“What’s different now than when I started is you can make your own stuff now. It’s cheap enough that you can film your own movie, edit your own movie, and distribute your own movie if you want to. If it’s a big production you’re going to have to deal with compromise if you’re lucky, because you need a lot of resources. I always recommend keeping it small enough that you can maintain that control. Because even if you win the lottery and somebody buys your thing you’re not going to be happy with a lot of the compromises that are going to take place. It’s too painful. You have to counter balance that with how much heat it’s giving you or how much money you’re getting when you’re starting off and getting your foot in the door. But now I think more and more people are getting their foot in the door by doing really good work on a small scale. And then scaling up as people are looking for fresher voices.”
Producer/writer/director/Actor Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith
Portland-native Devin Graham (AKA Devin Super Tramp) is a great example of a young filmmaker who started out making cell phone snowboarding videos with his friends as a teenager and now is a 31-year-old who has scaled up to making You Tube videos that have a total of over 500 million views. I don’t know if Graham will scale up to making feature films, but I do know before he started making You Tube videos he attended film school in Utah. But he dropped out of BYU and began making Orabush’s videos. What’s Orabrush? A tongue cleaning company.
Success there has given the Salt Lake City resident to travel throughout the world working on various projects and clients include Ford, Reebok, and Bear Naked granola.
When I was a 21-year-old film school student in Los Angeles I remember taking my resume to a small production company in Burbank. By that point I had already worked as a staff photographer for a small newspaper and had made a few short 8mm and 16mm films, but I remember very clearly the sting of this guy looking at my resume and telling me “Son, it’ll be ten years before you have anything to bring to this company.” I wasn’t looking to run the company, I just wanted to get my foot into the production world.
Today there are many 20-somethings (male & female and without any film school training—and even teenagers) who have been making solid short films and videos for years. Armed with an iPhones and DSLRs and any other cameras they can find they’re creating compelling work—and some making a living. And while being a hard working, low-paid production assistant (PA) is a long standing tradition of being a super place to start your production career (and learn a lot), I’m seeing more and more young people finding small scale success (and sometimes large scale success) by shooting, directing, and editing projects for clients.
Here’s the kind of adventure videos Devin Super Tramp gets paid to make. (Don’t be surprised when he has a film pop up at Sundance some day.)
Screenwriting Quote #89 (Scott Frank) “You don’t hear people who want to play professional tennis ask to be introduced to the head of Wimbledon. No, they’re out there hitting a thousand forehands and a thousand backhands. But for some reason, in the case of screenwriting, people don’t think that way.”
Little Victories, Big Lights (Tip #94)
Start Small, But Start Somewhere “When I wrote 3:10 to Yuma. I sold the original [short] story for $90.” Elmore Leonard
Write 2 or 3 Scripts This Year (Tip #87)
‘Don’t Try and Compete with Hollywood’ (Edward Burns)
Self-Study Screenwriting “I wrote 12 screenplays before I gave one to anybody.”—Sheldon Turner
Screenwriting Straight Outta Harvard Damien Chazell is another example of a filmmaker who found small scale success before getting an Oscar-nomination for his screenplay Whiplash.
Finding Your Voice “For me, it was a matter of years of trying to develop my writing in the same way that some people spend years learning to play the violin.” Oscar-nominated screenwriter Frank Darabont