Mom, Dad…I’m A Filmmaker
By Nic Baisley
So you’ve decided to come out to your parents. No, you’re not declaring your sexual preference, but instead your decision that will define you and your future. You sit your parents down at the kitchen table and gingerly break the news to them. “Mom, Dad…I think I’m a filmmaker”. Your parent’s reactions may vary from wildly indignant to just a small head shake with a hint of disappointment in their eyes. “Not my child”, they think to themselves. Announcing to your parents that you want to work in the arts is tantamount to saying your greatest endeavor in life is to become homeless. Most parents in the current generation don’t understand the concept of doing what you love for work. For them, work is something you do because you HAVE to, not because you WANT to. Anything outside of working 9-5 and bringing home a paycheck on Friday must mean that you’re a slacker of some sort. How can you ease your parent’s and yourself into the transition of your career in the arts? Below are a few tips you can use the next time you have “the talk” with Mom and Dad.
Nothing charms a parent like the idea of higher learning for their child. If you haven’t already, grab some information on film schools to show to your parents. Even if you are unsure that you are even going to attend a film school, at least you are showing your parents that you are taking your career choice seriously. You can also pepper in stories of successful filmmakers that have “made it” in the industry without going to film school. You definitely want to manage their expectations. Chances are good that you may not become the next Steven Spielberg, but there is a good chance that you might be the next Ed Burns. You might want to prepare your parents that this is a long and arduous journey that may take years to accomplish. Also give them a head’s up that not only will it take time, but also a decent amount of money as well.
As someone whose job is to watch movies for a living it was really difficult to explain to my parents that what I do is actually WORK. Anytime I went off to a film festival for a speaking gig or just to report on the films showing there, my parents would always tell me to “have a nice vacation”. There are some things that you can do to make yourself look like less of a slacker in front of your parents and avoid the constant “when are you going to get a real job” references. First, move out from your parent’s house if you haven’t already. Being around negative people in this industry is one of the first things that will limit your success. At the very least it will impugn your creativity, and at the worst the constant nagging will affect your self-esteem. Surround yourself with other creative people, and before you say that you can’t, believe that you can. Pack up your worldly possessions into that 82’ Gremlin and hit the road for New York, Los Angeles, or anywhere that you think you’ve got a shot at success.
Once you get to your new home set some small goals for yourself at first. Get a side-job to earn some extra income. I stress getting a side-job because your chosen career is as a filmmaker. You are an artist with a script, a camera, and with editing software and don’t let anyone treat you otherwise. When someone asks you what you do for a living, don’t tell them you wait tables at Denny’s; tell them you’re a filmmaker. At the same time, set some writing goals and get that script in order. All of these little successes will help you build up your bank account and your own self-worth. Next, get out the camera and shoot something!
Don’t just shoot something. Shoot everything! Get in the habit of carrying your camera with you. Take odd-jobs that allow you to exercise your creative skills and hone your craft. Get together with like-minded folks and shoot a short. Work on other people’s sets. It doesn’t even have to be anything good, but it will at least give you practice shooting and editing. Get to know the people involved in, and volunteer at your local film festival. Build your book of contacts, get known in the art scene, and if you’re any good at all at what you do, don’t do it for free. When Mom and Dad call up to check in on you, they will want to know that you are working steadily and that you are financially secure. If you’re putting yourself out there and working hard, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make it as a filmmaker.
You might not be Soderburgh yet, but you will have given yourself a good foundation to start with. You are financially independent, you’re getting known as a filmmaker in the area you live in, and you are learning business fundamentals from the volunteer-side of the festival world. You might not be a Wall Street hotshot, but you are doing what you love and making a living from it. I think that most parents would agree that’s not too shabby.