent their scripts while in LA on business. As we all know, while anyone can write, few do it well. Even if you can write well, it is often difficult to break in. The most useful specialization for a screenwriter is learning to give coverage. It's hugely important and incredibly useful, and it also helps you develop relationships with producers. Another thing that writers, and everyone if I'm honest, is to write good copy. Spending a few hours learning the basics of copywriting will help you go so much farther in the world of independent film.
This whole Idea of specialization will help you to fit better into a larger film community. If you have something you can bring to the table for your community, it’s a lot more likely you’ll be able to find success. If we’re to really grow vibrant film communities outside of New York and LA, then the idea of specialization really needs to reach the local level.
There's not much more specialized than being an executive producer, and there are far too few good ones operating in the industry. That's why I offer my Executive Produver Expressway Program to help transform filmmakers to execs. The program teaches you the skills to package your independent film, successfully finance your film, including where and how to find film angel investors, how to market your film besides just social media and film festivals, and finally how to get a good distribution deal for your film. It all starts with a completely FREE Strategy session to help figure out where you are, and chart the path to get you where you're going.
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My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.
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