Filmmakers: What To Do When You're Between Video Jobs

We've all been there. As microbudgeters, there is always an interim between video production jobs. Regardless of whether you do videos on the side or full-time, there are gaps. What you do in those gaps is critical, and it shouldn't be an excuse to rest on your laurels. Use this time to regroup, train, and find new opportunities!

If you stick around, at the bottom of this post, there's a bonus video bundle for those who join the newsletter and 

  • can't read
  • don't read
  • don't know how to setup an unskippable bumper ad on YouTube
  • want to see an example of such an ad

Note: Make the most of your "free time." Heck, if nothing else, pick up a book and LEARN. Grant Cardone says the average bear reads a book a year, and half of those books are romance novels. If you read a nonfiction book a month, you're doing well. A library card costs only time and you can request books for pickup from your computer. 

Video-Production-between-jobs

1. Learn more about your ace skill

Say you're a great editor. A lot of us one-man-band types are better at editing than any other facet of filmmaking. Let's be honest with ourselves; it's the most time-consuming component, it's where we are the pickiest, and we all want to edit our own pieces for fear of delegating. We're great editors, if nothing else than by virtue of time spent doing it. Malcom Gladwell would agree (if you haven't read his book, pick up a copy or rent one); we achieve mastery by sheer brute force of thousands of hours given to a craft.

If I spend 30 mins a day playing drums and only 15 minutes a day playing guitar, what instrument I will be more proficient at in a year's time?

So it is with editing. 

What then? Niche down. 

Are you exceptional at multi-cam editing?

Or perhaps a tangential skill to editing, like...

Coloring? 

Motion graphics?

Blender?

Maya?

Spend more time learning your *ace* skillset. Go 20 miles deep with it. For me, it used to be flat 2d-animation (in the context of "editing," which some would argue is unrelated). I'm nowhere nearly as talented as this guy, and I'm okay with that. I'm not insecure about my animation, and it's not my career path. But while I'm on the microbudget side of the industry doing client work, if time permits these days, I'll learn more about using After Effects for 2d-animation. I spend "free time" nowadays learning from books on historical leaders and current business books. I want to be a director and producer, so I train to be one. I learn sales training daily, and every working day, I'm pitching folks in TV for their time.

Where are you training?

Yes, we have a golden excuse to watch TV and movies because we're always absorbing the technical details, the plot, and a dozen other things. But we can't watch a bunch of films and call it good. It's the same with going to church or studies during the week. Without practice and implementation of the principles we learn, we're full of knowledge but low on execution. 

2. Follow up on the unsold

If you're in video production, chances are you've had conversations with people wanting to know more about your services.

And chances are, for whatever reason, you failed to close the deal.

It's not their fault after all; it's yours for not being able to close them and serve them through your God-given passion for film and video. I'm guilty of this daily. I've blown job leads for clients, for employers, for colleagues, and I'll always blow leads, but I'd rather blow an opportunity by trying or pushing too hard than not trying at all.

Pick up the phone. Call the unsold. Fax them. Show up at their place of business. Ask to do business with them:

Hey Uncle Bob, I'd love to do a video for you - what problem are you trying to solve these days?

So much of our line of work requires persistence and initiative. Yes, creativity plays a part in filmmaking, but honestly, grit goes a long ways too. 

P.s. you don't need a fax machine to fax people - just a .pdf and a computer. Use that link above; while it's a dying technology in 2017, some businesses still use it. 

3. Find new prospects

In this day and age, there are millions of people who can pick up a camera or their phone, shoot in some kind of V-log, F-Rog, or B-log style and call themselves filmmakers. 

Which is great - that means more stories of hope.

But that also means you have to be louder and make more noise to get attention.

When my son rounds the s-shaped corner in the gym, I tell him to shout "Hey! Excuse me."  He'll do it eventually. Repetition is key; he's so small, most people don't think to look down when they're barreling through the s-corner. It's a tight space, and my boy (as of 2017) is not yet 3-feet tall. 

I'm getting better about being loud in person too.

I'm Jake... the film guy! Not that State Farm guy!

You're welcome State Farm for the link. 

There are two ways to find new prospects: 

1. 1980's way of sales: cold calls, door-to-door sales, radio ads, TV ads, billboards, print, etc. 

2. Today's way of sales: digital ads, emails, etc. plus all of the 1980's methods

Both are still valid. If you have no idea how to do #1, there's an entire writeup here. It's how I ran business in 2016, and going into 2018, I'm learning the second method.

4. Let your circle know you're on the hunt

Call up your friends. Family. People you vaguely know. Let them know you're between jobs and would love to know whoever it is they know. 

Uncle Bob, Jake the film guy here. Who do you know in need of video production right now?

Uh... I guess I know Curly Sue from work... her kid's got a softball skills video she needs done...

Softball Skills videos pay peanuts, but if you're starting out, hey! Jump in. Serve, over-deliver, and get paid. They ain't bad to break the ice with if you've never done paid video work.

I'm really bad at this deliberate, intentional, and daily ask of people in front of me. I'm making a deliberate effort to course-correct. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our crew, past, present, and future, to make the asks of EVERYONE we know. 

Be obnoxious, be a servant, and be loud. Ask. We have not because we ask not.

