Filmmaking / Directing : Day Job/Family obligations. by Jeff Anderson

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Jeff Anderson

Day Job/Family obligations.

I have been out of college for two years at the end of 2020 and I am no closer to achieving my goals than I was then. I have written several short scripts and the first draft of a feature in that time, but I haven't gone anywhere. Haven't filmed anything, haven't moved away from my family, haven't been able to find a day job to make extra money while I try to kick off my filmmaking career.

Does anyone else relate to this?

Shadow Dragu-Mihai

Yes, and the answer is called self-discipline and refusing to stop. No magic, just hard work. Also, it may or may not give you some power to know that it has NEVER been any different in this industry, for anyone. Well, maybe for people like Spiilberg and Lucas, who had rich parents and the ability to focus only on one thing... There are those people, but even for them, it's an uncertain struggle.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services Coordinator

When I graduated college in 2008 I couldn't get a job for two years. I spent hours every day applying to everything I could to no avail. The housing bubble had just burst, the economy was in decline, and I had a B.A. in Theater which was basically a joke to everywhere I applied. So I sat down and wrote my first screenplay. I did rewrite after rewrite of it over that time, and it was still awful (but an important step in learning). I couldn't see any future at all, but just kept writing anyway. I thought I'd be in my childhood bedroom getting yelled at by family members who were claiming I could just get a job if I wanted one for the rest of my life. So I eventually started doing community theater shows just to pass the time and get out of the house. I literally got every audition I went out for because there just wasn't any competition in the area. Helped boost my confidence to be around other creatives because let me tell you, I was severely depressed. Not having work, being home all the time, buried in debt. I wanted to die, man. It was the hardest time of my life. So yes, I relate. You're young, and we don't realize it then, we think once we're out of college we have to make something of ourselves because that's what we're sold. But you're a creative, so failure is the path until you succeed. Just keep at it, you'll get yourself out there.

Julia Petrisor

one step at a time! stick with it. consider doing some mindset work too, so you stay optimistic and resilient. start small and be willing to do small things/ fail etc. I can relate - and I personally have this interesting cycle where I trap myself in my thinking. By this I mean, I end up running out of money and think "okay, no time to write, gotta work" but that's totally not the answer. So yes, it will happen and you just have to stay the course. all the best with it.

Christiane Lange

First of all, there must be some day job you can get, even if it is in the local supermarket. Second, this stuff doesn't happen overnight. Try to involve yourself more generally in a community of people doing creative work. Try different things, live a little. You need life experience to write.

Doug Nelson

I graduated in 1969. Sold the very first script I wrote so I assumed that this Screenwriting gig was profitable and easy. My writing career went downhill for years after that. I have sold a couple of scripts since then (one for a low 6 figure against a mid 6 figure). I'm guessing but during the last 51 years (half a century), I've sold about $1M or about $19,600 per year. It's a tough business.

Geoffrey C Kosty

The best thing you can do is stop talking and thinking about it. Turn one of those short scripts into a short film. Use whatever means are available to you right now. Shoot it with your phone camera if you have to. Don't expect a financial return for the time being. "Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you're a director. Everything after that you're just negotiating your budget and your fee. "

-James Cameron

Kiril Maksimoski

Give it time, Jeff...all comes along eventually, family, house, car, success in your job....but you'll probably never be Hollywood superstar, so quit that pressure pls :)

John Ellis

Yes, Jeff Anderson we all can relate. We all have obstacles (past, present and future) - if this gig was easy, everybody would be doing it (although it seems like "everyone" is, very few actually make it). despite failure after failure, if you don't give up, there's a chance you'll make it. If you give up, there's ZERO chance of making it. Here's how Beck/Woods (A Quiet Place) did it.

Brian Largo

Tough love here. In two years, with no job, why didn't you write? Do you just have one FIRST draft? How do you expect to someone hire you if you have nothing to show?

Write more. Develop your own voice. Write filmable specs scripts (even if they are just useful as samples). Direct your own short films, even your feature film, if you can gather some friends (if you write with what you have at hand, it's very achievable without spending big money). Get some credits in student films. Show your work. Send queries. Do whatever you need to put you in the eyes of some person.

Write. Get feedback. Swap scripts. Network and film things with others on the same level as you. Offer yourself to write scripts. Make honest connections (I won't say friendship, but don't be that guy that “Hey how are you? Do you wanna read my script?” and then when it's your turn to read you ghost them because you have nothing to profit from them). You don't know who'll gonna make it, or who knows who. Just be genuine and don't be a dick. Help others and you'll help yourself.

