I believe that as filmmakers we spend too much time pouring over gear reviews, debating what next piece of kit we should buy and, ultimately, getting equipment envy.
Instead of dwelling on our next fancy purchases, we should use our limited free time to do things that really impact us and our careers right now. I mean really, solid tips and tricks that you can do that will improve your filmmaking from this point on and far into the future.
I often get asked what are the top things someone can do right now to improve their filmmaking. In no particular order, here are my 24 Things To Do Right Now To Improve Your Filmmaking Today!
1. Get Yourself a Vimeo Account
Most video professionals are slowly but surely stepping away from YouTube and heading towards Vimeo.
For my money, Vimeo is just a much more professional and smoother operating platform for displaying your video. I still use both, but embed the videos on my website’s Portfolio page using Vimeo. We also use our Vimeo videos for every video we post to social media for our production company.
Top 3 Reasons to use Vimeo over YouTube:
- Vimeo has a more professional and dynamic look to it. When you embed something using Vimeo, you know you’re getting a premium look. In fact, the whole of your Vimeo channel is a great look right out of the box, but it can be customized to appear exactly the way you want it (paid version).
- There’s a vibrant and active filmmaking community built into Vimeo. From groups, channels and top filmmakers having a presence; Vimeo is the filmmaker’s video sharing site.
- Most folks online associate YouTube as being a salesy platform, due to all the annoying ads that interrupt videos you watch there. First impressions are everything in lots of situations, so set yourself apart and use a premium platform like Vimeo.
I’m assuming lots of people reading this already have a Vimeo channel. Do you use it as your primary account for your video production company’s activities?
And, no, I don’t work for Vimeo.
2. Create a Filmmaking Bucket List
What exactly do you want to accomplish with all this? This knowledge that you’re learning and this career that you’re building. What are your goals? If you were to die tomorrow, what will make you feel accomplished?
I create new lists of goals regularly (more on that later). I also have a Filmmaking Bucket List that I look at during the morning when I get up and the evening just before bed. It keeps me grounded and on-track towards what I want to be.
So what’s on yours. Do you want to:
- Travel the world as a travel filmmaker?
- Build a full-time video production business that’s known nationwide?
- Become a successful worldwide narrative filmmaker, just like your favourite indie film director?
- Meet the person of your dreams whilst making a film in foreign lands?
- Become the Errol Morris of your particular brand of documentary movie?
- Become known as the world’s greatest wedding videographer?
- Teach people how to be great filmmakers?
- Have your own film production company that’s known all over the world.
You can be anything you want to be. The limits are only the constraints of your imagination.
3. Form (Or Join) a Mastermind Group
This might sound a little more advanced, but it’s another great thing you can do for your success. Find people who are on the same path as you and get in touch with them.
A Mastermind Group can fast-track your filmmaking (or video production business) success. You will get together with like-minded people and have the opportunity to be heard about your filmmaking. There will be opportunity to ask questions, to seek advice and even share resources with other people in your Mastermind.
How do you find a Mastermind Group?
These are sometimes advertized in various communities and message boards around the internet.
My recommendation is to form one yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be considered the ‘leader,’ but forming your own brand new Mastermind Group gives you the opportunity to invite who you want into the group.
You’re looking for people who have the same interests and goals as you do.
They don’t necessarily have to be a specific kind of filmmaker or video production owner. Just be filmmakers like you who want to succeed.
You don’t necessarily have to find people who are more knowledgable or experienced than you. Just people who want to succeed and aren’t afraid to share their goals and thoughts with the group.
In fact, as you get more advanced you might find you’re the most experienced person in your Mastermind Group. At this point, you might want to join another more advanced Mastermind Group, so that you can still grow and have something to strive for.
The great thing is, you can now become a Mentor for other people in your original Mastermind Group, as you’re now considered a battle-hardened veteran of filmmaking!
Try searching Google using a search-string like: ‘video business mastermind group.’ You can also use film/video or business related forums and search for groups on there. You could also write a new topic on your message board of choice asking to join a mastermind group.
4. Learn Something New About Your Editing Software of Choice
I’m not going to debate here about which is best – FCP, Premiere, or whatever else you might be using. This is about learning something new about the editing software that you use day-in-day-out.
