How To Become A Filmmaker Without Going To Film School

Learn Filmmaking Without Film School – Are you an aspiring filmmaker that doesn’t want to deal with a film school student loan debt? Student debt takes years to pay off, and the entry-level film industry jobs won’t pay off the school debt quickly?

First off, there is nothing wrong with learning the art of filmmaking at a reputable film school. Some remarkable filmmakers have experienced the years of film school to get to where they are.

But can you become a filmmaker without going to film school?

How much difference does going to a film school make in a filmmaker’s ability?

This post is dedicated to those wanting to jumpstart his/her film career without film school. It will introduce easy ways on how to Become a Filmmaker and Ways of Breaking Into the Film Industry.

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Film Industry Introduction - My Film Career Path

Learning on your own in the past was challenging in regards to the film industry, but things have changed on learning the craft of filmmaking.

There are tons of acclaimed books, blogs, and videos out there that can instruct you so much about the basics of developing a film presently.

But where do you start if you prefer this path? Here is my path to learning filmmaking without film school.

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I went to multiple film schools over many years, but I started to realize that I need to start paying off my film school student debt.

From eating Mr. Noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I realized I needed to forget about my dream and find a job that would put money in my pocket to replace Mr. Noodles with pizza.

It’s amazing how good a slice of pizza is after eating powdered chicken-flavored noodles for years.

Learning Filmmaking Without Film School – A Day That Changed Everything

A couple of years ago while I was at a networking event for a sales retreat, I stumbled across a couple of filmmakers and was jealous that they were following his/her dream.

A dream I gave up so I can eat more pizza and have clothes without holes in them. I heard they needed a gaffer assistant on a short film weekend shoot and jumped at the chance to get back on the set.

Sure while I was on set helping out the gaffer, but I was running odd jobs on the set as well.

Filmmaking jobs like grabbing catering for the crew, coffee runs to the nearest coffee shop for the cast, or holding umbrellas over the director and cast while they were blocking a shot while I was getting rained upon.

Many may think these tasks may be thankless jobs, but if you are doing something you love, the feeling you get knowing you helped in a film project is priceless.

First Step In Learning Filmmaking Without Film School – Know What You Want To Do In The Film Industry

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The first step in learning filmmaking without film school, is you need to figure out where to do you picture yourself in the film industry.

Do you want to be a director? How about a screenwriter? Maybe you want to be a producer because of your incredible skillset of managing.

Second, figure out how much knowledge you already have in these particular fields.
Are you new to the film industry? Or, are you someone who has been on a set and understands the basics?

Once you have figured out where you stand in regards to what path you want to take, the next step is to learn.

Related Article: Ultimate Equipment Guide For Beginning Filmmakers 

Volunteering on a set

“If film school isn’t recommended, what should one do for education to help start their career?”

The great thing about filmmaking today compared to the past is that any city has a thriving filmmaking scene.

One of the Filmmaking Tips I tell aspiring filmmakers is to start researching filmmaking societies in his/her area and begin to network with filmmakers in these groups.

What you need to understand is you may have an incredible vision and ready to jump into the game, you have to start slowly. Even if you went to film school, you still have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

 Volunteer on any project in the area, and do any job that is needed. 

Throw the ego out the door, and if the only job available is getting coffee for people, take that job.

Recently at the Austin Film Festival, I sat down with a producer, and I asked how the individual started, and the path was the same as what I mentioned above.

But this person had an approach that I haven’t quite established yet, and that approach was fake it until you make it.

Be Ready

“How much difference does going to a film school make in a filmmaker’s ability?”

You never know where your opportunity will come, and what they teach in improv class is to say yes to everything. The producer I had the privilege of talking to started just by saying yes at any opportunity that came their way.

His start in the film industry without film school was just by having a conversation with a filmmaker looking for crew members to help in the sound department for an upcoming shoot.

This producer mentioned he had sound experience but really didn’t. But somehow he got on the set. The minute he got on the set, the sound department was asking him to do many things that he had no clue of.

What he did was ask other departments if they knew what he was supposed to do. By doing this he got the answers he needed a was able to get his job done.

Now, unless you are good at BS-ing, I would suggest trying this example on a smaller set.

Keep Your Ears Open

Sure you may not be learning your craft in a film school, but when you are on a set you are always learning! When you are on a film set, pay attention to the other departments on the set and learn the skills from them.