Think I'm kidding? Try falling into the trap of "if you build it, they will come." Seth Godin is right, not just about social media, but his wisdom applies to our films and our video productions as well: build it, nurture it, entertain, engage, and maybe folks will stick around for the long haul.

5. Cold pitch producers and agents for their time

I shot the first 12-minutes of my pilot Powers & Principalities in the spring of 2017. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm in the process of cold pitching producers and agents for their time. Of course I want to get my show made, and I will get it made. Right now, I'm trying to convince these fine folks to give me some of their time so I can soak up their wisdom. So far, it's a slow-burn, but I'm in 'til I'm 6' under. I post my learns as they come on the microbudgeter Facebook page.

If you have a movie or show on deck, you should be doing this every working day anyways. 

If we're going to tell big stories, and if we're going to reach millions with stories of hope, we have to think big. Start practicing your pitching skills now, start learning now, and start shaking hands with folks now. Don't wait for the heavens to part for you. 

I'm terrified of the phone too. Pick it up. Crush that fear, it ain't from God anyways. Even if you get the snot beat out of you on the phone call, you're still alive, right? Call. Chances are it'll be a voicemail anyways. Leave a voicemail.

If you have no movie and no show on deck, then for the same reasons given above, pick up the phone, pound out an email, and send a courier pigeon to start learning from the industry veterans now. Why pretend to be a filmmaker without putting in the hard work now and later as well?

If you're without a completed project you're trying to explode (for example, your feature is finished and you want to distribute it or your pilot is finished, and you want to expand your show into a series), and if you're ramping up for your next film, I recommend starting with the budget after you have your idea. How much are you trying to raise? 

In the business world, it's impractical to order 200,000 gizmos to find nobody wants to buy 'em. 

Start with your idea and sell people on supporting the film. Don't find all your locations, actors, and don't do a 5th draft if you have peanuts to fund the project.

If you're trying to raise about $1,000 for a short film, I recommend reading/watching how to here.

If you're trying to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 for your short film, I have a super-detailed guide here. It's not for the faint-of-heart or weak-willed. It contains a bonus for a visual pitch deck you can adapt and send to your investors to show this is a real project and not a flippant idea. And if you're in need of an actual slide deck to plagiarize or customize (knock yourself out champ) that's fully editable, I've got you covered there too.

6. Make an ad for yourself

If you're in the business of doing corporate or small business video work, then you might as well make a creative ad for you. 

If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else? 

I made two. One is for unskippable YouTube bumpers. More on that in the next section.

The other is a little bit longer and I created it as a creative followup for a company. As the guys behind Base Camp said in their byproduct "ReWork," create byproducts! Meaning, if you've already put in all the work of doing project A for project B, see if you cobble elements of project A into a paid product. It might just be the solution someone else needs for their problem. I did that with my shotlist template in the store because I was frustrated with other "templates" floating in cyberspace for us hapless filmmakers.

Now, I wouldn't have created such an elaborate video ad for someone without a secondary plan for it. It's also an ad for me. You can see it below when you join the Bold Nation newsletter.

Spend time fleshing out an idea to promote your services, whatever they might be (weddings, music videos, business videos, etc.), and invest quality time in promoting yourself. Which leads us to...

7. Learn about advertising

Facebook ads are typically reserved for consumer products but there are consumer services being advertised on Facebook (chiropractors, graphic designers, et. al.). You won't find B2B services advertised on Facebook, not often, but I strongly believe it's possible, and I'm currently learning how. I've always promised I'd share everything I learn (good, bad, and ugly) along the way, so the person I'm learning Facebook ads from at the moment is Miles Beckler. If you're considering Facebook ads, I'm not the guy to learn from.

If you're considering Google Ads, you have one advantage right out the gate: your ads are shown to people who are specifically looking for your service.

When YouTube rolled out 6-second (unskippable) bumper ads, I knew I had to give it a try. I don't care if no one clicks the ads. For 5,000 impressions of these bad boys, it's about a whopping $5. While 100% market penetration is a pipe dream, that means thousands (up to 5k in this instance) now know who Jake the film guy is, and I purposefully made a ridiculous bumper ad in the style of an early 90's sitcom intro - font, jingle and all. Jingles are powerful, and I don't want to die in obscurity, so if I get a jingle stuck in someone's head that I'm there film guy in my town, that's a win.

...

Bonus Time

Do you want to see the two video ads I use? I'll go the extra mile for you (Bold Nation, make it a part of your DNA: over-deliver, always) and record how to set up an unskippable bumper ad on YouTube. The Adwords format is always changing so by the time I upload it, it's entirely possible they'll have re-formatted the whole shebang.

I'll also have a link for this post's video included as well. If you can't read/don't read, I gotcha covered.

Recap: when you join the newsletter below (I don't sell emails or spam you with solicitations for bailing peanut farmers out in Pahrump, NV), you'll get links to: 

  • Video of this post for those who can't read/don't read
  • Video walkthrough of setting up your first YouTube 6-second bumper ad
  • My 6-second bumper ad
  • My longer ad

Sign up by hitting that red button below.

Your turn - what do you do between video jobs to stay current? Comment below!

Jake

Las Vegas

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.