And how best to learn something new? By following a video tutorial, of course. Here are a few of good ones:
Oh, you want a specific tutorial? Check this out:
5. Enter a Film Festival
You have that film sitting there, don’t you?
It’s just sitting threw – completed – but not doing anything. Time to put it out there and have it work for you.
Entering film festivals is a key part of your life as a filmmaker. There are film festivals for every kind of film and genre. So before you tell me that you only shoot corporate/commercial stuff or music videos, know that there are options for you to display your work and get eyes seeing it – even if it’s on a smaller scale.
Firstly, check this great resource for a list of film festivals all over the world. Find something that’s close to you and enter. From there, you can take your success and enter films in festivals far and wide:
Interested in resources and online submitting to film festivals? Withoutabox is where you need to go.
6. Write a Guest Post For a Filmmaking/Video Production blog
All the top filmmakers and video production companies blog nowadays. It’s a great communication medium to keep people informed and let followers know what you’re up to.
It can also be a good learning experience for solidifying knowledge and making sense of learnings. Teaching is one of the top ways to retain knowledge. If you learn something on the front-lines whilst you’re filming something, that’s one thing. But if you then teach someone else that knowledge, you i) learn it better yourself, and ii) are more likely to retain the information.
Experiential learning is so important to your growth as a filmmaker. Writing, podcasting or making videos about your learning and experiences are also pivotal in your continued development.
Want to write for a filmmaking/video production blog? You’re looking at it. Make sure you check out our Write For Us page and look at what we’re after before you submit something.
7. Watch An Inspirational Filmmaking Video
Getting inspired is a big part of what we do as filmmakers. For me, one of the most inspiring figures in the history of filmmaking is Werner Herzog. I’ve mentioned him here countless times before, and I feel he needs no introduction, so here’s a video to get you pumped about the lifestyle of filmmaking:
Have a video that really pumps you up to get out and shoot? Post a link to it in the comments below and everyone will get a chance to see it!
8. Put Your Work on Reddit and Get a Critique
You know Reddit, right? Reddit has two subs (sub-Reddits, or sections of the overall Reddit site) that have some of the best filmmaking and videography discussions around:
Lots of people post their work to these sub-Reddits and ask the community for a critique. This is a great way to get feedback from people who actually know what they’re talking about. They’re your peers in the industry, so they are some of the best people to give you an honest take on your work.
Don’t forget to ask for no punches to be pulled!
9. Get Yourself a Mentor
You can’t go this alone. A man is not an island. Two heads are better than one.
Yeah, you’ve heard all the clichés about this ad nauseam, but it’s all true.
A mentor is someone who has more knowledge and experience than you, and who you can communicate with regarding advice on your filmmaking (or video production business) path. Or any path you want to choose, for that matter.
Finding a mentor can be a massive step forward for you and your filmmaking. There are plenty of established film/video professionals and business-people out there who are just craving the opportunity to help someone new get on their feet.
It plays into human nature and people’s need for fulfillment in the form of giving back. It’s what I’m doing with the series of guides you can find on this very site.
How do you find a mentor?
You can find potential mentors in all walks of life and any situation. You might know a friend of a friend that’s successful. The important thing is finding someone who’s doing (or who has done) what you want to do.
Also, online filmmaking and business forums/communities are a great place to find mentors. Here are your options:
1. Write a post asking for a mentor. Be up-front and honest about where you’re at with your filmmaking and your skill level. Let people know what you want and what you’re looking for.
2. Directly message potential mentors. Find the people on the forum that really resonant with you and send them a message. Again, let them know what you want and what you’re looking for from a mentor relationship.
3. Start a journal thread and let mentors come to you. If you start a journal thread chronicling your progress in your filmmaking, you’ll be sure to interest potential mentors.
People will read your messages and start to really get involved with your story. They’ll soon be posting messages of advice and support. From there, it’s easy to take the relationship off-forum/message board and get more personal.
