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Become a Filmmaker: Education and Training Requirements

Learn how to become a filmmaker. Learn about the job description of a filmmaker, as well as the differences between filmmakers and directors. Research the education, training, and experience required for starting a career as a filmmaker. View article »

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  • 0:00 How to Become a Filmmaker
  • 1:15 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:10 Step 2: Create a Short Film
  • 2:51 Step 3: Gain Experience

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Video Transcript

How to Become a Filmmaker

Filmmakers differ from directors in that they are responsible for every aspect of a film production. As a filmmaker, you might come up with the idea, write the script, raise money, find filming locations, audition actors, and direct the piece. In the process of doing your job, you may have to handle the stress of trying to meet deadlines. You'll usually work an irregular schedule, and possibly encounter rough weather conditions when filming on location.

While there are no formal requirements to become a filmmaker, a bachelor's degree in film and television production is recommended as it will provide you with an opportunity to acquire many of the skills necessary to work in the field, as well as gain experience with projects and establish industry contacts.

Key skills for filmmakers include creativity, attention to detail, organizational skills, leadership skills, and technological skills, including proficiency with editing software, such as Final Cut Pro or Avid, and knowledge on how to operate camera equipment. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for all producers and directors was $68,440.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step towards becoming a filmmaker is to earn a bachelor's degree. In order to gain the knowledge and skills needed to become a filmmaker, individuals may want to enroll in a bachelor's degree program in film and television production. Courses in this program will give students the technical and creative abilities necessary to make their own films. Students will learn about camera operation, lighting and sound, editing, screenwriting and animation. The program will also teach students the differences between scripted films and documentary films.

Here's a success tip: focus your attention on screenwriting. While directors are responsible for making decisions on a set, creating the shots, and instructing the actors. Filmmakers may also need to write the scripts they produce. Writing short films, creating scenes or developing treatments in school will give you a chance to learn the writing process and improve your screenwriting abilities.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Cinematography and Film Production
  • Film and Cinema Studies
  • Photography

Step 2: Create a Short Film

The second step toward becoming a filmmaker is to create a short film. Many bachelor's degree programs offer students an opportunity to create a short film during their senior year. Creating a short film offers students a chance to apply on the set what they've learned in the classroom. After students write the script, they will learn how to lead a crew, manage a budget, secure locations, audition and direct actors, set up a schedule and edit footage.

Here's a success tip: send your short to film festivals. Exposure at film festivals is a good way to connect with professionals in the industry, and interact with filmmakers participating in the event. Some festivals highlight or have special sections for student work.

Step 3: Gain Experience

The third step toward becoming a filmmaker is to gain experience. After graduating with a bachelor's degree, individuals may not be ready to become filmmakers. However, it's important to continue to gain experience. While recent grads may work as production assistants, they may also be able to find work as camera operators, editing assistants, or writers on low-budget independent films. Working on films is also an opportunity to begin networking and meet other professionals in the industry.

Here's a success tip: continue creating your own work. With the advent of digital production and film making, creating independent films has become much more accessible and inexpensive. Learning how to complete a film from start to finish will prepare you for larger and more professional productions.

The steps toward becoming a filmmaker include earning a bachelor's degree, creating a short film, and gaining experience.

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