Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Barbara Freedman Doyle
April 4, 2012 12:48 PM
32 Comments
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The Six Things You Must Know to Make it in the Film Industry

"Make Your Movie," a new book by Barbara Freedman Doyle
As a coordinator and production supervisor in television and film and now as the Chair of the Film Division of Chapman University, Barbara Freedman Doyle is an expert at the mistakes people just entering the film industry make. Here, in an excerpt from her new book Make Your Movie: What You Need to Know About the Business and Politics of Filmmaking, now available from Focal Press, she gives some tips on how anyone entering the film industry can make sure they stop themselves from saying what they really think and stay in the good graces of those with the power to hire.

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REPUTATION IS ALL YOU HAVE. In a business where much of the deal-making and negotiations are verbal, your word and your reputation is EVERYTHING. The film industry is small. Everyone who is established can easily make contact with anyone else or can get the straight scoop by making a few calls. How much you are paid, your title on a project, how hard you work, how honest you are, how you treat people— there are no secrets. The business is populated by talkers. Even “enemies” communicate all the time. There is no place to hide. If you are seen as creative, reliable, capable, and easy to work with, you will find luck. If you are seen as difficult, a primadonna, high-strung, or irrational you will be known that way even by people who haven’t met you. No one cares that you’re tired or have had a rough day. With no track record, it won’t matter how talented you are. When it comes to a decision as to whether or not to work with you, the decision will be negative. They will say, “Life is too short.” If you promise things and don’t come through, that will follow you and you will have damaged your credibility. Delivering what you say you can deliver is key. Extenuating circumstances don’t count. You’re trying to break into an industry of impatient people. Rationalizations won’t work. These people have seen it all and maybe done it successfully themselves.

RELATIONSHIPS ARE ABOUT HISTORY, NOT FRIENDSHIPS. The word “relationship” is possibly the most overused word in the film business. Someone gives someone a chance because he and the other person have “a relationship.” Person X always works with Person Y because there is a “relationship.” A producer would prefer that a director hire a particular cinematographer but won’t interfere with the director’s first choice because the director and the second choice have “a relationship.” Relationships are not about friendship, they are about history. In the Industry people come and go and a shiny new flock of ambitious competitors fly and drive in every day. History—having worked together on a previous project, gone to school together, and experienced something together in the past—can feel like protection against the hostile unknown factors that arise when trying to make a film. A relationship is the sum of shared goals and the hope of mutual loyalty. Friendship might play a part, but in fact there are long-time filmmaking teams where the people involved never see each other outside of the office or the set. Successful working relationships are often based on astute co-mingling of strengths and weaknesses that might gel creatively but not socially. People trust an unpleasant history that resulted in success more than no history at all. People in the industry often believe, “better the devil you know.”

KNOW THAT YOU'RE DEALING WITH GAMBLERS. The people with the power to say yes to you are educated gamblers. They plays the odds, hedge their bets. An abundance of anxiety accompanies most decisions, and the most anxiety-provoking of all decisions are those that lead to the spending of cash. These decisions are rarely spontaneous. This philosophy extends even to something as minor as hiring someone for an assistant spot. If someone has held Industry internships, if they have some kind of pre-training with a stellar reference from someone the employer already knows or knows of, that diminishes the risk that the new hire (maybe you) will do or say the wrong thing, breach a confidence without even knowing it, or behave in some way that might prove embarrassing. It’s stacking the deck. In a business where most people work their way up from assistant—and on set from Production Assistant (PA) to almost every other position—the decision to hire someone at the lowest rung of the ladder is about potential. If you received a good reference or if someone with influence made a call for you, you must be at least OK. It’s common sense that the known is more comfortable than the unknown.

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32 Comments

  • kalendra | December 20, 2013 11:31 PMReply

    hi,
    I am kalendra . best goal of the my life is best actor in the film industry. and i got my dream so i will try and try and i got success for my dream it is my goal of the life. so plz giude me how to get into film industry? I make interest any part pz e-mail me.