Here are a few forums/communities that you might want to try using:
– DVXuser forums (filmmaking/video related)
– IndieTalk forums (filmmaking/video related)
– The Fastlane Forum (business/entrepreneurship related)
– R/Filmmakers (Reddit filmmaking community)
– R/Videography (Reddit video production community)
You can, of course, find mentors offline in real-life. I’m sure there are business people that you know or are in your network somewhere. Get connected with those people and ask if they’d be interested in a mentorship relationship.
It doesn’t have to be something incredibly formal. You can just arrange to meet once every 2 weeks or 1 month. Go for a coffee and an informal chat. It could be a phone call or a Skype session.
You also don’t need to try and find some grizzled, wily old veteran of business who’s in his 80s. Your mentor could even be younger than you. A mentor just needs to be someone who has more experience than you.
10. Put Together Your Video Portfolio
One of the great advantages of the internet and this modern technological age we live in, is the ability that filmmakers and video production companies now have to put their work online for all to see. In the past, if a filmmaker or videographer wanted to display their work, they would need to either show it in person, or send someone a DVD. Imagine that!
Nowadays, we can do still both of these, but the most powerful way to display our work is to get a website and create a portfolio. I’ve discussed this on the site before, but if you don’t already have one, get creating.
We mentioned Vimeo earlier, and if you’re a regular reader of this site, then you know I’m a big advocate for using Vimeo to house your professional work instead of YouTube.
11. Lock Yourself in a Room And Learn EVERYTHING About Your Equipment
So you have all that gear sitting there, but you haven’t used everything. Maybe there’s equipment that you haven’t had time to explore every aspect of. Yeah, you’re busy shooting and you just haven’t had time to figure out the bells and whistles on everything. Maybe you even have stuff you’ve bought recently and you haven’t used it yet.
So this task involves locking yourself in a room with all your gear and getting to learn everything from the ground up. No more excuses for not knowing what that weird looking button on the back of your Mark III is – it’s time to learn everything.
Oh, and if you’re a gear hoarder, make sure you have a room large enough to contain all your gear before you lock yourself in!
12. Put Some Footage on Pond5 and Get Paid For It
Pond5 is a stock video site where you can buy video footage, music, sound effects, After Effects templates and 3D models for use in your commercial or hobbyist projects.
You can also sell your own media through Pond5 by uploading your copyrighted material to the site. You stand to earn 50% on each sale, which is pretty good considering this is money for footage you already have. The best thing about a site like Pond5 is that it has a ready-made audience of 100,000s per month who are visiting the site looking for stock video.
A couple of key points about selling footage on Pond5:
- There are no exclusivity requirements – you don’t hand over your footage to them: you still own it.
- You set your own prices.
- Their royalty fee of 50% to the footage owner is one of the highest in the industry.
So, there you have it – you can earn a healthy side income by selling your media on Pond5. Whether it’s footage, sound effects or After Effects templates that you’ve designed, Pond5 is a great community for selling your work. In fact, some people even make a full-time (and healthy) income selling their stuff on stock sites.
No idea why it’s called Pond5, though.
13. Get Some Friends Around and Watch Your Work
So you have a new promo video for a business that you’ve been working on? You need to get a few eyes on it and some solid feedback before you release it to your client? Smart move.
Or maybe you have a short you’ve been working on for 6 months and you finally have the confidence to get a round of feedback from neutral eyes.
Invite friends around and show your work. It doesn’t have to be an ego thing – you can invite folks round for a “movie night” and then mention that you’ve been working on something. Make it sound random and off-the-cuff like an after-thought, if you want. But, if you want to get better, definitely get feedback on your work.
14. Create a Facebook Fan Page For Your Work
So, like most of the rest of the world, you have a Facebook profile page. But, in order to have a Facebook presence for your filmmaking work or video production company, you’re going to need to get a Facebook fan page.
Fan pages allow you to post as the business itself, so if you have a number of you working on the same team, you can all post as the business account. It also removes the upper limit of how many friends/followers you can have with a standard profile.
Best of all? It’s easy to get one started and will take you a grand total of about 5 minutes! Facebook themselves have a handy-dandy tutorial to get it done fast.
There’s no limit on what you can post on your Facebook fan page. Just a few ideas:
- Photos of you working on sets/wedding shoots/whatever you do.
