by Bertie

June 18, 2022

After working in the indie film space for the last fifteen years, I have learned and witnessed many things in the industry. How I viewed the industry through rose-tinted glasses in the beginning to now is vastly different. The reality is that so much has changed and continues to evolve. So, here are some of the most influential lessons I’ve learned as an Independent Filmmaker:

Technology and the Marketplace move at an incredible rate.

It was 2010 when I first acted in a short film that I wrote and produced; the level of technology compared to now is vast. The cameras and sound equipment are obsolete at this point. The lights would probably work, but the editing suite wouldn’t! When we did manage to get the film all finished up, our distribution channels were small and not as easily accessible as they are today. We were dealing with DVDs and small-time film festival entries, and YouTube was still in its infancy. Facebook was only three years old and not the behemoth it is today. So, all in all, it was a more straightforward and different time. 

Fast forward to today, and we have a vastly superior landscape technologically speaking in cameras and other gear. There are distribution channels, plenty, and social media provides us with considerable opportunities to showcase our talents to the millions in seconds. With cameras that are 20 x times as good as what we had on a film set in our pockets today within your phone, we know that the world has changed big-time! What worked in 2010 does not work now! What worked in 2021 does not work now, so you must adapt to survive. 

So, unless you are self-educating, taking classes, reading books and consuming YouTube content to stay abreast of the current trends and advancements, you will fall behind in no time. I haven’t made a film in a few years, but I know exactly what to do in today’s climate and how to plan for marketing and distribution in the writing phase. Some filmmakers make many films but are still stuck a decade ago when submitting to big festivals, and hoping for the best is their primary plan.

Camera technology has changed so much in the last decade, here we are on-set shooting a movie trailer

Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others; there is only one of you, just like there is only one Quentin Tarantino (as an example)

Human nature is a powerful, mysterious force, and there’s not much we can do to stop and quench it, so unless you are an alien, a robot or emotionless, you will feel pangs of envy, comparison and self-doubt. In this hyper-connected world, we will compare whether we like it or not. We live in a fascinating but equally worrying time, like on a knife-edge. On the one hand, we have such an opportunity, and on the other, we have severe mental illness infecting everybody due to the same technology – our smartphones, TVs, and other devices.

In the past, you couldn’t see as much as we do today, so now we are constantly looking at others and inevitably comparing ourselves to them regarding their successes, what they have, what they achieved, and the list goes on. We all fall victim to the illusion of how much others have it so good while we have it so bad. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve gained; there’s always that illusion of someone else who is ‘better’ than you. 

In reality, there is only one you that miraculously came to life who is sentient and conscious – you are, in essence, a miracle. Scientifically speaking, no two people have the same DNA sequence bar identical twins; so, science backs up this cringey statement! But, unfortunately for your cynical side, it’s true. So, just like there is only one Quentin Tarantino, there is only one you! Get to work and out of the head.  

Everybody is out for themselves, and that’s okay; it’s human nature – cut whoever is causing issues to your project if needs be. 

When I first started making short films as an actor, it was mainly free student or amateur work, and the feeling was good; there were great vibes and comradery among us all. We were in this together. But you begin to notice that starts to wear off, and that’s the natural evolution of a film career; you have to get more serious about the business of filmmaking, which is perfectly natural. You are making art happen. 

The problem with independent filmmaking is that money is always tight, it is never enough, and people still are very eager to work with you for the experience and the credits. That’s something you can roll with as the creative leader of the project for a while, but it has pitfalls. People are great usually when you first meet them; they give their best side, but along the way, you notice things changing, they aren’t happy, or they don’t give 100%. Until this point, the project has been transparent. And everybody was on board, but now certain people are potentially damaging the project – this is a significant issue.

What’s important is that we don’t pretend to be something we are not or that the project is something it’s not. We must ensure that the people on board are there for the vision and, if not, cut them loose. Throughout, it is vitally important to maintain the frame and guide the project’s vision; we aren’t there to satisfy others – we take care of others by having a professional, well-run film set, but we do not adapt our set to suit others. There’s a specific goal from the beginning. And the end is where we all get together, with consistency and hard work.


Shooting ‘Jacob Wrestling with the Angel’ in North County Dublin

Want to know more?  

If you’ve enjoyed these lessons, I have many more; let me know in the comments if you want to know more. I would be glad to write up more articles about this topic. If you have any questions or requests, please let me know too. I do have a book for sale, which you can try for free first if you like, here:

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If you want to know more about my work, and my portfolio, go here:

All the best in your work!

Until next time, Peace.