The skill sets you will learn from doing this is that it will give you more opportunities for more available positions on future film productions.

If you have some knowledge and willingness to learn, you will be constantly working from a film set to film set. This journey may take a few years, but you will have several credits under your belt.

From all this hard work, you might be able to get your chance to make projects yourself.

Where I Am Now Without Film School

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Me(On The Right) w/ Andrew Kevin Walker(writer of “Seven”) at the Austin Film Festival

Since my first shoot, until now, I have been made the president of the board for the past two years of this independent society, I have some imdb credits under my belt, and now I have projects in development that are mine.

My IMDB page is small still, but it’s growing. So if you are thinking to yourself that you can do what I did, which I know anybody can, where do you start?

Check out the following videos and links below to see where I started from nothing in a couple of years. I know my acting work is not the greatest, but it’s getting better. God, I really hope it will get better.

Side Note: The links below are not to showcase my talent. These examples below are there to show that anybody can do what I have done if you put the work in.

Pity Party

This was the first project that I was involved in which I just acted in.

An incredibly talented up and coming filmmaker Ashley Good took a chance on me.

I auditioned for a role and I didn’t think I would get it, but somehow I did.

From Pity Party, that opportunity opened up another project in which Ashley and I have worked together called ” The Camping Discovery” directed by another friend Jamie Franz Hoover.

Noelle’s Package

The clip above was from a short film I made for a 48 Hour Film Fest. It was written, shot, and chopped in 48 hours.

Our actors didn’t show up for shooting that day, so all the crew acted in it. Forgive us!!!

Third Date

3rd Date was a short feature in which it was Written and Directed by my friend Russell Munday.  

This was another situation where I was doing 1st AD work on his set and an actor canceled at the last minute and he needed someone from the crew to jump in.

Always say yes to anything is a motto of mine, and from that, I got to improvise on the shoot and had a great time.

Side note: Actors! Please show up to the set. When there is crew waiting to shoot, and then the talent doesn’t show up, it doesn’t help your future career.

Tommy Lindholm Presents The Bucket List

This was an opportunity that just by chance fell into my lap just by doing extra work for another project I was helping another friend (Bryan Skinner) with.

Having a conversation while waiting between shots, with my friend Brent Lanyonwe discussed a project he was working on.

Brent Lanyon mentioned he needed help with sound on his Tommy Lindholm Project
With no sound experience, I said yes I will do it, and just hoped I didn’t screw it up.

From being on set, I ended up doing sound on a few episodes, plus directing an episode, and acting in a few episodes as well.

The lesson to learn: Always Say Yes! Don’t complain! Oh, and show up!

Related Article: How To Make Your Smartphone Footage Cinematic

Married & Isolated

With Married & Isolated, was an interesting short film as this happened during the start of the pandemic. My wife and I were awarded a grant to make a web series, but the stipulation was that the short had to be over 10 minutes long. So, when we were ready to make the project with a cast and crew of over 20, the pandemic hit, and we had to pull the production.

The only problem was that the company that gave us the grant to make our original project needed a 10-minute short shot in 2 days to honor the agreement they made with the Canadian government.

Since we couldn’t shoot our original project due to isolation rules, we were told to shoot anything within 48hours for the company to honor its agreement with the government.

So, we panicked and improvised this short film and had it ready within 48 hours. After looking at it now, I wish I learned more about editing, but filmmaking is a learning process. Have a look, it’s kinda funny for those who are married.

How To Learn During This Process Without Film School

Can you become a filmmaker without going to film school? When you are at a film school, what do you really do anyway? Read, take notes, and watch examples from the past. Is this worth spending 10k a year doing?

Sure, education is the most important thing you can spend money on. As well as pizza and a roof over your head. You maybe thinking right now “How do I learn to make a movie, if I’m not a great writer or director?”

The good news is there is a wealth of information at your fingertips via the Internet that can get you close to the same education you would receive from a film school. Just you won’t get a piece of paper at the end to put in a frame.

But when you have to replace that frame with the Oscar you won years later, it doesn’t matter how you got there. You just got there.

Learning Film Without Film School -Filmmaking Books

“What are some good books to learn filmmaking and visual storytelling?”

There are some incredible books on filmmaking that you should get your hands on immediately to help with your journey. I am going to list the most important books you need in your arsenal to get you started.

Screenwriting – Understand the basics of screenplay structure.

