A Simple, Bulletproof Strategy for Success in Filmmaking

A Simple, Bulletproof Strategy for Success in Filmmaking

Everyone defines filmmaking success a little bit differently, and everyone's path to achieving it is unique.

But no matter your experience, no matter where you live, and no matter how ambitious your goals are, the simple strategy in today's episode can help you get there.

So here's what you'll learn in episode 2 of the Filmmaker Freedom Podcast: 

  • Why small daily actions are the key to unlocking filmmaking success, no matter how ambitious your goals are.
  • The truth behind all of those overnight success stories you hear about filmmakers in industry blogs.
  • How committing to your small daily practices turns you into the kind of person who can accomplish bigger and bigger projects over time.
  • Four simple practices to boost your filmmaking success, even if you've only got 30 minutes a day.

Here's the episode. You can also listen and subscribe through iTunesStitcher, PocketCasts, and the Google Play Store.

If you enjoy today's show, it would mean the world to me if you'd leave a rating and review on iTunes. That's the best way to support this small indie show and to help new filmmakers find it!


The first season of the Filmmaker Freedom Podcast is sponsored by my friends over at Music Vine.

You have a lot of choices these days when it comes to finding music for your films and video projects. But Music Vine stands above the pack.

Not only is it refreshingly straightforward to license music you’d actually want to use, but it’s also genuinely affordable, even for indie filmmakers on shoestring budgets.

And the best part is, the music is all thoughtful, expressive, and genuine. It’s sourced from indie artists all over the globe who put the same care and attention and soul into their music as you do into your films.

That’s why all of the music in this podcast comes straight from the Music Vine library. Here's the playlist of songs from this episode.

You can get 10% off your first purchase when you use the code FREEDOM at checkout. Enjoy.

Practical Takeaways from Today's Episode

There are two very important ideas at the center of this episode. Once you internalize these, you'll be far better prepared to start chipping away and making progress on the definition of success you came up with in episode 1.

First up, overnight success is a myth, especially in the world of filmmaking. There are a lot of stories out there about filmmakers who achieve success suddenly, but there's always something important left out of those stories. 

Basically, we get to see the triumphant last 5% of someone's filmmaking journey, without getting to see the difficult 95% that came before. So if becoming an "overnight success" is part of your strategy for achieving your filmmaking dreams, you need to be willing to put in years of hard, likely unappreciated work before it happens. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure.

The second big idea in this episode is that massive success comes from taking small, focused actions consistently, preferably every single day. It's a lot like compound interest. It might not seem like much at first, but over time it builds up into something incredible.

As promised, here are the 4 practical ideas outlined in the episode that will help you start making serious progress towards your filmmaking goals. I've also included a few more ideas after these, just to get you thinking about how to craft small daily actions of your own.

Idea #1: Actively build and nurture your network.

No matter which path you take through the world of film, you can’t do it alone. So focus on building sustainable long-term relationships with other filmmakers, creatives, businesspeople, or anyone else who you could potentially partner with in a symbiotic way.

More specifically, reach out to one new person, or one existing contact in your network, every single day. Shoot a quick email or text message to see what they're working on and if you can help in any way. Build up a sense that you're genuinely invested in their success, and they'll be invested in yours.

Idea #2: Work to build a few important skills.

Not all skills are created equal. Some have much higher returns on investment. High value skills are the ones that make us more likely to get paid work, or they make our films noticeably better.

Depending on what your definition of success is, identify a few key skills that will have the maximum impact in getting you there, and then start building those exact skills, one at a time.

Once you know the key skills you should be working on, develop systems and routines so that you can improve that skill by just 1% every single day. That's all it takes to get good at something relatively quickly.

Idea #3: The monthly micro film.

This one isn't so much a daily practice as it is a monthly practice that can be broken up into smaller sets of daily practices.

So for a little bit of background, micro films are shorts between the length of 1-5 minutes. If you lean towards the shorter end of that spectrum, you can write one in a week, plan it in a week, shoot it in a week, and edit it in a week. Then start over.

Even if you take a month off, you can still churn out 11 of these things in a year, which will significantly expand your body of work, improve your skills, help you find your voice, and maybe even build an audience if you're proactive about promoting your work.

Either way, the body of work piece is the most important thing to note here.

In the Filmmaker's Guide to Success, I talk about the idea of building up your ideal body of work because it's your calling card. It tells a story about who you are and where you're going. When you crank out quality micro films that contribute to your ideal body of work, you set yourself up for quite a bit more success than if you just spun your wheels for a year trying to get a feature off the ground.

Idea #4: Find your voice with non-filmmaking activities.

Fun fact. When you have a unique artistic voice, it's easier to stand out and get noticed in the world of film. This is becoming increasingly more important (and more difficult) as more people start creating films.

Now, your voice is comprised of two distinct elements: the ideas at the center of your film, and how you translate those ideas into the film language.

For me at least, the ideas are the most important part of that equation. And great ideas come from actively immersing yourself in all sorts of things other than films. They come from other artistic mediums—from books, newspapers, plays, paintings, sculptures, and music.

Great ideas also come from truly experiencing life and getting outside of your comfort zone. They come from watching people, from having unpredictable conversations, and from listening more than you speak.

So if you can build a daily practice around cultivating interesting ideas—whether that's through consuming content you find interesting or having new experiences—your filmmaking will flourish and be far more unique in the long run.

Take this idea of small daily actions, and translate it into your own unique situation

Now, those are some of the things that all filmmakers can do, but this also applies to specific types of filmmakers as well.

  • If you’re a freelancer or run a production company, spend those 30 daily minutes prospecting for new clients, or nurturing your relationships with existing clients.
  • If you’re a screenwriter, spend that time coming up with ideas, researching, writing, and editing.
  • If you want to make a living from your original films, spend that time building an audience by producing engaging content for the specific niche you’d like to serve.
  • If you’re a cinematographer, work on your compositional skills through taking a daily photo, or make detailed notes about natural light at different times of day.

I could go on an on about how this applies to producers and editors, documentarians and experimental filmmakers, but I’m sure you’re getting the idea at this point.

No matter what you want to accomplish in the world of film, there are small daily actions you can take that will slowly and surely move you towards success. And if you carve out the time in your life and make those actions a top priority, you will see massive results. It really is that simple.

Join the Podcast Squad

If you want to help with the audience participation segments of the Filmmaker Freedom Podcast, just enter your email below and you'll receive occasional emails from me with a simple question.

Just record your answers into your computer or phone mic, and then you might just hear yourself on the show!