Running your own film production company is an appealing prospect: being your own boss, hand-picking projects and being intimately involved in all aspects of production. Whether you are striving to make a living, or creating a launching pad for passion projects, here are a few factors to consider.
It’s a question that can get swept under the rug in all the excitement and possibility: do you have what it takes to run a film production company? Are you ambitious? Dedicated? Driven? You will develop and gain new skills throughout the process, but you must be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses.
Michael E. Gerber, author of the E-Myth series on small businesses identifies the three personalities that are vital for every company to succeed: a visionary, a manager and a technician. It’s likely that you have qualities of each of these roles, but it takes a balance of creativity, reliability and logic to be truly successful.
FOCUS ON CONTENT
With your first business venture it’s easy to fall into the territory of the classic quote: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” While you should consider every opportunity that comes your way, choose what your creative focus is going to be and build your portfolio accordingly.
Take an inventory of your own skills, experience and connections and decide what you’d like to pursue. A good rule of thumb is to choose one lucrative field (promotional videos, commercials, event cinematography) and take part in passion projects you have the time for. And always consider your clientele – if your company focuses on wedding videos, it might not be a good idea to highlight your slasher zombie flick in the same space.
BUILD A PORTFOLIO
Never underestimate the power of a solid portfolio. Although the film industry is built on networking, connections and self-promotion, eventually it comes down to your body of work. A word of warning: finding a balance between making money and making a good product will be difficult when you first start out.
There are always going to be people who ask you to work for free, and you should consider it from a business perspective before making your decision. Will the job be a positive addition to your portfolio? Will it provide immediate benefit – promotion, connections or the opportunity to work with someone you admire? Will it just be something you’ll enjoy doing with your friends?
You will have to compromise to establish yourself in the industry, but always remember the value of your time and capabilities – and don’t undersell yourself.
PROMOTION IS KEY
The amount of time you spend establishing a professional presence online, contacting potential clients and promoting yourself is going to be proportional to the amount of work you get. As the legendary businessman P.T. Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!”
Make a website, print business cards, go out to shake hands and kiss babies. It may feel a little strange at first, but unless you already have an established list of clients, you need to do what it takes to get your company’s name out there.
Connecting to other industry professionals is fantastic way to do this, and there are a ton of resources to facilitate this. Join every film industry club you can find, go to networking events and don’t be afraid to let people know what your company is working on. Be confident, professional and enthusiastic and people will remember you.
CASE STUDY: GEORGIA STREET MEDIA
Clayton Goodfellow, founder of Georgia Street Media and an instructor at InFocus Film School has grown his film production company exponentially in the seven years since it was established.
“We started very small – it was just me working out of my apartment initially.” Clayton remembers, “ I was the producer, camera operator and editor. We added two contractors and…moved into a very small office space. How small? Basically it was like 80 Sq Feet with ceilings under 6 feet in height. We lovingly called it the ‘seven-and-a-half floor’ like the one from Being John Malkovich.”
Georgia Street Media now resides in Coal Harbour – “with higher ceilings,” Clayton notes. Through his company he has worked with a number of high profile clients, including The Vancouver Canucks, Best Buy and CTV. Clayton cites hard work, professionalism and approachability as factors that have led to his success.
Providing a piece of advice for emerging filmmakers who are interested in starting their own company, Clayton suggests learning everything they can about business. “Take a night class, read some books on organizational behaviour, develop some routines for regular processes and workflows. If you have the right work ethic and a vision for the future, success is sure to follow.”