Filmmaker Stories are crowdsourced articles directly from the Filmmaker's Process community. To learn more about the benefits of writing your own Filmmaker Story, click here.
FILMMAKER: Jamie Benyon
STORY: Leaving the Film Industry to Make a Feature and Forge a New Path Through the World of Film
Stop what you’re doing. Stop - right now! I need you to engage with what I’m about to tell you.
The filmmaking industry is built on the word ‘No’.
This is a harsh truth that not many filmmakers are willing to understand. No one is going to help you. No one really cares about your filmmaking career. To them, you’re just another chump!
I've been working in the industry for awhile – as an On-Set PA — and my credits include Star Wars: Rogue One, Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange, shows for National Geographic and Discovery Channel and many more. I have a fairly good idea how this industry operates. But understandably when you work 14-15 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week, your exhausted body doesn’t provide you the energy to be creative.
So I’ve stopped being a PA to pursue my own independent filmmaking career.
Why do you care? Why should you continue to read my article?
Well, because I’m taking a stand against the oppressive nature of this industry and deciding to finally dictate my own journey as a filmmaker. I’m writing this article to show to you that is it possible to get your original content off the ground – even despite all the odds. I’m sick of not being heard. I’m tired of not being taken seriously as filmmaker.
Aren’t you? Aren’t you tired of hearing the word ‘No?'
“No – you can’t make that!” “No – don’t waste your time with that!”, “No one will ever understand this”
Sound familiar? Negativity is our biggest enemy. Who the hell has the right to tell us what we can or cannot do? It’s our decision! If we fail, it should be our mistake to learn from. If we succeed, it will be our moment to enjoy.
In early August of 2016, I will embark on a journey to photograph my feature film ‘Time of the Season’, which tells the story of one big toxic family, under one roof, across one day, as their relationships unravel into a farcical catastrophe. This is a multi-layered, tensely plotted 14-cast ensemble piece that is influenced by the works of Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson.
After 15 grueling months of relentless writing and redrafting I managed to get my script into a position where I was comfortable to share with family/ friends and fellow industry peers.
As you’d expect – their responses were discouraging. I fell into that all too familiar self-loathing rut and wondered whether I should bother pursing my filmmaking career at all. Months passed and I was still in my unhealthy rut. Maybe everyone was right? Maybe I’m just not good enough?
One morning, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and saw a stranger. That surely couldn’t be me? I looked a mess. I turned to my calendar and discovered that I had wasted 3 months. 3 months?!
Never again will I allow myself down this pathway. I blocked out all the doubters and decided to put my script into production.
What’s the worst that could happen? I could fail, but at least I tried and learned something. And if I succeed, I proved the doubters wrong.
It’s a scary moment when you fully decide to commit to making a film – especially a feature. You really have to pluck up all your courage and remove your safety net. Then enjoy the free-falling sensation - there is nothing like it!
I haven’t made it easy for myself. We have a cast of 14 and a 14 day shooting schedule. This is the biggest challenge I’ve set myself – as the odds are stacked high against us.
Your biggest asset for landing great cast and crew
All of my professional 14 cast members are working for expenses. They are taking out 14 days of their lives to shoot this film. How did I manage this, I hear you ask? What I’m about to tell you is the greatest asset a filmmaker has when it comes to producing a film.
Are you ready? A two-page treatment.
As an independent filmmaker, you probably won’t have a lot of funds. But I guarantee you’ve got lots of passion! Your passion is what is going to sell your film to your cast and crew.
Every word in your treatment must be filled with your bursting passion. You’ll be surprised how many people will help you when they instantly recognize a determined and ambitious individual.
My advice: be completely honest about everything in your production; your budget (small or large), your vision, your ambitions, your desired shoot schedule – absolutely everything! The more involved your cast and crew are the more personal your project will feel to them.
It’s important that you eliminate all assumptions. If you withhold any valuable information concerning the size of your budget – your cast will assume payment, and when you cannot provide it for them, they will drop out.
Please don’t feel down heartened when actors drop out after reading your treatment – it’s not personal. They’ll respect your decision to make your film but ultimately reject their submission due to your budget – again, it’s not personal. This is the best thing that will happen to you.
You need cast members that want to be involved. Cast members that care about your vision, and want to be apart of something special. So, rejoice when you start to lose the dead weight.
Once you secure your cast, you’re in a great position. Slowly but surely everything else will fall into place.
Be prepared for a bumpy and emotional ride. Take each day as it comes, but never apply the brakes. Keep moving forward.
The point of this article is to show you that you can be ambitious! You can produce your passion projects, even in the face of doubtful individuals – you’ve just got to be willing to risk it.
I’ve come such a long way since my ‘rut’ that nothing is going to stop this film from being made. I will die for this film. It’s become my flesh and blood. I’m hungry to succeed and prove the doubters wrong – prove to myself that I’m capable to achieve anything I want.
Don’t be scared. Don’t get into a rut. Don’t waste 3 months doubting yourself. Your passions are possible.
Succeed or fail – it is your journey to take. Whatever the outcome, I guarantee you’ll become a better filmmaker in the process.
All of this is to say, if I can let go of my safety net, you can too.
Filmmaker's Process is ad-free and always will be because of readers like you. If you find this content useful and want to see it continue for years to come, consider becoming a patron today. Plus there are some pretty cool rewards!
If you enjoyed this article, you'll love the Filmmaker's Process newsletter. Each week, we share our latest articles, a great one from the archive, curated filmmaking stories and tutorials from around the web, a short film that we love, and a healthy dose of filmmaking inspiration.
Are you ready to take your filmmaking to the next level?