Wondering how to become a filmmaker after film school? Here are five tips from film director and InFocus instructor David Michán on developing in the film industry.
By: Kennedy Randall
The journey to becoming a filmmaker is not always an easy one. I sat down with David Michán to hear about his life-long love of filmmaking, teaching, and learning. Michán grew up in Mexico and has been drawn to filmmaking ever since he was in middle school. When I asked him what made him decide to become a filmmaker, he has know it was his destiny since he was twelve years old. Michán said, “I was already doing storyboards about my friends in class and putting them into ‘movies’.” His savvy eye started young; if his friends paid him a nickel, he would tell them how his story would end – “everybody wanted to know if they were the hero who saved the day.” Attracted to stories and films from a young age, he always knew he wanted to pursue filmmaking.
The day after graduating from his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Science, he took a chance and flew to Los Angeles. This is where his filmmaking career began; where determination, hard work and creativity have led him to a successful career in film. Keep reading for five tips from award-winning film director David Michán on how to become a filmmaker after film school.
1. Get The Basics
When David first made his way to Los Angeles after getting his bachelor’s degree, he was determined to jump right into the film industry. Los Angeles has some of the best filmmakers in the world, and he wanted to “learn from the best.” He worked hard for five years in LA and tried out many roles on set. Michán wanted to reach his dream of directing films and this was hard to do without the basics of film school. Rodrigo Prieto, alumni of Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, recommended that Michán go back to school and gain the theory, history, principles, and other knowledge that film school provides.
He decided to go back to school and attend Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica to gain the skills he was missing. Film school perfectly complemented his experience on set, completing “the knowledge circle.” Mixing real world experience with practical education of film school creates a well rounded filmmaker and opens up your potential in the industry. After getting the basics, David found it easier to pursue directing in the film industry.
Film school teaches you the basics of filmmaking, but beyond that, you gain a network of friends and coworkers. Michán highlighted the importance of networking in film school, saying “the friends you work with in school are the friends you are going to work with in the future.” He has been working with a friend from film school across the globe. For fifteen years, he calls him whenever he has a new project.
Keeping in contact socially and professionally is another important part of networking. Keeping your ears open to oppurtunity will help you become a filmmaker after film school. Michán said that if he can’t do a job, he will pass it along to the people he keeps in contact with from film school and vice versa. By exchanging work, experience, and passions, after film school, you can continue learning and growing from your classmates.
3. Work Your Way Up to Become a Filmmaker After Film School
When I asked Michán whether it was difficult to make a name for himself in the film industry after school, he replied, “it was no easy task and it still isn’t.” Michán says “You have to be very proactive in the film industry … go and look for opportunities after you graduate.” You also have to be willing to start from the bottom, which can be hard for the ego, especially after finishing a degree!
Michán took a film he made during his undergrad to production agencies in LA, but nothing panned out. However, the companies saw the drive and passion in Michán and offered him a production assistant role on set. He saw this as a chance to learn how things functioned on set and learn as much as he could. He would ask to be closer to the director so he could hear what the director was saying. The production company saw that Michán was committed and wanted to work hard. They promoted him, eventually to second assistant director. Being open to starting from the bottom and working your way up is important when you become a filmmaker after film school.
4. Keep Diversifying
In an industry like film, there’s always more to learn and expand your knowledge. After getting a bachelor’s degree in Science and Communication, years of on-set experience in Los Angeles, and a degree from one of the top film schools, Michán still makes it a priority to diversify his skill set. He saw special effects becoming more common in film and he decided to learn more about them. He came to Vancouver, Hollywood North, to learn more about VFX and is involved on many special effects teams. By learning another skill that is becoming valuable in the industry, Michán put himself one step ahead of other directors.
As well, when you are a film director, your hours are not always stable. This gives you a lot of time to learn new skills. Michán said that in between projects, he focuses on writing his script for his upcoming feature film. He also brushed up on other skills useful for filmmaking like photography.
5. Always Listen
“Listen to your teachers… you don’t go from crawling to running a marathon,” Michán said with a laugh. When we were talking about the most valuable lessons he learned from film school he reflected on being a young aspiring filmmaker. When you are young, believe you know more than anyone else and that nothing can stop you. You want to just rush right into your dreams. Sometimes, when teachers tell you to slow down and be patient, it seems like a waste of time. But it is important to learn the basics and follow steps to become a filmmaker. Teachers are there to guide you with their experience, not cut your creative mind.
Lucky for us, we now have David as an instructor on our team to guide our students to their dreams! Michán finds teaching to be extremely rewarding because he gets to “motivate new students to create.” His love for the film industry is unmatched and finds it rewarding to inspire others. By teaching, he gives back the magic that his teachers have inspired him in. David said that the magic of filmmaking lies in the power we have to transform something from paper to pictures and shares that everyday with our students. We hope that these five tips on how to become a filmmaker after film school help you find your magical place in the film industry.