The Opportunity Problem

One of the more apparent problems that gets raised in film is the lack of opportunities for any want to be filmmakers, actors, etc. You ask anyone who has a desire to break into the film industry what they would consider to be the biggest difficulty that they face, and they would more than likely tell you that “There are no opportunities”, or something along those lines. But this attitude appears to come from the lack of job opportunities that are presented in the film industry and doesn’t allude to other opportunities that are available to everyone who wants to be in film.

What the internet has done above all else is allow any one person to communicate with anyone else in the world, more or less. This has in turn enabled us to share information and resources that we can leverage to our advantage. This is especially the case in film where there are no barriers to entry. An example of the opposite of this is becoming a doctor where you require a medical degree. In film, there are no prerequisites. And now, with so much information on how to make a film and how to make a living in film that’s freely available, equipment becoming cheaper and cheaper, more and more talent available, at least in highly populated areas around the world, and relatively free access via the internet to distribute your films, it is easier than ever to create a film, share it with the world and earn money off of it. However, this does present a problem, a new problem that the film industry isn’t addressing.

Because it is easier than ever for you to make a film and share it with John Doe from the other side of the world, it is also to a certain degree as easier for John Doe to make and share his film with you. Everyone in the world now has the opportunity to make and share a film with everyone else. On top of this, what the internet has also done is created a haven for old films. So not only are you competing with John Doe from who knows where, but you are also competing against all the other amazing films that have been made through film’s history. The internet has made it possible for anyone to make a living making films, but has also made the industry incredibly competitive and noisier than ever.

What all of this indicates is that the problem isn’t one of opportunity, but is one of differentiation. With all this noise, you are virtually forced into having to make something unique in order to give yourself a chance of making a living in film. If you are making any film that has been done before then why would someone watch your film when they could just as easily watch the film that has already been made? You might have a good answer to this, but what is often missed here is that because there’s a variety of the type of film you are making, the profits get distributed unevenly across films of that type, with what the public perceives as the best of that type of film getting the biggest share of the profits and the rest of the films getting the breadcrumbs. This is the 80/20 principle in action.

Where this isn’t situation really isn’t being addressed and where all of this becomes even more difficult for filmmakers, actors and every other talent in the film industry is that the main film industry, i.e. the studios, are not willing to take chances on films that are different to the standards set by the film industry. We could get into all the reasons why this is the case, but that’ll be incredibly exhausting and what is valuable here is that we recognize that the film industry isn’t really interested in taking risks on different film projects. And if you require any proof of this, then just watch the films that are coming out. Every film is based on other films. There are rarely, if any, new films being made. It is even very often a requirement of the main film industry to ask a filmmaker who is pitching a film idea to them what other films the film they’re pitching is like. There’s a real parity issue among the main film industry.

Now, as a creative, you’re left to make a tough decision. You can either conform to the standards of the industry, and while doing this might be more viable for you to get a film made, you won’t be making a film that’s different from the other films being made, as you’re going to have to fulfil the quotas set by the people with leverage over you, meaning you won’t be able to differentiate yourself from the rest of the films in the film industry and your film has very little chance of going far, in regards to earnings and viewership. Or you go your own way, but this also has its downsides, as your having to step into the unknown, and since it is unknown, who knows what will happen?

Even though this might all seem like doom and gloom, I am still very level-headedly optimistic about the state of film right now. And a part of this is because creatives do have opportunities to make different films, films that no one has ever seen before, that no one else could have imagined, due to the resources at our disposal. Sure, the main film industry isn’t willing to take a chance on you, but so what? Big deal. You have the opportunity to make the films that you’d like to see. And if this blog post is anything it’s an incentive for all the filmmakers out there who have something different to offer, who have a flare, a style, who are inspired to make films in a unique way, that we’ve never seen before to deny the nay-sayers and take a chance on yourself. This was always the wisest approach to making a living with film, but now more than ever, because of the dynamics of the film industry, it’s really your only option. Don’t let all the doubters stop you. Make the film that inspires you. Just be pragmatic about it.