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-   -   Got a day job, trying to be an indie filmmaker? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/open-dv-discussion/2872-got-day-job-trying-indie-filmmaker.html)

Daniel Chan July 25th, 2002 09:23 PM

Got a day job, trying to be an indie filmmaker?
Dear all,

Are there any of you out there who has a day job and is persuing becoming a filmmaker at the same time? I would like to invite everyone to join this thread and share their experiences of juggling knocking out the rent and pursuing your dream.

Personally I am not coping well at all. I work at a university here and although the demands of the job is not too taxing, I am unable to pursue my dream of becoming a filmmaker with any real conviction. Paying rent, bills and everything is tough whereever you are, trying to become a filmmaker on top of that is even worse. I am a full time writer here, my job is write and draft research articles for others. I got into screenwriting so I can write for myself and have been sitting on a script of mine for years and I realised I need to make something happen. Having a full time job means I get money to finance my first feature but doesn't leave me much time to work on it.

I always believed that if you want to do something, you need to put everything you have into it, structuring it, planing it every waking second. The closest thing I get to practicing is shooting weekly mass at church. I am planning on making my first feature and am deciding whether I should devote all my time to making it happen and that would mean having to quit my job and spend all my time on it.

If any of you have a secret formula of being able to live out the paralell life with success please give me some advice...


Rik Sanchez July 25th, 2002 11:46 PM

I know just how you feel, I worked at a job I didn't really like for 9 years saving up money to buy video gear, all the time wanting to do only video work for a living. Because the digital video revolution didn't start till a couple of years ago, there was no way for me to make a living at video. I was limited to doing small camera work only jobs on the weekends and at night. The rest of the time I had to work my 8-5 job.

When I got all of the gear I would need to get started, G4 and an XL-1, I was happily laid off of my job, I knew the company was doing bad but I waited til I was forced out so I could collect severce pay. My wife and I ended up getting a cheaper place to live, and she ended up working more hours(actually, she used to take an extra day off so we could have sundays together, she's a hair stylist and they only have mondays off here). I'm lucky if I can make enough to pay the rent and gas/water bill, so far I've barely managed to do that. My hours are not set right now, whenever I get work the job decides the hours. So far I've spent a lot of time here at home working on my own personal video projects. When I do get busy then I'm not able to work on my own stuff, but at least now when I get busy it's because I'm doing video work and not my old job.

But right now, are you married? Living alone? The biggest expense we had was our apartment, moving to a cheaper place will help lower your cost of living. Also the more I went out and met people and told them I do video the more contact I made and I got some jobs out of that, plus I've been did video part time for 9 years so people knew my face. Meeting people and letting them know you are a film maker will eventually put you in contact with others like you. Working with someone will help you realize your dream faster. It took me 9 years to get where I'm at, still not where I want to be, but just don't give up. All goals are reachable. Can you take off a year from your job? If you can take an extended leave, then you can spend a year devoting every day working on your film. If in the end it doesn't work out, then at least you can have a backup plan. Don't worry if it doesn't plan out like you wanted, the main thing is to just go out and do it. If you don't at least make a good effort towards your goal then you'll never know what could have been.

We all start out at the begining, some move ahead faster than others but at one point we've all been in the same boat. when you need to talk to someone, get some advice, we are all here for you, good luck on your film.

Paul Sedillo July 26th, 2002 04:00 AM

I can completely relate to this thread as I am in the same boat. Back in April I was "surplused" from my last company. My life long goal was to be in video production, make movies, etc. Well I decided instead of going back to work, I would make a go of it.

Some days it can be a little overwhelming, but I hang in there. This last Wednesday I met with one of the lead design firms in Houston and pitched my services. They were interested in my proposition and are willing to work with me as a freelance video production company. This was pretty exciting news!

Currently I am working on creating so many different things. My web page, business cards, a demo real. So much to do with such little time each day, but I could not be happier.

The next goal on my list is to start shooting short films. I am working on a few script ideas and hope to start shooting in August.

It is exciting and encouraging to read that others are out there doing what I am doing.

