The term filmmakers is a common and everyday term, but what are filmmakers and what does a filmmaker do?
In reality, there are many different forms of filmmaking careers and hobbies, but we’ll look as some of the most common ones. In addition, we’ll look at the skills needed when becoming a filmmaker and the routes into becoming a professional filmmaker.
What are filmmakers?
When talking about filmmakers, people often think of a film director or the person behind the camera. But in the entertainment industry, the term filmmaker can be applied to a wide range of people behind the camera involved in making motion pictures, in particular the film director, film producer and cinematographer.
They are the people responsible for taking the film from idea on paper to the motion pictures watched at the cinema or on TV.
Roles and responsibilities depend on the nature of the production, the budget, the team skills, the deadlines and many other variables. There are many types of film production, so what works for a well financed studio movie will be different to a low budget independent film or corporate advertisement. But we’ve outlined some of the key job duties of key filmmaker roles below.
Duties of a film director
- decides the artistic look for the film
- works with the producer to attach key lead actors and actresses to the production, to attract funding
- works closely with the producer to get a great team of department heads involved within the budget,
- works with the casting directors to choose all the other actors from an audition process
- works with scriptwriters and script editors in pre-production and during filming
- communicates the artistic vision with department heads and oversees their work at a high level
- leads the daily film shoot
- oversees the editing process
The film director’s role combines artistic vision with leadership.
Duties of a producer
- finds and negotiates financing
- negotiates the involvement of lead actors and actresses
- works with the director to settle a budget for the film
- works with the director to recruit key departmental heads
- makes sure everyone gets paid
- oversees the budget through pre-production, production, post-production, release
- coordinate advertising and public relations
- oversees marketing, release, and awards season
Producers and showrunners can be some of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry.
Duties of a Cinematographer
- understanding what the creative vision of the director is, and how to achieve it
- analysing the script to understand each scene
- working with the director on test shots at each location
- applying lighting, angles, filters and techniques to bring the director’s vision to life
- overseeing the camera team
- working in the processing lab
- key member of the post-production team
Cinematographers create the overall look and feel of a film’s visuals in line with the director’s artistic vision, through careful planning and close liaison with production and post-production crew members.
Many people combine different roles. Famous actors and actressess commonly become producers and directors, sometimes in the same film they are acting in. With the right financial backing, a screenwriter can take their creation to the screens by also acting as producer, or sometimes the director too.
And, of course, filmmakers also work a variety of roles across the art department, lighting and sound departments, post production teams, the people managing the public relations for the movie or responsible for managing the release, who all make the production process work and make sure deadlines are met.
Find out more:
Do Filmmakers go to Film School?
Film Schools give aspiring filmmakers the equipment and time to experiment with filmmmaking techniques. They cover the basic principles of filmmaking, set practical filmmaking tasks which are analysed, assessed, and discussed, and encourage work experience in the industry. Sometimes it can be a helpful start to networking, with film school graduates helping each other find and access opportunities to enter the industry.
But is film school diploma or a degree in film studies essential? No.
If you have a driving license, good communication skills, work hard and efficiently, get on well with the team under pressure, never miss a booking or a deadline, and are really passionate, you can usually learn everything you need to know when working on set on multiple productions. And when you show competency and good team work, you’ll find the opportunities to try the next position up the ladder.
Those with outstanding leadership skills, strong motivation to progress, a willingness to travel and move country, and a body of success at film festivals, can build themselves a reputation which invites offers of producing or directors work on larger budget productions.
Of course, everyone starts with unpaid work experience, or personal projects which get them noticed. And even if you quickly get paid work, it may be working on music videos, small productions or commercial shoots, rather than the film or tv productions that cost millions to make.
Job Outlook for Filmmakers
Most people working in the film and TV production work as freelancers.
You start with voluntary work experience, build experience and contacts, apply for vacancies or get invited to fill a vacancy, and work when the work is there. Few people have opportunities for stable employment with sickness and holiday pay. That can be a frightening prospect when, for example, a pandemic closes down all filming.
But the ever increasing streaming platforms need more film and TV content. Even bands just starting out now need a music video, even if it’s just for YouTube. Commercial clients need TV adverts, corporate website videos, and social media videos. Content production is big business, even if it’s not always for the glamorous big budget productions you dreamed of when starting your career.