Photo: Kira Bursky

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Career as a Filmmaker

by Kira Bursky May 24, 2016

1. Find your unique style.

BE ORIGINAL. BE WEIRD. Indulge. All the most successful filmmakers are auteurs. They have defined their own style. You’ll get hired for your edge and you’ll stand out from the crowd. My style? Having a magical fantasy spin. What’s yours?

This is my directing sizzle reel from 2015. It quickly captures the essence of my body of work.

2. Make content!

The only way to be a filmmaker is to make films. Make a lot of them and get them out there. Maybe you are struggling with taking the first steps or finishing up a film that’s been sitting on your hard drive in various pieces for months. If you need a push, go and sign up for the 48 Hour Film Project.

The 48 Hour Film Project is a worldwide competition where you have 48 hours to make a short film. After its completion, your work is screened at a local theater. And then if you win you go on to the international event called “Filmapalooza” with the chance of being selected to have your work screened at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a win-win situation. No matter what happens, you’ll have a product by the end of the weekend.

This is a film that I co-directed for the Huntsville 48 Hour Film Project. We won Best in City and now we will be screening at Filmapalooza in 2017.

3. Build an audience.

Now that you have a product, you need an audience. Without viewers, what really is a film? Build a following. Create a Facebook page for your production company. When you release content, your fans will boost the initial views so that your work isn’t stuck with only five views on YouTube. Using my production company’s Facebook page, I’ve also been able to launch many successful crowdfunding campaigns. Your fans will work for you by providing free promotion and free labor. And you’re granting them entertainment! It’s a great tradeoff. Just yesterday, I received a message through my Facebook page from a lady who would like to volunteer to help for my film company. That’s the magic of the Internet.

This is a GoFundMe campaign that I created to raise money for my trip to the Cannes Film Festival. My goal was $3,000, but within a few days, I surpassed my goal and received a total of over $4,000. Having a following on Facebook was the key to this success.

4. Enter film festivals.

Film is a collaborative art form. You need people to find out about your films and about you. Enter your work into film festivals and travel to them! You’ll make amazing connections, meet interesting people, and find future job opportunities. I recently went to a film festival and landed a branded content job. I met President Obama at the White House where my film was screened. I’ll be staying with some film friends in Paris whom I met at the Cannes Film Festival. Simply put, film festivals are an explosion of all grand things: networking, work opportunities, future collaborative partnerships, and exposure of your work. Just do it. Enter your work.

Here is a VLOG that I shot on my iPhone of my trip to the Cannes Film Festival. Many amazing connections were formed there.

5. Work on other people’s projects.

I worked on a feature film as assistant art director. This led to being hired as the cinematographer for a music video, which in turn has led to even more connections and jobs. By working on other people’s projects, you’ll get linked into an even bigger network with more film opportunities. Don’t hide in dark, seclusive corners. Get yourself out there. Declare to the world that you are ready and eager to work in the film industry. People will take notice if you truly mean it.

This is a video for which I was hired to edit and do motion graphics. The director of this project is someone with whom I have worked on many, different projects in a variety of capacities. We play pingpong in terms of hiring each other for our own projects.

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