- Videos of your work.
- Competitions and giveaways for your business.
15. Pay Someone Money If You DON’T Do Your Work
Now, this is going to sound a little odd, but it’s a little psychological trick that can get you taking consistent action in the right direction.
For those who want to add a bit of extra fun to taking consistent action, as well as a bit of competition between their friends, try this:
1. At the start of the day, go to a bank or ATM and promptly withdraw $100 (or something reasonable depending on whatever currency and financials you have).
2. Give the $100 to a friend. I know, it’s a little weird reading that, but stick with me.
3. Tell your friend that you plan doing something today and that you should only be given the money back if you accomplish that task.
For example, you might set a task to finish a promo video edit. Or, you might plan on calling at least ten people to find potential clients for your video production business, and that your friend is to give you $10 for every call you make.
Let’s go with that example. Now, these calls can be calls to prospects, to vendors, etc. Any kind of sales call where you’re selling your services to something.
4. The rules are that your friend only gives you $10 if you make a call to a prospect/vendor. Any prospect or vendor. Any time, as long as it’s during the time frame (read: working hours) that you set yourself. No matter the result of the call, you get the money if you make the call.
So you only get all the money back if you make ten phone calls. 10 phone calls at $10 each = $100.
Obviously, you should adjust the amount you use for this exercise depending on the kind of money you earn, but it should be enough that it’s a gamble you don’t want to lose.
The key to this is that it’s something tangible that you lose if you don’t take action. What it comes down to is potential rejection or social embarrasment vs. $100 and a measurable improvement in your skills. And, believe me, you will improve your skills (any skills) by taking action.
You get a lot of calls under your belt and, who knows, you might just close a few deals along the way! Sound good?
I’ve even called people up and mentioned that I’m doing the $100 challenge! Still fun! 🙂
Now, this of course is just an example. You can use this technique for any situation where you want to take consistent action.
Most of all, it’s about accountability and honesty. You need to structure this so that you’re either i) 100% upfront and honest with your accountability partner, or ii) your accountability partner can monitor exactly what you’ve done (or, as the case may be, haven’t done).
16. Ask Your Clients What They Want To See From You?
Have a social media presence for your video production company? Post regular (or semi regular) updates and statuses to a Twitter account, for example? Time to ask clients (present or potential) what they want to see from you.
Use a site like SurveyMonkey to create a simple survey that you can send to your clients. If you’ve already worked with them, you can ask them questions about the process of working with you and how it went.
- How did you find working with us?
- Did we help you achieve your goals?
- Was it everything you expected based on our marketing?
- Did we make the expectations clear from the beginning?
- Is there anything you’d improve on or change in how we worked with you?
- What was the best thing about working with us?
If you have a community of people who haven’t yet worked with you, you can also ask general questions of them, too. This one might sound specific, but it doesn’t have to be. Say you have a Facebook fan page with friends, potential clients and current clients, you could post statuses with questions like this:
- “If you’re getting married, what duration do you think would be perfect for a wedding video?” (if you’re a wedding videographer).
- “As a business, what are the most important things you look for in a promo video?” (if you have a video production company specialising in promo/marketing videos).
17. Register Yourself as a Business
If you’re not already registered as an official business, what are you waiting for? You don’t need to be a “video production company” to register as a business, if you’re an indie filmmaker, you might want to register a film company as an umbrella entity for the work you plan to release.
Doing this makes it real. It solidifies your intentions and sets you on the right track. Many great filmmakers registered their production companies as official entities long before they released their first film.
Now, if you’re a video production company doing corporate/commercial stuff, wedding videography, etc then I’d echo the above statement even more: seriously, what are you waiting for? A lot of clients will scour your website for an official mention of your registered company number. Those who are in business themselves (ie. businesses you’d like to do promo videos for) will expect your video production company to be registed as it projects a sign of professionalism and authority.
Stuck with how to start. Great guides on setting up your company as an official business here:
18. Sign Up For An Online Course To Improve Your Skills
As good as we think we are, we don’t know everything. And we never will. Life and business and filmmaking is a process of continued and never-ending learning.
That’s why you should sign-up to an online course and learn something that you didn’t know already.