  • vaibhav | October 17, 2013 11:24 AMReply

    i want to b a gud n successful actor n i vl definately do it

  • Harshil r patel | October 9, 2013 1:02 AMReply

    hi ,I am harshil patel . best goal of the my life is best actor in the film industry. and i got my dream so i will try& try and i got success for my dream it is my goal of the life. so plz giude me how to get into film industry?

  • Doug | September 30, 2013 11:38 AMReply

    Great article, and rings true. Something else to think about, if you're a "third coast" crew member as I am, the business can be very scary at times. I've gone months without work which means months without pay. Markets like Dallas are hot and cold. In my 14 years here, we've lost work to Austin, then to the Louisiana tax breaks, and then to the New Mexico tax breaks. Some crew members I know have followed the jobs around. I've chosen to stay in Dallas because my family is here, and I'm a bit of a homebody with four pets and a house I love. While I'm well compensated for my time, budgeting can be tricky without a constant income stream. It's a difficult but often rewarding lifestyle. More sweat, blood, and tears than the glamor of it's image, but would I trade my experiences for a law degree? Maybe. Depends on the day. ;)

  • suuny | September 12, 2013 1:46 PMReply

    i m want to be a actor .its my passion.

  • Anshul | July 27, 2013 2:49 AMReply

    Hi I'm Anshul, I want to join in film industry. this is my dream that i made a actor.
    So please help me.
    thank you

  • MOHAMAD HAMMOUD | May 6, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Hi i got a dream i pray every day and night for ... need help & a guide please let me know that i found a way that can help my dreams come true

  • shubham mishra | April 20, 2013 7:03 AMReply

    i want to join in film indurstry

  • chandra prakash kedia | April 15, 2013 1:33 PMReply

    helloo...


    sir i want to be an actor.. its my passion to get into bollywood soo plz guide me how to get into film industry..

  • Michael Medeiros | January 3, 2013 5:10 PMReply

    Now that we're finishing post, I think I need to read this twice a day. Promo for Tiger Lily Road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvxPy1ksQ-M

  • Andrew Kaplan - Accidental Actor | August 9, 2012 1:25 PMReply

    This advice is well taken. I fetched coffee for my bosses at a major entertainment company during my college internship. I remember actually using that time to meet others and observe. I would say the best advice for someone new is to use the ability to network and observe. On film sets I make it my job to learn about what all the different people do and build relationships. Just the simple task of saying thank you will get you far. The real advice is to be "appreciative" of the opportunity and remember you learn more from failure than success, so rather than criticize, use that time to learn. In the other part of my life I teach entrepreneurs about starting a business...the smart "owner" will want to surround himself with hardworking, supportive people, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and can handle multiple tasks. . A film set is a startup.

  • Mike Akers | August 9, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    awesome article and 100% true!

  • CafeGirlsPress | August 7, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    I am making an effort to commit every word to memory, and to encourage the young people I mentor to do the same as well. Lovely article. Right on the money. Thank you.

  • Bradd Hopkins | April 16, 2012 8:44 AMReply

    If you're interested in filmmaking, read this article like gospel. There are too many other mistakes you can make to risk shooting yourself in the foot by violating its simple precepts. I have a few cautionary tales of my own, and learned from every one. They can make your phone not ring.

  • NADIM BADDOUR | April 9, 2012 4:40 PMReply

    a beautiful & true article ... very true

  • iain campbell | April 9, 2012 2:54 PMReply

    Thank you - "Truth well told" - even though its tough to swallow.. Too late to change career now..

  • Smiley | April 9, 2012 11:37 AMReply

    Articles like this should not bring out anyones defensive side... and if it does... a great book for you to read is "YOUR ATTITUDE IS SHOWING"...
    Anyone in the industry will tell you.... YOUR attitude will either get you fired or hired. Period end of story. Skills and experience will come when the attitude is aligned. ;-)

  • Lenry | April 8, 2012 10:11 PMReply

    Anything you say can be used against you. Give yourself the opportunity to turn down the next job by not losing the one you have. Do the best job you can and let the water roll of your back.

