What Does It Mean to be a Successful Indie Filmmaker?

Updated: May 21

Success in independent film is a relative term. It all depends on the filmmaker's unique aspirations which, for the most part, can be boiled down to a filmmaker version of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs.


If you don't know the famous pyramid of needs, we'll break it down for you:


  • Basic Needs: Physical health and safety.

  • Psychological Needs: Belonging and self-worth.

  • Self-Actualization: Creativity and achieving one's full potential.


For filmmakers, this can be framed as follows:


  • Money: Making a living and feeding the family.

  • Recognition: Being recognized in the community for doing great work.

  • Career: Making content that makes money and garners recognition with such consistency that it allows for unconstrained creative freedom and an endless runway of projects.

Though it would be fair to say that every filmmaker wants D: All of the Above, each filmmaker's definition of success is based on a few of the key words within the definitions provided above. Let's take a closer look.


Money


Not every filmmaker is looking to make the same amount of money. Some are looking for "riches in the niches" while others are looking for enough to enable them to simply continue doing what they love. Money can be seen as a means to sustain a lifestyle or it can be a means to living a new lifestyle altogether. As a filmmaker, you should clearly identify, write down, and commit to your money goals. This can serve as a guiding light to the type of work you engage in and how you work to promote and sell your projects.


Recognition


The key word in this definition is "community". As a filmmaker, you have the potential to be a part of and serve several different communities. How you are recognized in each one is different. Your family can recognize you for your passion and creativity through words of affirmation and support. A social community can recognize you for your contribution to a social cause through awards, grants, community engagement, and crowdfunding. The film community can recognize your talents through festival and industry awards and induction into film societies. The film viewer community (the audience) can recognize you with ratings, comments, and purchases of your film. Film critics and bloggers can recognize you with favorable reviews and recommendations.


As a filmmaker, you make art to educate, entertain, and/or inspire It is important that you define which combination of these three things you want to be known for and which communities you intend to serve. If you're making content for everyone then, in truth, you're making content for no one. You need to identify, write down, and commit to the communities you intend to be a part of and serve.


Career


This is all about consistency. It's about making and/or being a part of projects that serve as catalysts to the next project and then the next. Career is about sustaining the creative journey through continued value to the various communities you serve. It's about making the right choices to serve long-term goals not just near-term opportunities. It's about identifying the types of projects you want, writing that down, and committing to the projects that will promote your career.


As you may have noticed, there is a theme to charting the path to success that runs throughout this post. When defining your goals, it is important to identify, write down, and commit to what you want. Thinking it or knowing it is not enough. By having a laser focus on your goals, you are empowered to make the right decisions. Whether it's money, recognition, and/or career aspirations, your success as a filmmaker will be defined by your commitments.


We invite you to get out your pen and paper and write down what success means to you. Once you've done that, ask yourself if what you are doing now is in line with those goals. If so, congratulations! You're on your way! If not, it's time to make a change.



As always,


Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.

If you're looking for someone to help you on your creative journey, feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to work with you!

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