Maybe there’s an aspect of production or filmmaking that you’ve been meaning to learn? Perhaps you need to swot up on the latest release of your favourite editing software? Or maybe you’ve been putting off learning advanced motion graphics and it’s time to incorporate that as an offering in your business?
For learning new things from a creative angle, I’d highly recommend CreativeLIVE. If you haven’t already come across them, they started as an online learning environment for photographers, but have since branched out into film/video, motion graphics, arts/crafts and more.
The awesome guys at Inside The Edit have a really well-made and affordable course on video editing. This is a gargantuan course that covers everything from the ground up right into advanced topics.
For straight-up, no-nonsense business learning, there are some great courses on Udemy that will improve all aspects of this skillset.
Here are some links to find a course that’s right for you:
19. Register Your Videos Legally
This one is connected with the earlier point about registering yourself as an official company. As filmmakers, unfortauntely, we’re often the sorts who aren’t 100% clued up on the legal side of things. But if you don’t educate yourself about legal matters, then at best you’re doing yourself a massive disservice, and at worst you could be setting yourself towards catastrophic disaster!
Alright, that was a little extreme, but getting clued up on the legal side is hugely important for your career and business.
As the law is a huge and many tentacled subject (just look at the specific and bizarre sounding subtitles after lawyers names!), for this point we’ll focus just on the process of legally registering your videos themselves.
When you film video footage, you are the copyright owner of that video. As long as you’re not filming copyrighted works like Burger King signs, but that’s a whole other topic!
Just know that even if you have a copyright claim over your work, and even if you mention it on your website and Vimeo channel etc, it won’t stop some nefarious fool stealing your work. From there, they can plaster them all over their own website, social media, use in their portfolios to show clients, etc.
It’s frustrating stuff and it’s essentially someone using your hard work to get work for themselves. Not cool.
For more information, have a good read of this article.
20. Make a List of What You Want to Film This Year
This is a good idea to do at the start of every year. Literally a list of the places, things or (even) people you want to film in a year.
Hey, it might start out small with a list of the coolest wedding venues in your region (if you’re a wedding videographer), but in a couple of years, it might end up being a shortlist of bands you want to make music videos with.
So start with making a simple list of exactly what you want to film this year. You’ll be surprised what happens.
21. Challenge Yourself To Film Something You Wouldn’t Ordinarily Film
So you’re used to filming talking heads at conferences? Or you’re most often found editing couples gushing romantically during their wedding days? That’s fine – but here’s an idea – try filming something that you’re not used to filming.
Why? To make yourself a better filmmaker.
Try taking a camera out to a place you’ve never been before and shoot some footage. Then edit it together and truly learn from the experience.
So maybe you’ve never filmed around a hiking trial? Try that. Or maybe you’ve never filmed a bar mitzvah? Find a contact and ask if you can make a short video for them. Great learning experience.
Or maybe it’s something a little closer to home. Try shooting your dog or cat in an interesting way. It can be as simple and straight-forward as that, but the process can be challenging and rewarding in ways you wouldn’t expect.
It’s about getting out of your comfort zone. That’s a concept we should all be familiar with as filmmakers, but sometimes we forget to do it regularly.
22. Make Some Filmmaking Friends Locally
I’ve spoken about networking before and its importance in establishing and growing your video production business. Whether you want to call it networking or ‘socializing’ this is a solid step to growing as a filmmaker.
Go out there and meet up with like-minded filmmakers in your local area.
You never know when you might meet someone who’s a great fit for you business, or simply a second shooter for a wedding you have coming up. And who knows, you might even meet a talented person who you decide to collaborate on a screenplay with.
I’ve met all sorts of great people this way. Positive people who help you grow as a filmmaker and a person. I’ve also met shooters and editors who have become a part of our team.
How do you find people just like you? Well, where do you hang out?
- Start online and look for local or regional social media groups that specialize in filmmaking, video production or the arts in general.
- Do you have a cool indie cinema in your local area? That’s a great place.
- Local universities with film programs are ripe for finding talented folks, especially those just getting started on their journey.
- Meetup.com is a great resource for, well, meeting like-minded people.
