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The Best Excuses from New or Underemployed Filmmakers and Freelancers

This blog post is going to skate really close to rant territory. I'd apologize for that, but I'm actually not sorry. You've been warned.

(I did, however, take out all the swearing that would normally accompany this if we talked in person. That's a premium service. Contact me for an estimate.)

For some reason, I've been asked for my advice about getting started in an editing or filmmaking career or how to find indie films to work on more this week than ever before. I'm not sure why it's all happened at once, maybe I'm giving off a vibe. Or scent. Regardless, it's cool. I love sharing my experiences and opinions. Passing on advice that worked for me is a lot of fun and I'll always do it. Mutual curiosity about career stuff is a fun conversation topic.

But you've really really got to stop being lazy and making excuses for not getting what you want. Seriously. It's sad and it makes me sad for you. So sad in fact, that I've created this BEST OF compilation of stupid excuses. It's perhaps a little more brash than my usual fare. Don't mistake this for arrogance. I'm young and stupid too, but I'm still allowed to almost rant. Pseudo-rant. Pretend I made you cookies and you're eating them as you read this.

"I want to shoot/edit/work on some short films but I don't know anyone."

Okay, two options. Do it all yourself, or meet people who share your ambition. Which one sounds easier? (It's not the first one.)

When people ask me how I meet people in film, they're dismayed when they realize that I actually left my home and talked face to face with other human beings. Yes, it's true! Even here in Indiana we have a great filmmaking group called Indiana Filmmakers Network. They meet once a month, every single month. I always pass along this information to locals that are interested in filmmaking. The general response? Maybe two in ten people actually look into it. Maybe ONE of those two people actually attends and starts and conversation with someone new. Repeat visitors to the group, even less than that. Yes, there are half-people wandering around meetings here. It's grotesque.

There are meet-ups and user groups like this all over the country, why aren't you taking advantage of them?

"I went to a networking event but I didn't meet anyone."

WHY? Networking also isn't a matter of simply showing up. If you go to a meet up with a group of people that know each other, you have to be the one to take initiative because they're all going to be busy catching up with one another. Elbow your way into a conversation, introduce yourself, and be interesting and useful. If you don't get anything out of a networking event, it's nobody's fault but yours.

"I met some people, but they never got in touch with me."

Why didn't YOU get in touch with THEM? You didn't call or email or write or carrier-pigeon them? Why should it be their responsibility to reach out to you? Come on, dude. And once you get in touch, it's also YOUR responsibility to continue to cultivate the relationship by the way. And while I'm on the topic, remember: people are people, not commodities. Treat them as such.

Networking isn't instant gratification, which is maybe the biggest turn off for people. It took me over five years of meeting people and working on their sets before I got to the point where I was even editing. These all started as side projects, purely for enjoyment. And that's how it primarily remains. But I get a lot of really great, professional experience, and I've gotten significant paid work from it too.

"I don't know why I'm not getting any freelance work at all." (My response: how are you looking for work? Their reply: "Online".)

These days, it seems so common to rely completely upon electronic communications. Find a listing or company email, send an application or forward a resume, profit. Except the third one doesn't happen that much, does it? How many frustrated hours do people spend on the Internet, sending bits into the ether, hoping someone they don't know comes along and says why YES, this 40 word email is precisely what was missing in my life!

The best work I've gotten has come from knowing people who know people. I'm not saying the Internet isn't useful for job hunting by any means. Or for making initial contact. Or even for maintaining contact. But when someone is frustrated and lacking in work and they haven't done a single thing beyond sending formal emails to HR accounts, I want to slap them with a hand full of glitter.

Besides the networking events and meet ups, you should be doing everything you possibly can to make connections. Call a company directly (unless they say not to -- follow instructions for the love of *%&^). Make contact with individuals and ask for informational interviews or tours. Invite someone to coffee. Send mini muffins. Whatever! It takes up a lot of your time and it's a lot of effort, but the return on your time investment is going to be much higher than sitting in a dark room sending 1's and 0's to already-stuffed-full inboxes.

(But you do have a website, right? Okay, good. Oh wait, it's grammatically correct and stuff too? Okay, just checking.)

"But I'm an introvert, I don't like asking for things."

So am I and neither do I. Bummer. Do it or change careers, man.

"I did work for someone but they never contacted me with more."

Did you do good work for them? If not, then you're screwed. If you did good work, did you stay in touch with them and follow up about more opportunities? If not, do it now. I'll wait. Because you might not be screwed. But ya know, they may just not have any work or money. It shouldn't matter to you, you should be working on other connections. Don't take it personally. Just keep checking, move on, and have another plan.

"I'm too busy to look for work."

This makes no sense. If you're too busy to look for work, how are you not too busy to do work? This is a time management issue that should be figured out before you take on clients.


The part where this becomes a rant is not the questions I'm being asked. It's the response I get. Physical effort? Feh, I can't deal with that. I'm skilled, people should be knocking down MY door to hire me.

That's not the world we live in. No one owes you anything, especially not if you put in the minimal effort of getting a college degree or doing an online course. I don't have an easy solution. I'm not luckier than you. While there is a big element of being in the right place at the right time, you don't magically find yourself in that right place. Most often, the right place is a consequence of forging a new relationship and working really hard. And not being a poopy person. The time is what you have less control over, so you can pray to the leprechaun in the sky or the holy unicorn for help there.

So stop making stupid excuses and get out there. Yes, put on your shoes. Socks go on first. Good! Here's a cookie. Now go out the door. You might need a coat, it's been pretty cold lately. Go find someone, shake their hand, and talk about stuff. It's flu season, so maybe take this hand sanitizer. Look both ways before you cross the road, call if you need anything. Good luck!




Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jan 29, 2013 at 8:54:45 am filmmaking, freelance



Focusing on post-production, from editing and motion graphics to personal experiences and the psychology of being an editor.


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