Here are some great books to teach you:

Related Articles: Screenwriting Handbooks Every Filmmaker Needs

Directing: Understand what a director does.

Related Articles: Directing Handbooks Every Director Needs

Producing: Understand the role of the producer then you will know why they are the ones holding the best picture Oscar and not the director.

Learning Film Without Film School – Videos

Don’t like reading? Neither do I.

I learn better watching than reading, and the great thing is there are some incredible videos out there that will help you just ask much as reading.

What are the best free websites or YouTube channels to learn filmmaking, movie production, or shooting videos? I have chosen clips that are my go-to in regards to inspiration to the madness. 

These are just a few examples of what you can find on Youtube:

Christopher Nolan On Directing

David Fincher – And the Other Way is Wrong

How Does an Editor Think and Feel?

Edgar Wright – How to Do Visual Comedy

Filmmaking Online Course

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Masterclass: I might be a little bias on this one just because the cost of the program and the instructor’s teaching is impressive. Why learn from a professor at a film school who has less IMDB credits than I do.

Learn from the masters in his/her fields in an almost one on one classroom environment.

The Classes that I got the most out of is the following:

Related Article: Reasons Why It’s Never Too Late For A Film Career

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Learning Film Without Film School - DIY

Are you asking yourself “If I want to make an indie film, where do I start?”

When you learned how to ride a bike, do you read a book or watch a video on how to ride a bike? I know I didn’t, and with the scar on my lip from a stupid crash when I was five, maybe I should have.

But, the great thing about filmmaking now is anybody can grab a camera and make a film.

If you are aksing yourself” I am not a student at film school. How may I study to make a film and use the camera freely?” 

Get a camera and start filming!

Filmmaking Cameras

When it comes to filmmaking equipment you will need to start off with a filmmaking camera.

Here are some good cameras you can use to get you started. Some are easy to deal with cameras, and are learning curve but produce incredible images.

Figure out what you are looking for, and start filming.

If you want to try the DIY option, I will suggest buying a camera you are comfortable with, and just start filming.

Filmmaking Quotes From Famous Filmmakers

James Cameron once said “pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister sat in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiation your budget and your fee.”

Stanley Kubrick once said.“The best thing that filmmakers should do is get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”

Filmmaking School Experience

Some film schools allow you to start shooting from the very beginning, but they don’t actually train you in the art and craft of film direction: there is no professional development.

By “training” I mean proper, solid, practical training of the type that you might receive as a doctor or airline pilot.

There is quite simply no institution out there that trains film directors in the same way that airline pilots are trained.

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The time I Met Tommy Wiseau

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter how you started in the filmmaking process, it about the willingness to say yes and learn. There are some incredible Film Schools out there that will teach you the world of filmmaking like UCLA, USC, and NYU.

But if you can’t afford these Film Schools then don’t let that be the deterrent of getting into the film industry. The resources you can get from the internet and the knowledge and experience by volunteering on a set can get you toward your end goal just as fast.

Just say yes, and throw the ego out the door.

#filmmaking #filmschool #masterclass

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0 thoughts on “How To Become A Filmmaker Without Going To Film School

    • July 16, 2019 at 7:09 pm
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      Thanks. I wish someone created a list for me years ago, I could have saved money in the long run. But, back then, dinosaurs still walked the earth.

      Reply
  • September 15, 2019 at 9:30 am
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    Very interesting post. My husband possibly twenty years ago now, wrote a screen play, he also wrote music to go with it.. maybe a trailer.. Yes talking with music in the background. However he has done absolutely nothing with it. Right now it possible needs a rewrite, but I fear the world will never see it.
    Interesting thoughts on getting into film making. As I’m sure you know, Jackie Chan started as a stunt man, doing the most dangerous stunts.. and now he is a global superstar. Yes he learned the martial arts at school but his determination to keep going I really admire.

    Reply
    • September 15, 2019 at 4:54 pm
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      The film industry can be something you can always go back to. Maybe your husband’s project might be the right thing everyone is looking for right now. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Thanks for reading my post!

      Reply
  • December 20, 2019 at 8:10 pm
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    I think that some people have enough desire and enough courage to go after their dreams. And for that. I admire you.

    Reply
    • December 21, 2019 at 5:48 pm
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      Thank you for the compliment. Also, thanks for reading the article. Much appreciated.

      Reply

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