You’ve finished film school… now you’re wondering what’s next? Here are six ways to make money in film after school.
By Kennedy Randall
Though the next chapter of your life may be nerve-racking, it is also an incredibly exciting time to be a filmmaker! The film industry is growing alongside society’s need for content, meaning there are more opportunities for filmmakers. There are many different career paths or side hustles that will bring in the income after film school. From traditional positions in the film industry, freelance filmmaking, social media, and more, you can make money in film or as a filmmaker in many different ways.
1. Make Money in Film by Finding a Job on a Set
The traditional film industry is what likely most of your training in film school revolved around. Whether you want to be a director or behind the camera or even a lighting expert, there are many different paths you could take on set.
Reflect on your time at film school. What skills did you develop the most? Were you stronger on set or in post production? Interest in audio? Think about what roles you enjoyed the most at school and which you want to focus on post-graduation.
Because of streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and more, the need for content is on the rise. More productions = more jobs = people make more money in film. More skills and interests means more opportunities.
In your community and online, there are many ways to find a job on set. Your peers at film school are a great built-in network. Not only could they mention opportunities they hear of, but you could gain experience working on a friend’s film set. Your teachers may also get wind of a production coming to your city and tell their students about the opportunity.
Online, join local Facebook groups based around film. Some of these groups are for networking but often people post job opportunities. As well, Craigslist is a common place for indie filmmakers to post call-outs. Some jobs will pay more than others, but it will give you the experience needed to make money in film and land bigger gigs in the future.
2. Create Content for Social Media
Businesses in this digital age are always on the lookout for video editors, content creators, and other film-based positions that can help them engage clients. The content could be anything from posts for social media, advertisement videos, articles, and more. Having experience behind the lens is very advantageous for creating engaging visual content. Editing skills are also very valuable.
Using your demo reel from film school, choose your best shots, spruce it up a bit to attract clients. Don’t be afraid to cold call or email businesses in your area. Offer your skills, a bit about you and how you would create good personalized content. This career can be quite lucrative if you work hard. You could always offer an influencer or a small business your services for cheap, or even pro-bono to start building up your portfolio before taking on bigger clients.
3. Become a Freelancer
If you aren’t ready to choose a permanent gig, you could always try to become a freelancer. Freelancers can specialize in anything from videography to sound. They hire themselves out to production companies or businesses at a daily rate.
Using your skills from film school, build a portfolio you can showcase to potential clients. Ensure that both the videography and the editing is seamless in your portfolio to show that the clients will only need to hire one person for the job. Being a jack of all trades in the freelance game will give you an edge on the competition.
You will also have to secure your own equipment and software, which can be expensive. Creating a plan outlining your spending and potential return before you take the plunge is very important.
Though, as a pro-tip, some freelance videographers will take a day-job at film rental studios. This oftentimes allows them to rent the necessary gear at a discounted rate.
Being a freelancer can offer you so much freedom and flexibility. With potentially a new location every day, filled with new people, your job will always be fresh and new. This is also a great way to network and meet other film professionals, which one day may lead to another film industry job.
4. Submit to Film Festivals and Streaming Services
After 12 months at film school, you leave with 12 films. This means you have twelve films that could be pitched to producers. Pick the project you are most proud of and start submitting it to festivals. If you feel like there’s still more you can add, feel free to edit it, shoot more scenes, and polish it to get it big-screen ready.
A good tip would be to enter as many film festivals as possible, both before and after school. This will get your name and your film out there. As well, network with your teachers. They could one day recommend your work to a producer or distributor that could pick up your film.
If you have an idea for a unique film festival, gather a couple friends and start your own! You can include your own film and other films that complement its narrative. In your community you can also host local screenings as well as virtual screenings with Q&A periods. The more people that see your film, your chances of making money in film increase.
Finally, you can submit your film to streaming services. The ins and outs of getting your film distributed is sometimes confusing, but many streaming services allow you to submit your film for free (including Amazon!). There are also some indie short-film streaming sites like SOFY, which you can submit for free and earn revenue if your film is streamed. Not only do opportunities like this increase visibility for your work, but if your film makes an impression, you could find your financier for your next project!
5. Work On Commercials
Though working on commercials may not fulfill your professional filmmaker dream, it may be a stepping stone to get you there. Gaining practical experience, whether it be shooting, editing, lighting etc, is always helpful for your career.
It may not be the blockbuster feature film you wanted to shoot, but gaining experience behind the camera is always valuable. By working with other professionals in your field, you will be able to learn technical and creative skills from them. Constantly learning, practicing and improving will help your filmmaking career tenfold while ensuring you have income.
Many successful filmmakers like David Fincher, Michael Bay, and entire animation studios like Pixar spent their early years making commercials. Many famous filmmakers like Sofia Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Wes Anderson continue to make cinematic commercials. Read more about the pros of doing commercials here.
6. Make Your Own Film and Market It For Sale
Paranormal Activity (2009) has a success story that will forever inspire young filmmakers. Made on a budget of only $15,000 by first time director Oren Peli, the film was bought by Paramount Pictures. The first Paranormal Activity ended up grossing around $195 million dollars worldwide. It was followed by five sequels and a multi-million dollar franchise.
Though this is a rare occurrence, The Blair Witch Project is another low-budget independent film that brought in millions of dollars. Writing and producing your own is not only a good experience but it could pay off!
Decide on a budget that you could feasibly create a short or feature length film with. Brainstorm some resources that you already have at your disposal. For example, don’t waste money on renting a location. Consider using your house, your old school, or any outdoor spaces near you.
Find friends that would be interested in the idea. If you found a co-director, you could split the production costs. As well, many filmmakers starting out offer their services for free in exchange for experience.
After submitting your independent film to festivals, you can try submitting it to streaming services. As well, best case scenario, you could pitch your idea and show your film to producers or distributors. Continually be reaching out, cold-calling, emailing and networking within your community to find these meetings and make money in film. A successful pitch may lead to it getting a higher budget for you to reshoot and extend. Eventually, you could get your self-made film into theatres or supported by Netflix!
Having side hustles is always important when you are starting your career. You can choose one of these paths to focus on or try doing multiple at once. Work hard, stay determined, and you can make it big! These six opportunities are ways you can ensure that you will make money in film while achieving your dreams.
InFocus Film Production Program
Film School: Is It Right For Me?
How to Write an Impactful Low-Budget Feature