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Breaking into the Industry: Tips from a Filmmaker

Apr 20, 2020 | Media & Mass Communication, Tips

This guest post was written by Gabe Cassala, a Lamb School senior in Mass Communication with aspirations to become a director and screenwriter. Gabe has been working on a short film which was funded in part by the Lamb School. He shares his experiences and offers tips for students interested in filmmaking.

Making my short film has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of the Lamb School. 

I’m in the process of editing a 20-minute short film titled Ivory. It’s the story of a church choir pianist who is crippled by arthritis and dealing with the loss of identity. I’m in the last stage of editing right now, and soon I hope to send it out to film festivals.

The connections I have made in the Lamb School have allowed me to develop my skills and grow as a filmmaker.

Professor Osman has been a mentor on campus ever since I took his Honors College course my sophomore year. At that time, I was unsure whether I had the aptitude to seriously try to be a filmmaker. But Professor Osman has always been on my side. He helped guide me out of Exploratory Studies and into Mass Com, in the process allowing me to work on his documentary and meet like-minded students along the way. Now, he has become an irreplaceable part in the making of Ivory

Furthermore, the Lamb School has offered me a generous amount of monetary support, not only regarding the production of Ivory, but also with my schooling in general. The Lamb School gave me the flexibility to be able to use professional, SAG actors and actresses on the project, which was something I had my heart set on from the beginning. 

My advice for prospective or current students: 

  1. If you want to get into the film industry, it truly is who you know rather than what you know. A film degree (MFA) means nothing in the industry. What gets you in the door are referrals and the willingness to work unpaid. Therefore, the value of majoring in Mass Communication is spending a lot of time with other students who want to do what you do. There’s a chance that at least one of those people will make it into the industry in one way or another.
  2. Nobody cares. This can be heartbreaking and freeing at the same time. On the one hand, it means that just wanting it is not enough. You need to work hard, self-motivate, and produce content. Very rarely will other projects land in your lap. The world doesn’t care that you want to be a filmmaker, because thousands of other people your age want the same thing and are making good content. You have to turn heads, because they won’t just turn to accommodate you. But here’s the good side: if you make something bad, nobody cares. It’s all about your victories at this stage, not your losses.
  3. Connect with your professors. They know more than you think you know, and they can help tear down any wall of ignorance you may have.
  4. Grow a thick skin. Do it, now, quickly. Learn to separate yourself from your art so that criticism (that you need to get better) doesn’t break your heart.
  5. Be your own number 1 fan. If you really want to do this kind of stuff, you’re jumping into a sea of “no.” It’s a balance between false confidence and believing in your ability to get better.

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