Very Independent Filmmaking – Inventing Yourself as a Filmmaker

The first part of any journey is deciding to take it. 

In some sense that can involve a certain amount of bravery, but often that’s a bit of a ruse we tell ourselves.  We all know what is truly brave.  Taking a knee in a stadium surrounded by adversaries is brave, climbing a building to save a child dangling from a balcony is brave, traveling thousands of miles away from everything you have ever known with nothing but your loved ones and a dream of being safe somewhere…anywhere…is brave.

It’s easy to continue on in life with what you are used to. We’ve all been guilty of turning away from our passions.  We call it life, or circumstance or bills or responsibilities, or any number of things in order to give ourselves the excuse to stay comfortable but painfully unfulfilled.  What is it that burns in some people so brightly that they cannot turn away where others can?  I have no idea, but I can tell you that it’s not just chance that those who make a life from their art succeed.  There is always an element of kismet that magically guides our lives, particularly, at least in my own experience, when you stop making excuses and decide to become what you have always wanted to be.  Once you stop struggling against yourself it’s actually surprising sometimes how the universe can suddenly fall in to place around you and how opportunities present themselves to you to help fulfill your goals.  But it does take work.

So how does all this make you a filmmaker?

Well, it doesn’t, at least not overnight, and that in and of itself can help you become one.  I would say that a combination of focus, drive and a very real acceptance that what you create is what will propel you forward and really nothing else,  is what can make you a filmmaker, or actually any kind of creative. So then we have the purpose of this article, to become a filmmaker you actually have to make films…simple.

So how do you make films? The magical answer is…you just do.

There is really no excuse whatsoever to not make films.  No camera?  You have a phone don’t you?  No story? Write one.  No one to help you? You can do it entirely alone.  What do you do with it?  There are about a million festivals, not to mention free online venues…we all know them, no need to list them here, or you could make a few of them and have your own film festival at home with your friends and family.  Primarily what makes you a filmmaker is that you make films, everything else is after the fact.

One of my first pieces of advice on becoming a filmmaker is to watch films…sounds like I’m pointing out the obvious but it’s very easy to go weeks in my ridiculously busy life and not see a film.

I have an old friend, my college Theatre Studies Professor actually, Clive, who has for many, many years watched a film every single day. Wow, are there that many films in the universe? Well I imagine he has watched some more than once, but there really are that many films and he has become something of an encyclopedia of knowledge because of it, which is marvelous!  I’m not suggesting that you attempt this, although it might give you some incentive to spend maybe a weekend watching films, or focussing on one specific genre, or filmmaker, or era when you do sit down to watch.  Whichever way you do it, watch films as a writer reads books, or a painter visits art museums, or a musician listens to music with an ear to learn. Be a student of film, you will learn how to create your own look and in many cases and possibly more importantly, what not to do!!

Inventing yourself has a lot to do with accepting who you are and utilizing what makes you an individual to become your goal.  If you have skills that could be warped into filmmaking skills then fantastic.  Design skills, organizational skills, budgeting skills, physical skills even.  If you are any kind of writer then you can be a screenwriter, you just need to actually do it.  The more you do the more you learn and the more you become.  Walking in the direction of your dreams and living the life you have imagined is really all there is to it…but you have to chose and you have to continue to make that choice on a daily basis…before you know it that choice will become unconscious and habitual and what forges and maintains your career as a filmmaker.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded spirits is extremely helpful.  Create your own tribe, your support group of crazies that are as passionate as you are.  Hold weekly meetings, work on each others projects, go to events, go to the movies, museums, festivals, plays, concerts, the beach…whatever you decide inspires you and keeps you in the world of filmmaking.  I just attended a screening of a pilot entirely created by a woman, Marisa Herrera.  She wrote it, produced and is now promoting it to festivals and studios as a TV series, . Amazing!!!

But you have to decide….be a decider!!

I have just started a filmmaking group, which is full of amazingly creative people who are beginner filmmakers and inspire me every day.  This Saturday I am attending a meetup event with The Los Angeles Post Production Group, with screenings, mixer, film tech demos and an open bar…awesome.  In LA there are always things happening around the film business and many of them are available to anyone.  It’s worth looking on the Women in Film site, as well as the AFI site, and the Sundance site, who offer all kinds of events and workshops that you can attend.  Screenings are everywhere and not just through SAG/AFTRA or organizations you have to members of.  Although I do love the KCRW screenings… and that membership is as cheap as chips!!

So, there you have it. No excuses to not become a filmmaker and wallow in the bliss of being who you really want to be. We are in the city of lights, where magic hour is every hour and there’s a story around every corner…not to mention a free location.  So grab a camera and make a film…

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.