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Cross Post: Breaking Into the Film Business

Features
by Megan Griffiths
December 20, 2012 2:00 PM
7 Comments
  • |

HELP CREATE THE COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO WORK IN

When I started working as an assistant director, I immediately encountered the resentment of crews who had been too often burned by "production" and the frustration of producers who felt crews expected more from them than the budget allowed. This disconnect is far from uncommon in the film industry, but it's something I think we have made great strides to overcome here in Seattle. Over the past decade, I've seen what was once a random assortment of fairly embittered individuals evolve into a strong and mutually respectful community. That didn't happen all by itself--those of us making our living in this industry manifested that change.  And as a more coalesced unit, Seattle has yielded fantastic films. When people ask me why I want to make my films in Seattle, I always tell them it's because of the amazing, hilarious, passionate, and highly skilled crews. I'm proud of what we created here, and I want to see it continue to grow.  But listen, I realize that it's not a candy-covered wonderland all the time. While we're all striving for crewtopia (I made that word up), it is still a rare gift to find yourself on a set that is completely devoid of difficulties. You may still have bad experiences. The worst thing you can do about this is get angry. The best thing you can do is learn and help others learn by communicating what your issues are. Don't yell and insult.  Don't sulk or grumble or be passive aggressive. Reason with and educate those who you believe are causing your problem and try to help create the community you want to work in. Give others the benefit of the doubt, chances are they (like you) are only trying to make the best film possible.

TREAT EVERYONE WELL ALL THE TIME FOREVER

Common courtesy is incredibly underrated in this business. Because of time constraints, budget constraints, and general stress levels, people tend to develop bad attitudes. Fight this urge. Just like they say in ROADHOUSE, be nice.  (Also, when in doubt, trust Swayze.) Relationships are literally everything in this business, so nurture them. Rebuilding burned bridges is hard work, especially when you didn't have to set fire to them in the first place.

ALWAYS HAVE A CREATIVE OUTLET

Yes, I am thrilled that I was a part of so many crews over the past decade. But I would have gone insane if I wasn't also working on my own projects on the side.  The whole reason I began writing my film THE OFF HOURS is that I realized how necessary it was to me to have a creative outlet. The film is about people who don't have that--who get stuck in routine and stasis and boredom. It's also about breaking those cycles and living the life you really want. Find something that stimulates you and then do it every chance you get. And yes, I realize that last sentence sounds dirty.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

As you go through life, you will face choices every day. Factors such as money, time and obligation might influence those decisions. But don't forget to listen to your instincts. Your brain will tell you what you "should" do, your gut will tell you what will make you happiest. I have faced decisions in my life where my brain said one thing and my gut said the other, and I have never regretted going with my gut.

____________________________________

Megan Griffiths has been a director, writer and producer in the independent film community for over a decade. Her two most recent films, THE OFF HOURS and EDEN, have played at festivals worldwide and received awards for directing, cinematography and performance. Megan was the recipient of the 2012 Stranger Genius Award for Film.

Republished with permission.

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7 Comments

  • Ava Proscreenwriter | December 21, 2012 12:20 AMReply

    Megan, your advice is dead on.
    I believe all serious screenwriters should make it a goal to get a job, any job, on a film production to see and learn how the filmmaking process works. It will make you a better screenwriter.
    I worked on a feature film production as a paid script supervisor, and assisted in pre and post. It was a priceless education for me as a screenwriter.
    Everyone had a great attitude and worked long days and loved it -- except for one person who was a well known character actor. He had a terrible attitude, was extremely rude, and mean as a snake to the crew. Thankfully he wasn't on the set more than a few days. But the days he was working, we all dreaded his presence. If I had been the director, I would have fired him the first day he showed up. But even the director was afraid of him. This actor's talent was not worth putting up with his bad behavior and attitude. No one on that film production will ever want to work with him again.
    So, I agree 100% with Megan's advice. Be nice to everyone - always. No matter what your job is, be pleasant and kind. Show up early for work, have a great attitude, and be eager to do your very best work. Others working on the film production will notice and remember you and want to work with you again.
    Well said, Megan.
    www.twitter/come/Ava Screenwriter

