It’s impossible to deny that creative industries are thoroughly competitive with many aspiring filmmakers finding that they need an edge. With cinema constantly evolving, it’s important for students to know what to expect. Below you’ll find an exercise to help your students finesse their skills and get closer to the career they aspire to.
Step One: Content Strategy
If there is one skill all filmmakers need it’s the ability to identify excellent content. For film, that content generally stems from a screenplay. Whether using your own story or adapting someone else’s for the screen, it is important to know what makes a story great. Have your students read a variety of screenplays to identify what makes a story great. Once they’ve done their research, ask them to write a five-minute screenplay using the skills they learned from their reading. This exercise should help them recognise what contributes to making a great story.
Step Two: Project Management
As any film professional knows, an entire project can fall apart if it isn’t managed properly. In order for your students to learn what makes a project successful, have them create a budget for one of the screenplays they read during Step One. Once they have the budget, instruct them to create a schedule that will allow them to understand how they would go about producing their film.
Step Three: Film Finance
Once your students have completed their budget and schedule, have them look into ways in which they could potentially finance their film. With the filmmaking schemes available to amateur directors their adventure into financing will help them truly understand and appreciate the entire process of filmmaking.
Step Four: Presentation
Your students may find that many of the potential financing schemes they encounter require filmmakers to pitch their idea to investor or studio executives. Now that they have made a budget and schedules, your students should be ready to pitch their film. For this exercise, act as a potential investor and have your students pitch their projects to you. Allow other students to sit in and hear their classmates’ pitch not only to acclimate those presenting to speaking to an audience, but also so they can learn from their peers.
Step Five: PR
Although your students may not have included marketing and advertisement in their budget, it is important for them to know how films gain traction after production is completed. Have your students put together a simple press kit for their potential film.
Step Six: Social Media and Creating a Brand
Although many students may already use social media on a daily basis, they may not know how to use it to its full professional potential. Have your students create new social media handles and portals to make a filmmaking resume suited for the twenty-first century. On Instagram for example, filmmakers can upload short clips from films they’ve already produced and interact with others who share the same passion. Social media is a wonderful way for filmmakers to network and you should be able to guide your students to do this in a professional manner. Another attribute many students may want to work on is a webpage where potential employers and colleagues can see their resume and film history. By the end of this part of the exercise, your students should have a personal brand that summarises them as a filmmaker as well as the types of films they would like to produce.
Step Seven: Networking
Although having a digital presence is very important, aspiring filmmakers need to know how to network with other professionals. Have your students lead professional conversations between themselves and instruct them to make the best first impression. By the end of this exercise, your students should feel confident enough to use the other techniques they’ve learned to promote themselves and make professional connections.
We hope this exercise will help your students understand what is required to work in film.