  • Joe Bessette | April 7, 2012 7:45 AMReply

    Great article thanks for posting it!!

  • Kevin Harty | April 6, 2012 7:58 PMReply

    Excellent stuff. Well structured common sense. Unfortunately that kind of sense isn't that common. I'm the oldest "new-kid-on-the-block" with no formal education in what I now do (I'm an actor and therefore on the other side of the camera) and I think the information applies right across the board. Good comments too.

  • star jonestown | April 5, 2012 7:43 PMReply

    Hate to break into the INFOMERCIAL here, but Barbara Freedman Doyle's credits are Dreck.

    I'm so sick of these f*cking books written by people who couldn't walk the walk. There they are, though, still talking that f*cking talk. It's all bullsh*t.

    HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: 'Believe in yourself. Behave yourself. Practice Practice Practice and Never Give Up.' That is all.

  • Tsk... | August 14, 2013 2:38 PM

    The damage you've already done with your first comment cannot be erased by this second, 'tail-tucked' comment... Think first, respond after and always Edit yourself. It's better not to break a plate than to apologize after the fact. The plate remains broken, even if the owner forgives... Shalom.

    Regarding the piece, I am happy to read it as it is very timely and relates not just to the film industry, but truly any and every industry. I have copped plenty attitudes in my day and only now are my eyes truly open as to why I just couldn't seem to catch a break. Now I am truly convinced that 'Attitude determines Altitude', but I'm still stubborn in some areas because: I don't appreciate kissing Unnecessary ass and wasting my time on petty things when my time can be better applied elsewhere. If I'm going to do the dirty thing, I'm going to do it in my way, timely and efficiently. I prefer to work smart, not hard; some tasks are labour intensive and unavoidable, but the repetitious things (copying/scanning) are much easier and quicker now thanks to technology. As long as I am more knowledgeable than my superiors in the technology behind the task, then I do it my way despite what they say, once the thing gets done and they are satisfied at the end of the day.

    However, I've learned the hard way that sometimes, it pays to just do the damn thing, keep your mouth shut and keep the bloody peace, no matter how dirty and degrading the task may be. The only thing that truly irks me is when people expect me to be happy about doing the grunge work. My outlook is this, "I am happy to be here, the experience and knowledge gained is indispensable to me and though you won't say thanks or appreciate me at this moment, I'll do the f*cking thing! Just don't expect or tell me to smile as I do it, as there will be hell to pay in the long run!" (See, stubbornness abounds... the pride is strong in this one lol)

    But seriously, yes I know you had to kiss ass too, but if you didn't or couldn't smile through it when it was your time to suck up, why the hell do you expect me to be happy about it? I won't cuss or embarrass you, but don't fricking tell me to be happy about it!! End rant.

  • star jonestown | April 5, 2012 8:06 PM

    ... On second thought, I'd like to apologize to Barbara. This is why I've practically quit reading anything close to this sort of post... I'm sure she's a perfectly nice person, and the anecdotes & excerpts were well-written. I don't think that the business of teaching those who are interested in the biz is inherently awful. I once read a few of these myself. Do I think there are too many of these books? Sure. But knowledge has to be passed on from generation to generation. So mea culpa. I really don't like infomercials, but people gotta eat.

  • David | April 5, 2012 4:46 PMReply

    Don't ever work with people you don't know for free. If someone who is not your friend needs you to do something, that something has value; and as you make clear in this piece, nobody's your friend, right?

  • Tsk... | August 14, 2013 2:42 PM

    I'm Sorry, David. This comment wasn't meant for you, but STAR JONESTOWN.

    Kind regards,

    P.S to add to Your comment, I agree with you as that often allows the 'boss' to take grave advantage of the 'free' employee...

