What to Do When Filmmaking Jobs Are Down
Production & Filmmaking
March 23, 2020

What to Do When Filmmaking Jobs Are Down

By Daniela Bowker 12 min read

Highlights

  • Organize your footage and sell it to stock footage sites to earn passive income
  • Try to stay positive and watch other filmmakers' films and videos for inspiration
  • Learn new skills, practice old skills and finish your edits

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought sweeping changes to the way people all over the world are able to live their lives right now. For many of us who are self-employed or work in the creative industry, there are many uncertainties with plenty of filmmakers and photographers struggling to find consistent work. We have some suggestions that might be able to help you keep earning from your creativity, or at least keep you productive while filmmaking jobs are harder to find.

Sell Your Footage on a Stock Site

Most filmmakers have plenty of footage laying around in their hard drives. Now is the perfect time to put that footage to work by selling it on a stock footage site. This is a great way to try to generate some income if you don't have any paying projects to look forward to right now.

Go over your footage, trim it to the relevant shots, color grade it and export it in Log and graded versions.

Ideally, you want to upload footage that is currently trendy, for example, hyperlapses, lifestyle, aerial shots, and these days, medical footage is in high demand, understandably. When you’ve chosen your stock footage site, upload your footage and make sure that you tag it accurately. You want potential clients to be able to find your footage when they search with keywords. And make sure that you have the necessary releases signed so that your footage can be used commercially.

Organize Your Footage

Before uploading your footage to a stock site, your first order of business should be organizing all the footage you have. By making sure that your projects are properly labeled and backed-up on hard drives or on a server, you will always be able to find what you need, and if your computer malfunctions, you’d have at least one copy in reserve.

Editor browsing thrugh stock footage

Pro tip: creating an Excel document with an inventory of your projects and where they are backed-up can be super helpful for finding it in the future.

You might already have a system that works for you, which means that you can catch up on archiving and put everything in its proper place. If you don’t have a system yet or aren’t happy with the one you’re using, now is the time to think about what will work for you. There are lots of different ways to back-up and archive your footage, but some points to consider are date, subject, theme, location, and client. Being able to cross-reference your work is really helpful. Keeping at least three copies of every project is the standard recommendation.

Watch Films for Inspiration

Anyone who practices a craft, for example, filmmaking, photography, writing, or art, should always be looking to the best in their field for inspiration and examples. For a filmmaker, that means watching movies. Iconic filmmakers whose output you might want to binge-watch include Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, or Mike Leigh. Some of the points you might want to think about as you watch their films are the films' color grading, pacing, tones and style, the composition of their frames, and their use of angles and movement. All the while, keep a note of what you like, what you don’t like so much, and what you might want to try yourself.

Use IMDB, Letterboxd, Metacritic and rotten tomatoes to make up your binge-watch list.

Learn New Skills and Techniques

Perhaps it was the inspiration taken from other filmmakers, or maybe it’s just something that you haven’t had the chance to try, but being at home without any commissions is the perfect time to teach yourself new skills and techniques. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of online tutorials available to teach you anything that you might want to know, from lighting techniques to After Effects.  If you want to take it up a notch, try taking an online filmmaking course. Masterclass, for example, offers tons of filmmaking-related courses by the likes of Martin Scorsese, Aaron Sorkin, Samuel L. Jackson, Jodie Foster and many others. Other places where you can find quality courses that can help you develop new skills are Udemy, Coursera, Lynda and skillshare. Sites are giving discounts on many of the courses, so take advantage of that.

This is also the perfect time to broaden your horizons to things unrelated to filmmaking. Remember that subject you were always into but never had the time to learn because you were too busy? Now is the time to learn it. On top of the sites mentioned above, this website lists some 450 Ivy League courses in a variety of topics, from computer science and engineering to art and design FOR FREE.

Audiobooks are another great option for learning. Sites and apps like Audible, Google Audiobooks and Librivox have a great selection, many of them for free. If you like the physical feel of a book, lots of independent bookshops are still operational and can take orders via their websites or over the phone.

Practice Your Skills

Now is the perfect time to perfect skills that you use on every project, but could always be a bit better.

For example, color grading. You can download Log footage from stock sites and practice your grading skills. You can also practice compositing and visual effects with the footage you download. Sound design, basic editing, photoshopping are all skills that you can practice by using stock sites of video and audio.

Plan Your Future Projects

Filmmaker talking on the phone while looking at his laptop and eating pizza

Once you have been inspired by the work of others and you’ve perfected the techniques you’ve always wanted to learn, it’s time to plan your next project that can incorporate all these ideas and skills. Write a short film or even a feature, draw up your storyboard, think about how every shot will work, consider your location, make lists of what you will need and think about who else you will want to be involved. Leave nothing unplanned. Sure, you might not be able to go and shoot it for a while, but if you’ve considered every requirement, you will be able to hit the ground running when you are able to start shooting again. And if you have a script lying around, now is the time to finish it.

Update Your Blog and Get on Top of Your Social Media

It’s so easy to fall behind on your social media or blogging commitments when you’re busy at work. Now when there is no work and you have a lot of time on your hand, it’s the ideal time to catch up. You can write those blog posts on the technique experiments you tried and the really unusual shoot you undertook.

If writing is something you feel comfortable with, look to write posts for other blogs. There is always a need for writers who live the subject they are writing about.

You can rebuild your social media presence so that people who are engaging with you will be ready to use your filmmaking services when that’s possible again. And if you get into a good routine with it, hopefully, you will be able to maintain it when work picks up again and you are back out creating videos. 

Finish your cuts and Edit Your Showreel

Now is the time to finish the passion project you never had time to edit. Go over the footage you have while listening to great music to inspire you. If your project is missing some shots, stock footage sites would be the perfect solution for you.

Every creator needs a showreel, now is the perfect time to create it to be ready for when more and more filmmaking jobs start coming back. Collect all of your best work and find that bangin’ song that will make your showreel come to life. We’ve created a special collection of songs just for that. Post it on your social media to all of your existing and potential clients to see, so when all of this is over they'll be running back to commission work from you.

Clean and Organize Your Gear, Maybe Try Some DIY

Gear gets dirty, needs periodic maintenance and is easily misplaced. While you’re not out and about filming, it is worth doing a list of all your gear, cleaning it properly, and working out how best to store and transport it. As soon as work recommences, you and your gear will be ready to go!

Filmmaker with her camera

Oh, and don’t forget that when you’re at home, it’s the perfect time to try a little DIY, like building overhead rigs for food photography shoots. If not now, when?

Stay Creative

Try making lemonade. Yep, times are tough and filmmaking jobs are harder to find, but this could be fertile ground for your next creative idea for a movie or a viral video. Try to think of interesting, helpful and/or funny takes and think about how you could create them.

It’s tough at the moment, but there’s no need to give up hope. There’s plenty you can do while work is quiet, and we hope that you’ve picked up some ideas from our suggestions. Dream big but keep your social interactions small. And wash your hands.

 

Author Bio

Daniela is a writer and editor based in the UK. Since 2010 she has focused on the photography sector. In this time she has written three books and contributed to many more, served as the editor for two websites, written thousands of articles for numerous publications, both in print and online and runs the Photocritic Photography School.
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