23. Start Making To Do Lists
This may sound old-school, but it’s the way forward. Adding To Do Lists to my routine has upped my productivity by a huge %. And I’m not necessarily talking about standard paper To Do Lists.
I use a whiteboard To Do list. Literally a $15 whiteboard that I found on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be big – just enough to add your 5-10 points that you want to accomplish in a given day.
Send off 5 emails to potential clients.
Finish the edit on the Acme company project.
Call John D about the changes he wants on x-project.
Order RAM off Amazon.
Finish Yell.com advert.
Finish the photo editing on Photoshop for the website images.
You can prioritize them in order of importance if you want, but that’s not necessary.
Also, get into the habit of taking notes on your projects and the work you do. It can pay dividends with clients if you need to raise things at a later date, such as a project that has taken a difficult turn.
It’s also useful to keep a journal. This doesn’t have to be a “Dear diary” situation. I write about the day at the end of most days. You keep yourself updated, refresh experiences in your mind and get clear on what you need to do tomorrow.
An alternative would be keeping a message thread at a filmmaking or business forum. You can update your progress and ask for advice from your fellow forum-goers. This is actually a great way to get fantastic feedback and even find mentors. Yes, I mentioned being an active part of online communities a lot, because it’s such a pivotal development point in my own journey.
24. Start a What You Want In Your Life List
I’ve mentioned this on the site before, but I want to introduce you to the Filmmaking Lifestyle 10/10/10 List.
This will change your life!
So we’ve talked a lot about taking action. I remember I used to take a lot of action but at the end of the day, I felt like I had done nothing.
This was because I went through so much of my life not being absolutely sure what I wanted. Because I didn’t know what I wanted, I was unable to obtain it. I was caught in a cycle of feeling like something was missing, but I didn’t know what was missing.
Ever felt like that? It was a really weird position to be in.
Now, when I go to bed, I feel accomplished. And when I wake up, I feel excited. The following method has worked for me over the past year:
A 10/10/10 List is a list of 10 Affirmations, 10 things I’m Grateful for and 10 things I’d like to Manifest.
Gratitude items are great things that you already have in your life that you want to keep in your life.
Affirmation items are things that you want to be – a lot of these are personality based and about how you want to be as a person.
Manifestation items are things that you want in your life.
You might find that your list will be longer than 10 items each .
Make sure you write everything down in the present tense.
If you feel bad about something in your life, you can either write an Affirmation around it, or if you want something, you can add it to the Manifestation list.
Here are some examples that might be on your list:
I am in a relationship with an awesome person.
I am improving my body composition every week.
My life is more active and fulfilling than ever before.
I am kind and helpful to everyone I come into contact with.
Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.
I am a fantastic video production company owner.
I have 8 clients that I work with regularly each year in my video business.
I go on three vacations a year.
I have all the time I need to enjoy spending quality time with my family.
So this is how it works:
1. Each morning, you read your 10/10/10.
2. As you’re reading your 10/10/10, think hard on each item and make sure it resonates with you.
3. If you don’t feel good when you read a Gratitude item, replace it with another one. If you feel negative, sad or ashamed when you read an Affirmation or Manifestation item, write down an action item that you can do that day to help you move towards achieving that goal or state of mind.
4. At the end of reading, you should have a list of Action Items.
5. Prioritize and schedule in the Action Items into your daily To-Do List (we mentioned this in the previous point 23).
6. Before you go to bed, read the 10/10/10 again.
7. I recommended keeping a journal in point 23. Use it to review your day. Write down what you did well and what you could have improved on.
8. If you made a mistake, visualize what you could have done that would have been better.
9. Now go to sleep, wake up and repeat!
Doing this effectively and honestly can really change your life. This doesn’t have to be woo-woo, esoteric new-agey stuff. There’s something very strong about visualizing your goals daily and the Filmmaking Lifestyle 10/10/10 List helps you to do it.
Alright, you caught me in the act of a bit of shameless self-promotion. 😉
However, I’d certainly appreciate it if you’d be so kind as to pay this forward and share the knowledge and tips with your friends and people in your social networks.
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I hope you got a few takeaway points from this article and make sure you subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch (also below).