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  • Writer's pictureJenny Waldo

MM: The Business of Filmmaking

Since March/April of this year, I’ve been putting together the program for the 9th Annual Business of Film Conference presented by Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP) and Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA).  As the Program Coordinator for SWAMP, I organize this event (contact speakers, create panel lineups, coordinate travel…etc), with the advisement of a small committee and the help of my Executive Director, Mary Lampe.  This past Friday and Saturday, all this hard work was realized.

There were about 75 attendees, 33 speakers, and 10 volunteers/staff.   And while Houston isn’t known for its filmmaking, there IS a lot of filmmaking going on and I know a ton of people who make films but were not at the Business of Film Conference.  I would love to know WHY.  I know that life can sometimes get in the way and people have other obligations.  But there just seems to be a disproportionate number of people who don’t come for other reasons.  So instead of hammering into people why they should come, I’ll explain what I get out of this particular Conference, and why it’s important for me to attend.

When I was applying to graduate film school, I applied to Columbia, NYU Tisch, Cal Arts, UCLA, and the London Film School where Mike Leigh went.  My father asked me what the best film school was, and I said “probably USC and NYU.”  He then asked if I was applying to USC and when I said “no” he asked why.  I didn’t think I would get in.  It was a top-notch film school linked to the illustrious Hollywood industry and I didn’t think I held a candle to Robert Zemeckis and George Lucas, probably because their films are on such a grand scale it was overwhelming to ever think I could make something like that.  My father encouraged me to apply anyways because if I was serious about this being my profession, I should shoot for the best.  So I applied, and guess what?  Out of the US schools I applied to, I was rejected everywhere except USC.  Where would I be today if I hadn’t even applied?  I quickly determined that while I would love to live in London and make movies, my working options were probably better at USC and it’s kind of hard to say no to USC honestly.  And off I went.

I sent pretty much the same application to each school, so why was I accepted at the most selective film school in the country?  I think it has to do with my personal essay which discussed the need for a BUSINESS understanding of filmmaking.  The reason why I wanted to go to film school was because I wanted and needed time and equipment to explore my creative voice in filmmaking, but my two years working for production companies had taught me that filmmaking was very much a business.  There were clients to please, people to pay, projects to deliver.  Making a movie wasn’t some whimsical undertaking.  People always call it “show business” and you can’t have show without the business.  Hollywood is especially geared toward making money, but as I have found in the independent world, the stress of making money is only greater, because it’s far less likely to happen.

So you want to make movies?  Great!  You want to make money?  Great!  You want to make money while making movies?  Then you’ll need to know not just the creative side of filmmaking but the business side.

  1. Going to the Business of Film Conference gets me in touch with what I think is the number 1 way to put anyone on the path to making movies and hopefully making money: the local film community.  Networking at any event, but especially this one let’s me know who’s serious about this profession and making it their career.

  2. Going to the Business of Film Conference gets me in touch with people working in the industry at large and making money doing it!  They are willing to share their stories and advice for how I, too, can do it!

  3. The information at the Business of Film Conference is current, validated, and sound advice from people who have a track record.

  4. No matter how much I know, there is always more to learn.  The world of filmmaking is constantly changing with the technology to make things faster and easier to reach an audience.  Continuing education is part of everyone’s career, and I benefit from hearing what’s going on, even if it’s stuff I’ve heard before.  Because it always helps remind me of things I forget, or reinforces things that worked for me, or gives me new insight into a problem I may be having.

  5. Spontaneous inspiration can happen at the Business of Film Conference.  I never know what I’m going to hear or who I’m going to meet that will inspire me to take a step in a new direction that will ultimately benefit my career.

So I expect to see everyone at next year’s 10th Annual Business of Film Conference!

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