First-Time Filmmaker F-Up #1: I Can’t Make My Movie

The F-Up…

Like most things in life, your ability to make a movie lies not in what you know but in what you are willing to learn. If you have a willingness to learn and the ambition to see it through, then have no doubt, if you truly want to make a movie badly enough, you can.

How to Do It Right…

Let’s dispel two of the biggest reasons people think they can’t make movies right away:

1. Lack of connections

2. Lack of experience

Connections and experience are helpful—and not just when it comes to making movies. Nevertheless, neither of these excuses should prevent your filmmaking dreams. Here’s why…


The list of successful Hollywood bigwigs who grew up already deeply connected within Tinseltown is long. But guess what? There is an even longer list of Hollywood players who got into the industry with no connections whatsoever. The truth is there is no mythical wall trying to keep you out of the world of filmmaking. In fact, the film industry is known for its passionate love of the new: the industry is always hunting for the next hot new actor/writer/director/shoe/car/club/drug. If you have talent, ambition, and (most important of all) can make them a buck—then the industry will want to find you. You just have to make sure they can. And that, for an aspiring filmmaker, starts with making your movie.

James Cameron was a truck driver, Quentin Tarantino famously was a video store clerk, and even the late-great Orson Welles had no actual connections when he took it upon himself to stride into a theater in Dublin and simply proclaim he was a Broadway star in order to start his career out of absolutely nothing. It wasn’t who they knew that got them started. It was a lot of ambition, a little bit of luck, and the talent to back it all up. They certainly didn’t use their lack of connections as an excuse not to try, so neither should you.


Stanley Kubrick once said, “One of the things that gave me the most confidence in trying to make a film was seeing all the lousy films that I saw. Because I sat there and thought, ‘Well, I don’t know a goddamn thing about movies, but I know I can make a film better than that.’” Woody Allen wrote,“I have no idea what I am doing. But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.” The truth is that everyone must start somewhere, even if that somewhere is nowhere.

Mr. Kubrick’s advice on the matter was simple, “Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and…make a movie of any kind at all.” James Cameron put it similarly. “Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Shoot it on video if you have to. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director.” The story remains the same nearly every time; the only way to truly make yourself a “director” is by directing, and the only way to make yourself a “producer” is by producing.

Furthermore, inexperience comes with its own huge advantages. When I was filming my first movie, I had raised about $250,000. Had I known then what I know now, I would have realized the movie I was filming should cost a lot more than that and I would have given up before I started. I was too naïve to know I shouldn’t be able to do it, so I went ahead and did it anyway. Movie accomplished. The same goes for a lot of filmmaking: if we don’t know it’s supposed to be impossible, then we won’t be discouraged from trying and achieving it. Experienced people will not hesitate to tell you what you can and cannot do—not believing them can be a powerful force.

Inexperience is truly a problem only if we fail to recognize what it is we do not know. Socrates taught, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand.” You are already on your way by getting proactive, picking up this book, and having a willingness to learn. You’re taking a tremendous step on the path to making your movie. Now keep walking.

Excerpted from First-Time Filmmaker F*^k-Ups by Daryl Bob Goldberg © 2011 Elsevier, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.