Rob Lohman July 26th, 2002 06:01 AM

I can relate too. I'm currently a computer programmer, and
although I like my work, I am thinking of going movie making
fulltime. The only problem is where to get the money from to
live. I'm single so I cannot rely on someone else. Also I need
to have some securities for myself, that is just how I work. But
I can feel the same pain. Wouldn't it be great if I could do this
all day long. Heh. What I tend to do at the moment is to do
all the pre-production stuff after working hours. So all the ideas,
script writing, resource gathering, location scouting I do in the
evening and the weekends. Then when I'm ready to shoot I
take one or two weeks off from work. This ofcourse means no
vacation for me.

All editing and post is also done after work and in the weekends
unless I have some time available in my little vacation after I
shoot (not happened yet).

But it is very difficult to get all this running. In a couple of weeks
time me and my film partner were about to start a new shoot.
I just found out that something went wrong and we misplanned
our vacations. So we are not available at the same time. This
might be a show stopper, which is very unfortunate. The next
time will not come before christmas. Which might be a little
advantage because I have more time planning resources and
thinking out my ideas. Perhaps I should spend my vacation on
my own to get to know the XL1S even better and learn some
other things like lighting. We'll see what happens.

K. Forman July 26th, 2002 06:43 AM

I was working for a web based company, doing some graphics, web design, small stuff. Then, I worked my way into editing the video on their site. They never paid much, and when my PC started going south, I asked them to help me get a better machine. I won't go into details, but the answer was no.

I then went to the City's business development coucil and got a loan for $15,000 and started my own Video business. It's tough starting out like this, and if I'm lucky, I can pay my bills. If it weren't for my wife's income and understanding, we would be in real trouble.

But things are picking up. I met with the owner of a recording studio, and he had been thinking about offering video to musicians. He had all of the audio equipment, but didn't want to spend money on cameras, then learn how to use them. Another of my clients has a children's music program, and wants it to be on TV.

On top of it, I want to do a short feature. I have a screenplay, and just spoke with the local theater group about getting some actors for it.

It just goes to show, if you want it badly enough, it will work. Unles you are already working 16 hours a day, I bet you can find some time on the weekends to work on a film.
Best wishes,

Kyle "Doc" Mitchell July 26th, 2002 07:25 AM

Hello all:

I'm young and naive . . . and also a filmmaker. I didn't quite understand how much work it is to make a movie until I shot my first featurette. It was hard work, but I fell in love. Working 9-5 at a job hasn't really helped me in the creative process of making a movie at all. Neither has writing research papers at my university (considering its totally different topics and styles).

But then I figured out what to do.

Make a contract with yourself. And follow it. I know it sounds cheesy, but just writing your goals out really helps. But writing the goals isn't enough, you also gotta write how you plan on getting there. I plan on working on films for five years, then if I'm not going anywhere, I'm gonna get out. Next, I must work on projects a little everyday. One thing that has helped me is I communicate my love with my coworkers. They see how pumped-up I am. They get excited for me, then when I leave work to rock and roll with the movie, they wish me luck. Also, if things don't work out . . . they might be nice enough to welcome me back . . . . Of course, this isn't feasible for everyone.

The trick is, I think, is to stretch yourself. You have to take the calculated risk to go off and make a movie. Leave work, barely make rent, hope to be able to eat. Still, you have to take the risk if you want to get something done. The sad thing about life, is that a majority of people don't take the chance to live it . . . so, be a part of the minority - take the CHANCE to live life. If your definition of living life is to be a filmmaker, don't settle for less. Think of what you want, and do it. There's a million ways to do it right, but I bet, 90% percent of people that fail in becoming filmmakers fail because they don't even start. The reason why I made my first movie is because a friend and I had a great idea one day. And instead of being like the rest of our friends that talk big and never do anything about it (they don't follow through) we made our movie. No regrets, man.


Kyle "Doc" Mitchell

Rob Lohman July 26th, 2002 08:29 AM

Getting tears in my eyes... great write Kyle! Can only agree,
hard to do though....

Derrick Begin July 26th, 2002 09:13 AM

My situation is one of steady growth towards filmmaking. A little at a time and a lot of patience. Which runs dry from time to time.

