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Ask Michael Wiese

I want to make movies. Real movies. But right now I have a lousy job and no prospects. I know in my heart I’d be a great filmmaker. What should I do? —d.b.

Dear D. B.,

I hear this question almost every week in one form or another, so you are not alone. In fact, people who are already working in the industry often have this concern. They may be making films, but they are not the kind of films they’d like to make and they wonder how to make that leap into doing something meaningful.

But let’s start with you. The main thing I hear you say is that it’s in “your heart” to be a filmmaker. That’s what it’s all about. If you feel strongly, you are already in the right place.

I wouldn’t worry too much about your lousy job. That will change. Nothing stays the same. You will change over the next few days or months or years too.

When I started out I worked as a gravedigger, a clerk in a law office, a typist for a railway, a newspaper photographer, a waiter, and much more. But that’s not who I was. I was a filmmaker. Of course the people around me only smiled at the notion. Yeah, right.

When I wasn’t working at my day job I was busy writing or shooting or editing. I’d borrow a camera. Beg film stock. Find facilities that would let me edit late at night or on weekends. I’d use whatever IBM Selectric I could get my hands on to type scripts. And slowly, little by little, I’d finish a short film or maybe something a little longer. Win a few festivals. Get recognition.

I made a show reel, but even though I presented it to future employers, no one watched it and I got the jobs anyway! I began making live television, corporate video, political commercials, home video, and independent productions. And even though I was getting a pay check in media, I wasn’t always producing what I wanted so I continued—at night and on weekends or vacations—to write books or make the films I wanted to make.

For a long time you may be your only audience and that’s alright. There’s no hurry. Really. You’ll get there.

You don’t go immediately from wanting to be a great filmmaker to being a great filmmaker. But by being a filmmaker (emphasis on being rather than wanting to be), you go on to become a better filmmaker.

The important thing is to start. Learn the skills necessary — the major ones being writing, shooting, and editing. Work on as many projects as you can and still keep your eye and hand on making the kind of movies you want to make.

Intention has a lot to do with it. Participating has a lot to do with it. Networking and making contact with people who interest you helps. If you are really interested in others, they will be interested in you and support your efforts.

It’s amazing how much previsualising can bring about a change in your reality. If — on your inner movie screen — you can see yourself living and working in a very specific way, this eventually occurs on your outer screen. I know it’s a bit metaphysical, but this has been true in my experience for decades.

I wish you the very best in your evolution to becoming a great filmmaker and look forward to being inspired by your work.

Onward and upward,
Michael Wiese

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