Making a living from Independent Film Production

Its very warm in Sydney today. It is supposed to be mid winter but the temperature is currently 25C.(75F). I am writing this post sitting on the beach at Dee Why and it’s just beautiful. Next week I am off to Qatar, Paris, Dublin and  London where I present my Weekend Film School for the first time. I will get back for my Charity Premier Screening of Dealing with Destiny   on Monday August 29th and just in time for the Cinema release on September 1st .  Firstly, Here is some clips and an interview with me for “Dealing with Destiny”

Out two Stars Catherine Jermanus and Luke Arnold from Dealing with Destiny

On the last post, I itemized the different ways to make a living from film and the film world. Just  a reminder.

  1. Independent Film Production Micro Budget – Low Budget Feature Films (100k – 5 Million Dollar Budgets)
  2. Freelance DOP and Editor Work on other peoples short films and feature films
  3. Music Videos Corporates and Commercial Film Making
  4. Crew Work on mainstream Film Shoots for TV & Feature FIlm
  5. Working for Film Distributors and Government Industry.
  6. Mega Directing, Screenwriting or Producing on the big budget Hollywood films.
Today I would like to look at Number 1 & 2  in detail.  They are both intertwined.

Making a living from independent film production is a challenge. There is a long build up period to the time when you make your first feature film.  But how do you get started?

The entry point tends to beFilm School or Film Courses like ours. The best film school is one that shows you how to make a film by actually making a film. As you make more and more films and provided you put everything you have into each film, the better a Film Director you will become.

When you leave film school, you will then want to work as an independent film maker. Most people will try to do Number 4 on our list above. Find Crew Work on mainstream Film Shoots for TV and Feature Film. We will cover that area in a later post.

Some people will invest in Film Equipment buying Cameras, Lights, Sound Equipment, Grips Gear and a Post Production Suite. You may have to take out a loan and invest  $30 – 50k initially in Film Equipment.  This will get you most of the equipment that you need. I know when I first invested in my own equipment, I advertised my services for Free. Needless to say, there was a flood of interest and I had non stop film jobs where I became an expert at using all of my equipment. Eventually, I felt confident to start charging and moved quickly to a $500 per day or $2000 per week rate.  I was still flat out working and my problem was too many jobs and feeling overworked.

Pool Scene from "Dealing with Destiny"

And this is the point: It is very important to diversify. When I ask people on my film courses what they would like to do in the Film Business,  they nearly all want to be a Film Director. And that is great as long as there is plenty of Directing jobs out there. But if you diversify and learn how to DOP (shoot) films and edit films, there is plenty of  extra work to fill in the lean times between Directing gigs. In fact on our Weekend Film Schools , we show you the agencies to join, so that you get plenty of work. We also show you how to get your brand out there so that you are getting many people offering you gigs.

Now this is all well and good. But what if you want to be a Film Director making your own award winning feature films that get sold all over the  world. Well that is the second part of it. At Film School you will learn how to make films and hopefully if it is a Film Course like ours, you will get to make a film of your very own. When you leave the Film School, you will continue making short films till such time as you win or get regular entry in to major film festivals. Now it is important to monetize your short film and we show you that process on our film courses. We show you the sites where your film can make money.

As soon as you have an award winning short film, then you move on to a low budget feature film that you make on the weekends. A Feature Film can be shot on 1o weekends on very little money. How do I know this because I produced and directed and edited a zero budget Feature Film “The Makeover”.   I would like to announce that you can now buy  The Makeover on our Website and you can now download the film and watch it today. It is a great example of a film that was made on a micro cash budget. The Makeover won Best Comedy Drama at the New York City Film Festival and has sold Pay TV in Europe and in the US.

When you make successful low budget films, usually bigger films attract themselves to you. While I was making The Makeover I was offered the job directing Dealing with Destiny  which is on limited release in Australia on September 1st. When you keep making independent films,  you will eventually find the budgets and the success of your films grow.

Another Scene from my film "Dealing with Destiny"

So your plan should look like this

  • Do a really cool Film Course like ours  and keep doing courses as you develop your film skills. You need to learn.
  • Make short films till you win A or B list Film Festivals and can monetize your films online.
  • Then, make a low budget feature film on the weekends
  • Apply for funding and the producers offset from the government for another one of your feature films that has a budget of $1 million – $5million. This is a long process and can take years. That is why you need to make your own micro budget films on the side.
  • Network and get to know the people who matter in our film industry
  • Keep your  eagle eyes open and pounce on opportunity
  • Allow ten years to make it as a fully established Film Director.   If you have the persistence, you will succeed.
If you need help, please remember that we are here with our Film Schools and our Film Services 

Many of you have asked me can I make films on the weekend and keep my day job. Absolutely. In Australia, many of the top film producers have other businesses or jobs which they do in-between film productions.


Till next post, have a great one


Colm O’Murchu  _ Director







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