I am an actor who moved to New York in 1994. I am still acting, 5% paid, 95% unpaid. My girlfriend and I started a production company to get the ball rolling. We launched a two week theatre run, which to our surprise, people saw (positive reviews) and the company benefitted financially. We used some of that income to buy the XL1S. Most of my income is through my computer consulting which I limit to 30 hours per week.

I have written a first draft of a screenplay and several shorts. I have opted to do all of the work on a short before tackling a full length screenplay. The only commodity that I fundamentally have a problem with is my own ENERGY, and ok, procrastination.

I like the idea of the CONTRACT TO YOURSELF, with an amendment or two.

* Use the contract as a postive motivation forward towards your goals.
* Don't beat yourself up if you can't follow it exactly. Life needs room to flow. If it feels too much like 'joe-job-work' then your enjoyment is lost. No sense in having that.

Don't let money bog you down. Find inspiration on boards like this... Support. There is always something to be shot and learned.

If you can taste your own work, its time. It only needs your start, your building momentum will drive you forward. If you really want to do it, you'll find your way.

Please keep me informed of your endeavors.



Paul Sedillo July 26th, 2002 09:44 AM

Man what a great thread! I am sure that there are many of us out there working on following our dreams.

*** Suggestion ***
Chris - how about a discussion area where we could post on this topic?

Dylan Couper July 26th, 2002 11:16 AM

Do or do not.
There is no try.

Jeff Donald July 26th, 2002 11:40 AM

This would be a great addition to the forums. This was posted by Becky a couple of days ago http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2836 I could see this being a great boost to the community. Many of the younger film makers and entrepreneurs could benefit from the mistakes and successes some of us old timers have had. Us old timers could learn a few tricks from the young entrepreneurs and their guerrilla style of marketing etc. What do you think Chris?


Dylan Couper July 26th, 2002 12:02 PM

I was in a similar scenario about 5 years ago. I mostly gave up on filmaking, although it always nagged at me when I thought "that would make a great movie". So life went on, I quit my sh!tty joe-job and started my own business based on what I had learned working for minimum wage, and life went on.
Then, 4 months ago, events started to move me back towards video production. I had a bit of cash and a few ideas for videos that could make me some money. I made sure my ideas were marketable and bought an XL1 and some gear. I started shooting my first video 2 weekends ago.
Will it be a commercial success? Will this be the path I follow for the rest of my life? Is there an Oscar in my future?
It doesn't really matter.
What matters is that I'm doing it. And whether it fails miserably, or makes heaps of cash, the satisfaction from having done it will be enough for me. And if it fails you can be sure that I will do another, and another after that.

So my advice is:
a) you'll never get anywhere working for someone else.
b) it's perfectly allright to quit your job to pursue your dreams, just make sure your dreams are based on a some sort of business plan.
c) don't make excuses for not doing it. It's complete BS. You are only lying to yourself. Unless you are working 3 jobs, you can find the time. Shoot at night, on weekends, during your lunch break, anything.
d) the hardest part is actually starting to do it. Once you've broken that barrier, the rest comes a lot easier.
e) you don't need an XL1, light kit, NLE system and expensive gear to make a movie. Buy a used S-VHS camcoder and just do something. Edit it with VCRs and a cheap analogue editing board if you have to.
f) if you have a big epic feature length, Oscar caliber script that is your life's dream and you can only do on a six figure budget, put it on the back burner for now. Do something else until you can make that kind of budget.
g) meet everyone you can. Get business cards with "Independant Filmaker" on them. Give them to everyone you meet. People will help you for free. Everyone loves movies, everyone wants to be a part. You don't know how people can help you until they know you are in a similar business. The guy across the hall from you could have a music studio in his basement and your mailman might have an Avid NLE and is looking for material to edit.
h) make specific goals for yourself, etch them in stone. Tell other people about them, so if you quit or don't get them done, you will look like a loser, and that is motivation.
i) Do or do not. There is no try.

The last one is the most important one.
Good luck.


Dan Holly July 26th, 2002 12:11 PM

another view of life and story
WOW, after reading the experiences above I feel really lucky.

I’ve always had a dream to make movies of some sort, and my experience surrounding computers has enhanced the post production process.

