Surviving a career as a freelance filmmaker

Mark Solomon, film editor and tutor at the London Film School, gives us a brief guide to career management in this project-driven film industry.

You've started out on your journey as a professional filmmaker. You now face the daunting task of finding work. In town, you keep bumping into people you know - everyone is after the same jobs. In the evenings, you meet previous colleagues and collaborators at screenings. You begin to see some of them get into steady jobs - and others leave the industry prematurely.

As much as you like and (sometimes) admire your peers, you want to make your own way in the industry - however long it takes. But you want to know that your strategy is viable, and that you have chosen a career pathway that is taking you in the right direction. How can you support a life and a career by working from job to job?

Perhaps you've just graduated from film school, and realised that far from knowing everything, now you've got to find a way into an industry that seems hermetically sealed against newcomers.

Post-production is one of the most available points of entry into the industry. Yet you are often working unsocial hours, in isolation. Your access to industry news is restricted; networking opportunities are fewer. Here are some basic steps and suggested actions from experienced editor, Mark Solomon (editor on Frankenweenie, Chicken Run, Shrek), who's lived through it all.

Starting out:

- Â Look in the Mirror and ask yourself a series of questions. What credits do you have? What experience? Do you have any connections? Who would you like as a mentor? What allies are on your side? 

- Â Think about potential roadblocks and alternatives: your CV / Demo Reel / approach / individuality / attitude / persistence.

- Â Who are your role models? Study their work and examine their career.

- Â Practise writing letters: What do say? What do you want? What do you ask for?

- Â Consider internships (and know when to say no).

The first phone call:

- Â Be ready to get it: plan your 'immediate response'.

- Â Make sure you have researched the company or the production (thus far) so you can tailor your answers to their needs.

- Â Make sure you have a list of your work in front of you that you can talk about.

The interview:

- Â Role-play the meeting with a chum and touch upon the various scenarios.

- Â Think about:

 - Who you're talking to.

 - Who you are presenting as.

 - How you present.

 - Know what they want.

The offer (or no offer):

- Â Understand what it means / why.

- Â How do you deal with it? Everybody in this industry will learn to deal with rejections, it is part of the job. The main thing is that you get right back on the horse and try again.

Negotiate a deal:

- Â List all the reasons why you want this job.

- Â What are the negotiating factors?

Then follows the important first day on the job, just one thing really counts here: self-presentation is vital - first impressions count. Make sure you get it right, listen to the brief plus try if you can to be collaborative and friendly.

Then finally:

-  Know what the ground rules are.

-  Consider your working attitude and the atmosphere you create.

-  Remember your reputation is on the line, and you need to maintain it.


Mark Solomon will be tackling these and more issues in a new 1-day workshop for freelancers at t