Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re not really ready for an agent or a publicist yet, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use some advice from one on how to grow your career. The following was garnered from publicist Gabriella Belzer of Impact 24 PR and two partners from the Worldwide Production Agency: Kristen Tolle-Billings and Brian Goldberg.
Don’t be a slasher
This one’s probably going to rub you the wrong way, so let’s get it out of the way first. You’ve heard it before. Despite the success of many a filmmaker such as Reed Morano, Kelly Reichardt, Steven Soderbergh, or the Brothers Coen— the powers that be caution you to stay in your lane…at least while you still have to sell yourself. The phrase “Jack of all Trades, Master of None,” was thrown into the ether, which personally really annoys me, but in my experience most producers and agents do believe you can only be good at one thing. Does this mean you can’t pursue more than one avenue in production? No, it just means you need to streamline your presence. For instance, you should have separate websites for your directing career and your cinematography career. They even advise to have separate websites for writer/directors. If this seems like too much to maintain, then pick the one you need a website and/or social media presence for the most, and focus on it. As you advance, in one field, you can grow or transition into another, but you don’t want to deter the folks that sign the checks in the meantime.
Fix your website
Okay, so you’ve separated your websites. Now make sure they are really simple and clean. Less is more, so let the work be at the forefront. Separate the genres of your videos into separate pages or tabs. Don’t have it all together: music videos on one page, commercials on another, etc. SEPARATE NARRATIVE AND DOCUMENTARY. Make sure you’ve got a bio.
Fix your Bio
Your bio is not your resume, so if right now under your ABOUT ME section, all you’ve got is a list of credits strung together with a few quips, fix it. You don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one genre or keep making the same content you’ve always made, so this will really help the team hiring you connect to the PERSON with whom they may or may not want to be working.
Ms. Belzer relayed an instance where she was able to secure a Runner’s World Magazine interview for a DP who had contracted Impact 24. He had run a marathon with a Go-Pro on his head. A producer, who was also a runner, read the article and reached out. The two ended up working together.
Have something about who you are and what you’re passionate about outside of the realm of filmmaking. Market who you are as a person, how you are on set, and what your methods are. (If you don’t instantly have an idea for this, you need to spend some time figuring it out).
If you think you can skip this section on your website…you can’t. Write a bio, and make it concise enough that they want to know more about the artist.
Have Separate Reels
Tailor your reel for the project to which you’re submitting, and that extra bit of work will yield great results. The team hiring you for a music video wants to see what music videos you’ve done and not that documentary short film about a dairy farmer you’re really stoked on showing off. Of course someone who shoots a gorgeous doc can shoot gorgeous narrative (if it’s the right fit), but most folks’ imaginations aren’t that stellar. That’s why they watch what we make them. (Sorry, not sorry.) Help them; help yourself. Separate your reels, and customize when you can.
Your reel should have traceable content
Ms. Tolle-Billings was pretty adamant about this. They want to know you’ve been consistently working, and they want to be able to go and watch the full video of the clip they like in your reel. If they can’t, it feels like you’re hiding something. In that same vein, your resume should have the dates of the projects in it, or, they feel like you’re hiding something. Don’t shoot the messenger, guys.
Don’t send broken links
Check your links, and keep your website current. It reflects badly on you and your work ethic if you can’t even send a live link.
Cameras aren’t relevant in marketing yourself
Put down your pitchforks, everybody. In terms of your branding, it’s more than likely that you’re peacocking for other filmmakers instead of promoting your work. Your social media presence should be more about what ends up in the cut, what you’re up to, and who you are as an artist. Have a separate instagram for gearporn, if it’s important to you. Care less about becoming a brand ambassador and more about the opportunity to keep doing what you love.
Make it your portfolio, and make it beautiful. If there’s anything on there you’re meh about, take it off. Agents, managers, directors, and producers have hired below the line personnel directly from the work they’ve exhibited on Instagram, or at least first discovered them there, so take advantage of the platform, and put your best shots forward.
Make an effort to meet directors you don’t know
In between projects, seek out workshops and mixers. Go to festivals and introduce yourself. Expand your circle if you want to advance your work.
Make what you want to be hired to make
The definition of insanity right? You’re not going to change the direction of your career or move forward if you keep making the same thing. If no one is hiring you to create what you want to create, make it yourself, and prove that you can. Call in all your favors; feed people well and treat them with gratitude, and make something for 10K that looks like you made it with a million.
Get laurels from festivals people have heard of
No one cares about the best picture laurel you won at the International Film Festival for Children of Insurance Agents. It doesn’t have to be TIFF or Sundance, but stay focused and go after the festivals where you will get the attention you need to move forward. SXSW should be on your calendar, and if you don’t get something in, you should be going to network.
Know when you’re ready for representation
As a reference, one DP asked of the group assembled, “Am I ready for an agent?” He had DP’d several films in the $500,000 range. They told him he wasn’t ready, but they urged him to go to SXSW and network. They told him to keep making work that he wanted to be making and keep putting it out there. If he is good, they will find him.
When you are ready, submit to agents with a very short email and your reel. Go through the proper channels, and don’t reach out to them on LinkedIn or Facebook. If your friend has representation, ask for a referral.
Even if you’re unrepresented, you may still be ready for a publicist. In fact, your publicist might be able to help you get agents to notice your work. If you’re not happy with the direction of your career and you need help changing your public image, you’re ready to enlist the people who do this all day, everyday. In regards to promoting certain projects, hire a publicist long before the release, so they can drum up anticipation for your project. As a rule, hire PR a month before you think you need them.
Do you have advice in regards to advance ones career? Share with us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Featured image, Invest In Yourself – Photo credit: Tashatuvango