When I was a kid we used to make movies with my parents black and white video equipment.
I was directing/acting/filming all at the same time (thanks mom and dad for the tripod =).
Our neighborhood movie was our claim to fame back then. It was an 18 min. short titled “The genie with the golden thumb”.
The “golden thumb” was actually tin foil, and we had great disappearing effects by using firecracker gunpowder lit off for the smoke effect that happened when the genie disappeared back into his bottle. We used this short to create our own theater on Saturday night for any of the neighborhood kids who were involved, or wanted to watch. Mom always had plenty of popcorn to use in her newfangled hot air popper.

It’s kind of funny looking back now, since the film is only stored in my head…..it was destroyed in an apartment storage area flood when I lived in Germany many years back.

My life took several twists and turns with a marriage gone bad, but it resulted in 2 beautiful upstanding children.
My oldest will be a senior in high school this year……jeez, how time flies……

I had zero official training, zero money, home video type gear, and lived pay check to pay check for many years struggling to bring up my children on my own as a single parent. The film making gig always went to the way side, since my new skill surrounded computers.

In the last 3 years a fishing partner and I always talked about making fishing movies, and always talked about how we could do it better than OLN, ESPN or TNN (yes, it’s a big vision =).

We knew what we wanted, and were at a point in our lives where we could afford to finance ourselves in a very small production, and buy gear that we had to have. We’ve always put money back into the company from anything that we earned(in my younger days we would of spent the money long before we got it).

I run the operations of a company with 3 branch offices and about 75 or 80 employees. I work 40+ hours a week keeping it all together. My partner in crime owns a small business, and runs his company on a daily basis. He also is stuck in the 40+ hours a week mode. This is how we generate operating capital for our productions.

It’s hard to keep everything together, but we have an ongoing list of activities, future shoot locations, and a post production plan….the list goes on and on and is a living document of sorts. We check off items on the list as we go, and we both know exactly what our goals are.

I wished we were financially independent, or had some kind of magical money to back us, but we live and work around reality.

This was kind of a “ramble”, and I’m sure it was more info than needed……..but it gives you documentation that you are not alone in your endevors.

Keith Loh July 26th, 2002 01:20 PM

I am in the same boat but my job is mostly 9-5 so I have time on the weekends and evenings. So far I have no plan beyond learning what is possible with the XL1s. I am in no position to give you advice but I can tell you what I am trying.

1) MEET PEOPLE - there must be some sort of film society or user group in your area. Don't just meet camera people, meet actors, designers, anyone who is interested in film. Just this last month from searching on the Internet I found a number of promising groups. Then again, I live in Vancouver where there are a lot of crews working. Even if there isn't any, you can start one yourself by posting an ad or poster. I bet you there are lots of people like you who have access to different resources.

2) Shoot film. Get outside and do it. I've just started doing this myself and I've been approached by lots of strangers wondering what I am doing (not cops ... yet :). Maybe this is just a byproduct of having such a cool looking machine but people do come right out and talk.

3) Work on other people's shoots. You cannot just go out there and announce you are doing a film. You have to build up credits (not talking union here but of course that would be great) with other people before they will come work with you for free. Maybe you will just be another cameraman on a shoot. Hey, if you meet two other people in the same boat, you have a multicamera set up! Obviously, not that simple but you get the idea. You talk about time but with more people, you can spread out the work.

4) Do something small first. It sounds like you need a 'win'. Just do a short one-scene thing. By doing a dry run you start generating ideas and seeing how much more you have to do to make your dream come true. I doubt very much I will be shooting anything longer than 10 minutes in the next six months.

The great thing about the Internet is that the knowledge is available AND you can communicate with like minded people such as on this board. I and two other people who live in different cities started as Delphi DV moviemaker board just last week. There are a ton of likeminded people out there. I don't to toot my horn on Chris' forum and actually it is more of a complement to DVINfo.net but if you are interested, email me.

Peter Koller July 26th, 2002 03:51 PM

Do or do not. There is no try.

Wow! Jedi rules applied to filmmaking. I guess old Yoda didn´t imagine this in his wildest dreams! :-))

I would like to add another paragraph to "the contract":

The next project must be bigger than the previous one.

Always keep thinking, what am I going to do next?

Cheers, Peter

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