A Defining Question for Indie Filmmakers

Updated: May 21

In our 2019 interview with Dean Shortland, he offered the filmmaking community the perfect question when considering getting involved in a new project:


"Are you going to be able to use this work to get more work?"


This seemingly simple question gets to the core of the filmmaker's journey, the end goal of which is to build a career as a filmmaker.


A career, by definition, is "an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress." Let's key in on that last part for a second: "with opportunities for progress". A career, then, is not just what you get paid to do on an ad hoc or for-hire basis, but a profession that offers opportunities for progress.


This is exactly what Dean is getting at. If you want to have a sustainable life as a filmmaker, each project you sign onto must afford you new opportunities for progress. If not, the paycheck may not be worth the opportunity cost of missing out on the right piece of work.


When Dean offered us this pearl of wisdom, he did so in the context of recognizing his obligations to his family. As a family man, he believes it to be his responsibility to chase his dreams so long as they are coupled with tangible and continued value to himself and his family. Not wanting to live for the paycheck, he is strategic in his decision-making so that he can ensure the longevity of his career and the sustainability of his income. This is not only wise but it is noble as he seeks not only to serve himself but to remain accountable to those who depend on him.


We invite you to ask yourself the same question when you are in search of your next film project. When doing so, consider the caliber of your potential collaborators and whether they have what it takes to pull the project off. Consider the quality of the story and the depth of the characters to determine whether it will showcase your talents and the talents of others. Consider the path to distribution and the probability that the project will makes its way to a sizable audience. Consider how you will leverage the opportunity to grow your network so that you remain in consideration for the next project down the line. Consider whether the role you play is significant enough to get you noticed.


"Are you going to be able to use this work to get more work?"


This is truly a defining question for the indie filmmaker and we thank Dean for sharing this with us. We look forward to speaking with him more about how he goes about making this determination for himself so stay tuned for another interview with Dean in 2020!


As always,


Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.

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