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Becoming an Independent Film Producer

Getting Started Making Videos Professionally

Many of my readers here at Video Production Tips tell me they have ambitions to become an independent video maker and enter their works in film festivals.

Great plan. Not only are you guaranteed tons of fun but you have the opportunity to nourish your artistic and emotional passions while leaving an enduring mark of influence upon the world.

Don’t expect to get rich though. And DO expect to work very hard. If you do want to get rich quickly, then you may have more luck with an online casino (look here) than working in this industry. Video production is often its own reward.

Just a hint...dump the mic flag dude. They look silly and remind people of corporate TV News, which is about as popular mud on your shoe.

DRIVEN BY PASSION

Not that you can’t make good money if you become successful with independent film making, it’s just that wealth is fairly rare for this genre and survival often means you must be driven by passion, not the desire for elusive riches.

Competition is fierce and resources are scarce. But the rewards are more than fantastic. The creative possibilities of independent film making entice the creative spirit and motivate the lover of satire, irony, truth, and nuance. To me, creating video and engaging in visual storytelling is a passion that often overflows into obsession.

There is no other endeavor as all encompassing and complete as high-quality video making. It combines all aspects of visual storytelling, from developing characters to eliciting a particular emotional response through music or lighting. Taken as a whole, the process of making a high quality original independent film involves so many different tasks as to be a unique and positively invigorating experience.


To perfect your skills and grow as a competent film maker, first study some of the basics, and then just get out there and DO IT! Don’t get bogged down in rules. Experiment. Don’t expect perfection off the bat. Expect to make mistakes and learn from them. Video and film production at this level can be complex and intricate. Becoming a master doesn’t happen over night. It requires the ability to manage multiple processes and tasks. Each needs to be learned independently before it can be applied collectively.

STUDY OTHER FILMS AND VIDEOS

In addition to learning video production out in the field, learn by evaluating the work of others. Give yourself permission to watch as many videos as you can. STUDY them, don’t just mindlessly watch. What style did they use to tell their story? What elements did they combine and how did they create those elements? Evaluate everything you watch and analyze it completely. Watch multiple times if it is good. What did they do that worked? What didn’t work? Why was it good or bad? How could it have been different? You could always enjoy an online film school like Friends in Flim to give you some alternative perspectives on how to create videos. Many have already learned a lot and made some amazing industry connections through similar courses.

My mind races a million miles an hour when I am watching a TV show, always thinking about how they put it together and why they might have done it that way. Of course I am just lying there like a spud on a sofa, but my creative juices are flowing. Yawn. Pass the chips.


The best way to learn how to make videos is to become a critical and passionate observer of other videos. You can learn a lot in a small amount of time this way. Watch and decide what you want to emulate and what you want to avoid. Evaluating the work of others takes ego out of it. It is very hard for most novice filmmakers to hear a critique of their work. Usually they are so passionate and in love with their own video that any criticism seems stingingly personal. It’s not.

To truly grow as an artist and filmmaker, you have to be able to evaluate your own work with the cool objectivity that you view the work of others. Ego can really get in the way of all that. So if possible, detach your emotions from your video making and learn objective principles by which to judge quality and effectiveness. That ability is best honed evaluating films you had nothing to do with.

IS THIS A CAREER PATH FOR YOU?

By virtue of my career in TV and video, I have had the opportunity to meet an unbelievable variety of people and become privy to their deepest emotions and experiences. When you travel the world carrying a video camera and microphone everywhere you go, it becomes a ticket into the lives of those willing to share. An amazing number of people will do so if you only bother to ask.

I always considered my job as a video producer a privilege, not just a job. Speaking from the warmth of that experience, if you chose the path of the documentary maker or indy film producer, congratulations. Now, hang on tight.

There’s no other job like it and that’s a promise!

Thanks for reading VPT

Lorraine Grula

Me and my camera.  I was on vacation here, but I was still carrying around a video camera!
Me and my camera. I was on vacation here, but I was still carrying around a video camera!

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. Exellent article for aspiring filmmakers. Too many people make career choices based on pay, and are disappointed or drop out when the going gets tough. If you love what you are doing, and put yourself into it 100%, you can’t not succeed!

    Dave
    Productiontrax.com
    Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, Stock Video, and Photos

  2. Hi Dave.
    Honestly, I can not think of a profession that would inspire more passion than film making. Independent producers, theoretically, have it the best since they can produce what they are passionate about and not whatever the BOSS MAN tells them to. But even at that, I actually enjoyed producing boring stuff like school board meetings. Really, I did! The times when I was lucky enough to be able to produce topics I loved I got totally obsessed with it all. Couldn’t help myself!

    My mentor in college was an awesome guy named Bill Crane. He used to carry on and on about how wonderful video production is and I didn’t completely get it back then, although I thought I did. But after 30 years of doing it and seeing what reality is like for many in the work force, I am thankful daily I was lucky enough to land in the profession I did. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. And the main reason is that video making is such a unique task that involves so much that is stimulating and invigorating. I mean I got tired of lugging around heavy equipment, but meeting tons of interesting people is certainly a good trade off for a sore shoulder!

    Lorraine

  3. I am a budding Video Producer and very inspired by Lorraine Grula’s VPT article on independent filmmaking. It would be great if Lorraine or other professional can provide a minimum list of Film/Video production equipment that an independent film producer should have. I look forward to hearing from experienced professional independent film producers.
    Regards, Gwiji

  4. Hi Gwiji.
    So glad yo hear that you are inspired. A well-equipped documentary field video crew would need to have:
    Video camera
    2 Microphones (a lav and a shot gun)
    tripod
    Light kit with at least 3 lights and all diffusion tools
    Headphones
    Accessories like extension cords, and adapters.

    A documentary crew needs to be quickly portable so you do not want things like field monitors.
    I hope this helps.
    Lorraine

  5. Hi Lorraine,
    Thanks for your response. The list you have provided has enabled me to plan and budget for video equipment. Regards, Gwiji

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