Doubt is probably the biggest obstacle in a young artists’ life. You can look for every possible way to quantify what success means, and to most people it has different meanings, but it’s easier to determine when they’re talking about the success of others. Is it box office performance, critical acclaim, relevance, recognition, or some combination of these things? When asked to focus the question on themselves, many artists struggle to find an answer.
The truth is that filmmaking has been significantly democratized. The tools needed to make a film aren’t the same as they were even 10 years ago. Before, you had to find a camera and have money to even allow you to purchase the film that ran through it, watching money disappear at 24 frames per second. It took a lot of effort to get the means to make the film in place before you had even begun the pre-production process. This effort alone was worthy of respect before a single frame was captured.
Today, you can get apps on your phone for cheap that allow you to capture cinematic quality images, record custom music, and allow full editing functions to cut that project together. Throw in some quality sound recording, and maybe even a handful of work lights and you have the means to make a very watchable film with bottom dollar startup costs. Add in a built-in distribution format called YouTube, and you are instantly doing the work that people killed themselves to accomplish 40 years ago, all from your smartphone. The primary difference now is that the landscape for filmmaking is fiercely, even cripplingly competitive, and many of these people believe that they will be discovered from YouTube and be offered the next big thing. The market is over-saturated with people who want to be filmmakers.
Finishing a film at all is a success that less than 1% of the world’s population can understand. If you’ve accomplished that at least once, congratulations, you are officially at the top of the cinematic food chain. You should sit back for a second to revel in the glory of the hours of stress and work that went into getting that final cut out there. However, you shouldn’t sit back for long, because you always have to be thinking about what’s next.
For better or worse, what it takes to make it is your work ethic and drive. Once you stop romanticizing what it takes to be a filmmaker, an artist, and you start to see it as real work, you’ll start to see yourself reaching milestones. You’ll look back at your older work and see the growth that has happened you’ll feel that satisfaction in knowing that you are what you set out to be, and that the only person who can vindicate that is yourself.
It isn’t uncommon for filmmakers with box office success, critical acclaim, relevance, recognition, to be struggling through 5 or more films before they can financially support themselves. It’s the climate of today’s market, and it’s one that many people never realize before they give up. What it takes to make it is only determined by you, how much are you willing to give?