I started writing this article a week ago, the day after I came back from a shoot in New York. One of the perks of my job is that you get to travel to amazing countries, meet incredible people and get to experience many different and varied worlds that very few people get to see.
I was pretty much on cloud nine when I got back to the UK. New York is an amazing place to visit and to experience working with Americans really is great fun.
And then I got back…
At the moment I have nine projects I’m working on, all for very large clients all with very tight deadlines and I work for myself, so I am writing this after having less than six hours sleep in four days, having commuted over 250 miles and having filmed and edited over 30 hours of footage. This is the life of a freelance filmmaker.
Jack of all trades
by necessity have had to diversify my skills. I can direct, produce, edit, film, produce motion graphics, create DVD content, script, grade, create audio beds and basically have a good working knowledge of every film department. I also write for several large publications, sell, market and do the finances for my business – creating film content for companies commercially, TV shows, adverts and online work.
I have been doing this for the past ten years, won several awards and I am in the lucky position of being able to do what I love and get paid for it.
This is my busiest time of the year; from June until October I won’t stop, I will be filming every day and editing every night. But come Christmas everything falls silent and January, February and March are dead. This has been my workflow pattern since the first year I started doing this.
When I first started creating films the capacity to showcase work on the Internet was non-existent. I would wait 5 minutes for a picture to load whereas now you can stream full HD content; the leap in access to this resource is incredible.
But with that comes a greater demand for great content at a low cost. Several years ago companies would set aside 30-50k for a TV advert whereas now they want the same quality for a tenth of the price and this is why I have had to get really proficient in many different areas.
Master of all
This is not always the best way to do it. I had a meeting with Saatchi and Saatchi a year ago and showcased some of my work and they said come back to us with one thing you do so that we can see how we can use you in our company. Advertising agencies like to be able to pigeonhole you into an area so that when they have a project that needs blah… so they can go ahhh we can use x.
So now I go into each meeting, pitching session wearing one hat so if I’m pitching for a film job I will go in as a film maker, if it’s a graphics job ill going in as a motion graphics designer. I know its very obvious but it took me a while to figure out!
Doing what I do is one of the most satisfying things in the world, I absolutely love my work, but it is hard work, the hours are long, the breaks infrequent and the demands are high. As technology becomes cheaper the desire to get content out increases and so does the number of people in the market place. The competition is fierce.
This is especially in the UK where filmmaking on a small scale is hugely prevalent. The funding, support and acknowledgement is sometimes lacking and making the jump up to larger productions is incredibly difficult.
When things go well it is the best feeling in the world but when things go wrong it’s tough because there is no one to blame or to carry the can except you. This means that as a freelancer you really have to be on top of everything all the time. I think of it as spinning plates and it’s great when they are all spinning and everything is flowing smoothly but if one falls then it has knock on effects for everything else. This is the most challenging part of the job, how to organise and schedule your life so that you can actually do everything that you need to do!
For anyone thinking of going into this industry I would say go for it: pick up a camera, shoot some stuff and sell your work, the satisfaction of getting paid to make films is one of the best things in the world. But to really make a living of it you have to keep creating it, you need to consistently put yourself out there, network, email, phone and most importantly deliver projects that not only are the best that you can do but also that fulfil your client’s needs.
Above all, always remember that film making is fun and if it’s not then something you’re doing isn’t right.
Matt Brown blogs at http://mattbrownfilms.blogspot.com/