  • Tsk... | August 14, 2013 2:36 PM

    The damage you've already done with your first comment cannot be erased by this second, 'tail-tucked' comment... Think first, respond after and always Edit yourself. It's better not to break a plate than to apologize after the fact. The plate remains broken, even if the owner forgives... Shalom.

    Regarding the piece, I am happy to read it as it is very timely and relates not just to the film industry, but truly any and every industry. I have copped plenty attitudes in my day and only now are my eyes truly open as to why I just couldn't seem to catch a break. Now I am truly convinced that 'Attitude determines Altitude', but I'm still stubborn in some areas because: I don't appreciate kissing Unnecessary ass and wasting my time on petty things when my time can be better applied elsewhere. If I'm going to do the dirty thing, I'm going to do it in my way, timely and efficiently. I prefer to work smart, not hard; some tasks are labour intensive and unavoidable, but the repetitious things (copying/scanning) are much easier and quicker now thanks to technology. As long as I am more knowledgeable than my superiors in the technology behind the task, then I do it my way despite what they say, once the thing gets done and they are satisfied at the end of the day.

    However, I've learned the hard way that sometimes, it pays to just do the damn thing, keep your mouth shut and keep the bloody peace, no matter how dirty and degrading the task may be. The only thing that truly irks me is when people expect me to be happy about doing the grunge work. My outlook is this, "I am happy to be here, the experience and knowledge gained is indispensable to me and though you won't say thanks or appreciate me at this moment, I'll do the f*cking thing! Just don't expect or tell me to smile as I do it, as there will be hell to pay in the long run!" (See, stubbornness abounds... the pride is strong in this one lol)

    But seriously, yes I know you had to kiss ass too, but if you didn't or couldn't smile through it when it was your time to suck up, why the hell do you expect me to be happy about it? I won't cuss or embarrass you, but don't fricking tell me to be happy about it!! End rant.

  • Amanda | April 5, 2012 3:25 PMReply

    Well written, tight, concise, and incredibly TRUE article, but if it reads as anything other than common sense to someone who wants "in" on the industry, it's time to rethink the industry you're best suited for.

  • Jason Smith | April 4, 2012 9:30 PMReply

    Just so happens I have 3 family members I will be getting this for! Thanks to cameraman Christopher Lockett and high recommendation of this book!

  • cf | April 4, 2012 5:15 PMReply

    ...MOST professions actually. My highly qualified fiancé started in science doing cancer research in a horrible lab that made him do the shitty jobs–measuring tumors on mice. He was better qualified than a bunch in the lab, but he had to suck it up until he got did enough to get med school. Problem with film is it really doesn't appreciate qualifications at all- the industry HATES film grads because they have ideals above their 'expresso whore' stations. It sucks. It's not nice. You have to suck c••k basically, especially if you don't have any prior contacts in the industry.

  • Jay | April 4, 2012 3:41 PMReply

    Applied to any procession? No it can't. With all due respect, I don't think someone in the fields of product design, cancer research or quantitative analysis sucks it up and smiles gleefully to be a chief scientist or innovator's coffee whore, because, frankly, those industries actually rely on formal pedigree and intellect -- i.e., brain power if you will. Neither does someone who works for NSA or clerks for a judge on the court of appeals.

    But of course, entertainment trumps all that because it's the only industry that thinks of itself way higher than it should. And why shouldn't it. It's a factory of delusion-inducing dreams.

  • Nathania | April 12, 2012 1:52 PM

    A product designer was once an assistant in a design office. A cancer researcher or qualitative analyst was once a graduate assistant. A clerk for a judge was once an intern at a law office. Everyone starts at the bottom. Office politics exist in every industry. But the term office politics is a cynical one. Having a good attitude and doing what it takes to get the job done - that's a positive way to think about it, and this article does a good job of it. Took me a long time to learn this, but better late than never.

  • Roger | April 4, 2012 1:39 PMReply

    I learned a lot from this article that can be applied to any profession.