A Student Filmmakers Downfall

We as student filmmakers, and even those fresh out of college, face a foe so brutal that many of our productions that we would love to accomplish will never see the screen (for most of us this is referring to Youtube).  We fight with weapons of creativity, HD video footage and sharp technical skills that rival that of a fresh cactus at full maturity.

But in the end, we are no match for this invincible foe.  Student Budget.

How do we get past it and release all of our visions and ideas to the world?  (—How do we know that the world will care about our ideas?)

Is it possible to create a film that has the level of a professional filmmaker when we are most often limited to a minimum wage job that provides bare necessities?

I mean we have to pay off that equally terrifying student loan and for those upon the verge of graduating there is only 6 months of respite from payments before they come knocking on your door with the intent to collect at all costs (this comes in the form of a very serious letter–Not a bald intimidating version of Timothy Olyphant, in a black suit with a bar code on the back of his head, sitting at your desk in your office silencing his pistol as you get home in the middle of the night).

How do we get around the fund issue?

There are so many websites out there that can help start getting you funding opportunities for your first official film–your thesis project—your vision.

 INDIEGOGO or KICKSTARTER are good options and they both have solid methods, but after the first week you notice that you only have $20 made and $2,980 to go for a 53 day time period and you realize that there is something more to this marketing strategy.

You think thoughts like–“Maybe I should have listened in my Media Business class,”.

You begin to see projects that have less potential than yours sky rocket to several thousand dollars and hundreds of fans.

Youtube videos that have half the heart and a third the creativity are getting thousands of subscribers and your channel can’t seem to break out of your close friends.

Then you look at your work, the short films that you put every ounce of yourself into, and you have acquired 300-350 views in a month and your best friend and grandmother are responsible for 90% of those views.  She showed it to her grandma friends and they all had a movie night and talked about how “good” your film was (An example and use of the grandma critique).  The rest of the views were accidental clicks.

So what are you—WE doing wrong?  It has to be about more than just money!


This is exactly right.

It is passion, a love for your career choice and direction, with the hopes of your work becoming something that impacts a person’s life.  Not the expectation that it will become the next Sundance Film Festival hit!

That still doesn’t give you the answer to the question of “How to make a solid film riding solely on ‘Passion’ alone when you need to make money NOW in order to make your brilliant film and stay in the filmmaking business?”.

I’m getting there.

You have an amazing idea, but filming it with a low budget and a rag tag crew and cast would put the project to shame and require it to be redone later on due to it becoming outdated.  There is a time for every work of art.  Some doors open and some close.

So, back to the topic, you are ready to step it up to the big leagues and make a stand alone film that you can be proud to claim as your own.


Repetition (Practice), Determination, and Consistency.

When starting a beginning project that will lead you to your goal…

First, look to your own backyard.

For example, when I need something for a film shoot, I first look for locations that I know and am a regular customer or visitor at (often times it is in these places that I am inspired to make a film, therefore getting a score for the location is not too difficult).

Next, I think of my fellow students that I graduated with as options for assembling a crew.  We built strong friendships and teams working on class projects together, why would the real world be any different?  Grab your phone and call up some buddies that you can trust and rely on with the completion your idea.

Need props and materials to build a set piece?  Check the dumpsters because it is amazing what people throw away these days.  One day I actually found almost $30 dollars in the trash.  This is pure hard copy CA$H!  And people threw it away.  There are many useful contraptions, things that may be useless to a physics or math student, or scrap wood and metals that are up for the taking.

Trust me, the garbage men will thank you for ridding them of the tasking chore that is hauling lumber and sheet metal off to the dump.  Or any other treasure you might find.

Heck, look along the streets of your subdivision on Thursdays (If you live in the Charlotte, Mecklenburg area) or the designated garbage run days and you will see all sorts of materials and perfectly good items tossed out on people’s lawns.  Of course ask first for permission to take their junk if you want it.  What’s the worst they can say?

“No you can’t have my useless garbage?”


They are FREE Garage $ales!

Now, most people freak out when mentioning the often pricy camera.

-“An HD camera is way out of the budget.  I want to shoot on a Canon 5D, but I can’t afford it.  What are our other options?”

There are hundreds of options.  Find one that suits you and one that you can be productive with.

I just got an HD Sony Bloggie for about 60 bucks at best buy.  It has solid visual quality and average audio capabilities, but it works for what I will be doing.  A simple VLOG, a few simple videos for the fun of it, and a camera that I can whip out for behind the scenes whenever necessary.

Masterpieces aren’t always shot on top notch cameras.

-A teacher of mine once made a whole 30 minute film on his phone camera and it was very well done and received.  It is the same thing as graphic design, or any media based profession.

Just because any old person has a pencil doesn’t mean they are an artist.

-Remember it is the passion that takes you places, not the software or the tools.

Tools are always improving and always will continue to improve.  Let them!  It will not bother you unless you allow it to.


You don’t want to ruin your project by attempting it as soon as it is conceptualized in your head or even on paper.  Work the idea for a while.  While technology is in a Fritz (Lang) and you are trying to figure out how to keep up, don’t!  Brush up the character sketches and story line of your piece and flesh it out.  Work the body positioning for a drawing, or the formatting for a design concept.  With writing, editing is always a good idea–you can never edit too much.  Keep a journal of your ideas (and Dreams) that you plan to make and create simpler projects to work on NOW that test out different techniques and skills you want to utilize and master for the ‘BIG’ piece that you plan to make down the road (and continue to edit).  It is that simple.  You will be amazed at how many take interest and how easily you find your way to improving whatever you do and enjoying it all the more.

There is a simple theory to it all.

Just get out there and make something–a film, a painting, a sketch, a design logo, a short story, a simple musical composition, anything you can think of.  Create or do something new that you have never done before (And finish it!), then the next day get out there and make the next project!

Continue this process and success will make you a path to creating your masterpiece and at that point you won’t be worried about things like money.

Thanks again for reading this post.  Feel free to leave comments below of your opinions on the topic as well.

-Signing out

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