  • Giacomo Ferrario | March 29, 2013 6:10 PM

    AVA....I was laughing and crying at the same time reading your message above. I just worked on 'several TV Shows' and it always irritates me to see those Actors many 'Think' are funny & Kind show up on Set and are actually RUDE and IGNORANT. They can memorize lines. Know where to stand with respect to camera's and have a 'following' but, the crew hates them. Fellow Actors just want to RUN off set or Slap them silly so they'll STOP Telling everyone how 'Special They Are'. I once heard a Character Actor we all know say, 'I'm an 'A' Actor I deserve a better Trailer. Better Attention. Blah blah..(actually try 'C Actor and 'F' for being Knd). I was stunned! And Saddened. I saw him again last week. Hasn't changed after 5 years. You see these people in Comedies too and 'off set' they are sad people and rude to everyone. Makes no sense to be this way. We are ALL struggling to be actors and be our best. Be Kind! Thanks AVA

  • Giacomo Ferrario | December 20, 2012 6:31 PMReply

    Dear Megan:
    I grew up in the Film Business in Malibu, California. My dad lived next door to Martin Sheen and his young boys, Sandy Kofax was in baseball but, was around Hollywood types at 'our Beach parties', and others (I hate name dropping just TRYING to make a point YOU made). After the US Army, Nato stint working for General Al Haig and Lt. Gen. Otstott, Army Intelligence, well, I earned my degree's at UCLA (Intern'l Bus., marketing, 4 languages fluently) and Woodbury (same). Met Carlo Rambaldi and his entire family (friends now for 34 years) who created E.T, King Kong, Alien and many others as well as producing several films (DECOY, etc.) SO, I thought after working in 9 countries and knowing all these people, experiences, places, up's and downs and being ON SET for various films (just for fun and to learn) that I'd write a Screenplay (Jimmy Halloway, Based on a True Story and Enduring Dream: Orphan, tenage years in 1960's and awesome characters, funny, sad, SUICIDE', etc.) Army exp., CIA, Las vegas and business/mafia, Italy, Germany, Maine, California. yes, a Wild ride Megan! But, keeps you on the edge of you seat! We laugh, Cry and wonder. An old man looking back at his life. Snap-shots. Flashbacks. So much more. My wife is VP, worldwide publicity Film. 27 years. Friends all in film bus. =Access. Morgan Freeman is a friend. I know small time directors and actors, however, even with a Thumbs UP by ALL who have read HUNDREDS of scripts and filmed & LOVE Mine, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED!!! LOL Yes, maybe I didn't Push hard enough. Try hard enough. Demand more? Your story re-energized me. You are a Champion. You WILL find your dream/s. I just know it. Thank you for the story. It helps those of us 'on the fringes' and NOT following our dream. Even if it is ONE! Not to do it would be stupid. At 'any cost'. Brava! James

  • Susan Cartsonis | December 20, 2012 3:37 PMReply

    Megan, you are smart and incredibly talented. I've had the privilege of seeing Megan's film and when it's released we ALL have to go see it and support her!

  • Giacomo Ferrario | March 29, 2013 6:02 PM

    Let us know when Megan' Film comes out. I want to be the first to see it. Thank you, GF

  • Giacomo Ferrario | December 20, 2012 6:34 PM

    Thank you Susan. I want to see this film so bad now! Maybe Megan will Invite us to her screening? We just handled the worldwide publicity for 'The Fighter' and working for and with Mark Wahlberg was special. He is the kindest person in Hollywood. True. We've worked with hundreds. We also handled 'The Ides of March' and went to the Venice Film Festival with G Clooney and his fellow actors. Ryan Gosling is another great guy. Very kind. Take care you two. Good luck Megan. You are on your way girl. (Director). Giacomo and Family (Merry Chritsmas)

  • Megan Griffiths | December 20, 2012 3:59 PM

    Thanks Susan!!

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