In the ever-competitive world of filmmaking, there are as many theories as to why one filmmaker is more successful than another as there are actual filmmakers.  Why do some achieve greatness and others dwell in mediocrity their whole careers?  It’s not so much natural talent – yes, that helps, and so too does extensive training and preparation.  But going to a highly-rated film school and over-achieving on all your assignments still does not guarantee success.  A successful filmmaker has to develop the right habits, the habits and mind set that will allow him or her to either achieve more than what their potential maybe dictated at birth, or to live up to the expectations and high standardscreated for them.

So what are the healthy habits of a successful filmmaker, ways of going about things and thinking about things that maybe you have not considered?


On the path toward an ultimate goal, there are many benchmark goals along the way.  For example, your goal is to make a feature.  You can’t just say in one year, I’ll have a feature.  You need to set realistic and attainable milestonesto getting that film done in a year.  Work backward from the ultimate goal, and make benchmarks along the way.  Benchmarks toward this goal would be something like “finish script by [date]” or “line up crew by [date]”.  Setting these goals not only gives you digestible metrics for what you’re doing and how you’re doing, but by going through this process you’re also going over the start to finish in detail, and you may realize there are additional aspects to the filmmaking process that you had initially overlooked.


Film technology is not only always changing and becoming more advanced, but other filmmakers are always reaching for higher limits.  You can go through film school and think you have a handle on all the technology and theories that are out there, and while that may be true (probably not), that doesn’t mean in one year’s time you are already way out dated.  Keeping up with your friends and competitors is a good way to keep your creative juices flowing as you learn about new ways of doing things that you had never thought of before.  Resting on your laurels will mean you’re doing more resting than you  probably want to do in your career.


If you start making a decent income, you might think you should squirrel all profits away for the rainy days.  Better would be to ensure that there are no rainy days.  Invest some of your profits back into your filmmaking business, either better equipment, or better PR materials and networking.  Maybe your first time in Film Festivals you simply let the film talk for itself; maybe next time you should use some of your profits to actually travel with your film to the festivals.  Using money wisely can increase future profits and success.


One of the most difficult things in any art form, including filmmaking, is to see something new and exciting, or learn a new technique, and then to actually use it and apply it to your own art.  Noting something revolutionary is one thing, picking up on it and adding it to your bag of tricks is quite another.  A successful filmmaker will not only always be searching for new ideas and techniques, but will also always experiment with new things to see if you can use it to improve your own work.

These habits help make a filmmaker successful, if properly adapted.  Good luck, and see you at Sundance.