I'm not saying this to put you down. It's a wake-up call. It's difficult to get somewhere if you don't take action! And as John Ellis put it: Don't give up, as long as you keep trying, you got a chance. The razor's edge here is persistence. But you have to keep writing and trying to be prolific. That'll increase your chances.

edit: clarity

Karen "Kay" Ross

So grateful for the outpouring of support in response to your post, Jeff. Thank you all for your stories and advice! Therein lies my two cents -

1) You cannot approach this industry like any other. It's not the type where you sign on with a company, work there for 30 years, climb up some "ladder", and retire comfortably. IF that happens to anyone, then it happens to the most logistical roles, and even then... not likely. Most of us are contractors, which means business owners, which means the hustle to find work is hard. "Getting the job" isn't the beginning of the work, it's the prize for running your business well. How do you run your business well?

2) It starts with remembering that you are not alone. Find a collective that can keep you accountable, find a class that keeps you honest to your deadline or growing in your craft, find a core group you like working with so you can make films as frequently as you are available to get together, find your local industry and what you can do that brings value to them (e.g. DC is well-known for documentaries and I'm good at research - that's what I can contribute). A friend of mine is a writer's assistant on a CW show here in Burbank, literally an arm's reach away from being a staff writer. And you know what she does? She is part of a Sunday group that reads scripts for notes, she signs up for classes for writing, and writing retreats, she networks as often as possible. Don't let your career live and die with you alone in front of a computer. Find a way to get involved with others in a way that suits you. I LOVE Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services Coordinator 's story about getting work at Community Theatres - that's how I started before I got paid for gigs! Also, thank you for sharing, Nick. It was very generous of you to reveal that painful part of your life.

In the beginning, it's about forward momentum. If you're talking production, the key to getting on set as a no-name PA is simply be the first person to respond that they like. After that, the best thing you can ask for is someone who will vouch for you, either as a reference or as someone willing to hire you again. Check-in with that person frequently and shower them with gratitude.

As you can see, yes, we can relate. If you haven't already, I would suggest taking a moment to make a goal for yourself in November with the November Write Club (https://www.stage32.com/blog/The-Stage-32-November-Write-Club-is-Back-Wh...). It doesn't have to be a writing goal. In fact, if you miss "filmmaking" and you own a camera of any sort, I would challenge you to go on a walk every day, get footage on your walk, and at the end of the month, put something together with what you've shot. Read a poem over top of it, or try some VFX to connect it. It doesn't have to be epic, award-winning, critically-acclaimed, it just has to be complete. Because then you can look yourself in the mirror and say, "I am a filmmaker, and with every project I complete, I become stronger in my craft." Looking forward to hearing what your next steps are!

Oscar Ordonez

John Ellis very good words of wisdom. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretzky.

Oscar Ordonez

Brian Largo this advice is priceless. Sometimes the key to success is so simple that we refuse to believe that it's just "work". Just do what you need to do and stay driven. Everything you laid out are the foundational steps that we need before we can start trying to shoot for the Hollywood stars.

Sol Roth

One spec script screenwriters, don't succeed in this industry, because there is nothing for them to succeed with. (why only a draft) You may eventually (with luck) sell your one script, but there is no job to get. No one hires a screenwriter as an employee, and even if they did, what would they base that off of? One spec script and some shorts? I think you may be thinking about screenwriting as a profession (a regular job), it's not. Most people will never ever ever sell a spec script. And if you only have 1-2 scripts,even if you sell them eventually, you have 0 chance of it financially supporting you for a lifetime. You need a regular job as well as your screenwriting aspirations. Keep writing, follow your passions and do what you love, but at least approach it logically. I'm with Karen "Kay" Ross on this one! I hate negativity, so I apologize if this came out negative, but this is what I think. If you want a positive take away, write more, really really write, write 10 spec scripts. Give them more and still find that day job. Do it because you love it.

Paul Rivers

If you have a phone that can capture video you can make film.

All the tools to finish a film are free to download your footage to the cloud, to edit, add sound effects, blur the faces of the haters, and so on.

You can create a short film of the conflicts/obstacles that you overcame to get to your goal of your choosing.

Post your film on line, make another, promote each film as you go, and create a portfolio of films.

Now maybe the best time to be a filmmaker and build your audience.

Good luck Jeff

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