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The top skills to develop as an independent filmmaker

Every film-buff’s dream is to take up a camera and make their own art – but without experience, it can be difficult knowing where to start your journey as a filmmaker. A contributed post from Jeremy Bowler supplies a beginner’s guide to creating independent films, and the skills you need to sharpen along the way.

While the annual revenues of independent films have fluctuated over the years, there’s been a massive resurgence recently, with films in this category reaching $1.2 billion in 2022 alone. That should sound encouraging if you’re aspiring to be an independent filmmaker. But before enjoying your share of this growing market, you must prepare yourself to thrive in this competitive industry. Here are some skills you need to become an independent filmmaker.  

Screenwriting skills

Start with the basics. Before all the drama of budgets, casting, production management and directing, hone your craft as a storyteller. Legendary director Akira Kurosawa once said, “if you genuinely want to make films, then write screenplays. All you need to write a script is paper and pencil. It’s only through writing scripts that you learn specifics about the structure of film and what cinema is.”

A good filmmaker should have a knowledge of storytelling and screenwriting. So, if you’re not experienced in screenplays, you might want to start learning now. Making movies is an opportunity to tell stories and interact with your audience, and you need to narrate yours in ways that capture minds, eyes, and hearts. You can only do this if you learn to master storytelling. You can consider playing several creative games if you want to master your screenwriting skills, including roleplaying and writing a sequel to your favourite movie. Also, remember that clear language and a vast vocabulary set good writers apart from ordinary ones. So you can consider playing a word or scrabble game with the help of an anagram solver to help you improve your vocabulary and command over your diction.

Take your time

There is always a temptation to rush into the top roles, and try to emulate your filmmaking heroes as quickly as possible. It is worth learning to walk before you try to run though; so if you can find opportunities to gain on-set experience – as a runner, a sound technician, even an extra – then take them before diving into directing or producing.

A film director is a creative professional who oversees the artistic aspects of film production, and it is often seen as the top job. The role encompasses everything from guiding the actors and making artistic choices to managing the production process. You must also learn effective communication and leadership skills to succeed. Observe how experienced directors operate and try to learn from what they get right (and occasionally wrong). This will make bringing your creative vision easier. 

Confidence and leadership abilities

As an independent filmmaker, almost everyone on set will look to you for leadership and guidance. You must be responsible for every task your position requires while contributing to other team members’ work.

That means whether you’re working behind the cameras, directing, or leading production, you’re expected to act as a leader at any time and in any way necessary. You should be able to think on your feet, develop solutions to problems when they arise, and ensure that all film or shooting deadlines are met. Work with a producer where possible – they specialise in meeting these needs, while knowing where to lend advice in production, or take a step back to allow your creativity to flow.

Editing knowhow

As mentioned earlier, you may take on multiple roles simultaneously as an independent filmmaker. If you want to ensure your vision is communicated from start to finish, one of those roles needs to be editing. Filmmakers from Ken Loach to George A. Romero understand that leaving your ideas in the hands of others can invite misunderstanding – so at the very least you need to actively engage with a co-editor while you transform a film from raw footage into a coherent and impactful narrative. Of course, a dedicated film editor could play this role. But thanks to the many editing software packages available, you can easily undertake this task without a professional.

That’s why it helps to have good editing skills and understand the editing software available. It’s easier this way to shape your stories and create a seamless flow between scenes, so feel free to consider this.
Being an independent filmmaker requires a specific set of skills. Hopefully, you’ll consider those discussed above for the best results. 

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