How To Gain Confidence As A New Filmmaker

When Imposter Syndrome Kicks In, This is How To Kick It Out

Unfortunately working in the film industry can sometimes leave you with feelings of doubt, impostor syndrome, and a general lack of self confidence. But something you might notice in those that have moved their way up the film career ladder is that no matter how much skill you have or how much knowledge you possess, it’s the confidence that sells it.

Women are generally far more likely to sell themselves short often believing they need to know more than they should before giving something a go. But you could spend forever trying to learn all the ins and outs of how a film set works, how a camera operates, what the best way to direct is and still never move forward in your career because you don’t have the confidence to take that next step. In the wise words of Amy Poehler:

“Do it even if you don’t think you’re ready…I’ve worked with a lot of guys who aren’t ready for what they’re doing”

Amy Poehler, 2019

I wouldn’t say that I am a completely confident person, yet I have noticed a change in myself when I am on a set or pursuing film making goals after using some of these tips. It all comes with experience but hopefully these tips will provide a new sense of confidence for a fellow aspiring filmmaker.

1. Ask The Damn Question

There have been too many times when I wasn’t quite clear on something and didn’t clarify leading to a bigger problem down the line, or was merely curious about how something worked and never got the chance to ask again. Often this was due to not wanting to appear stupid or wanting to appear in control of a situation i was clearly not in control of. A big thing i’e learnt through a couple of dodgy experiences is to just ask the damn question. Most of the time instead of ridicule and loud exclamation of “but how could you not know that?!” You just get the answer. Sometimes asking the question can reveal that the people you thought had all the answers didn’t in the first place either.

2. Teach Those Around You

This one really helps me reiterate that I know what I’m talking about. My partner knows nothing about cameras or film techniques, but will come and watch films with me or indulge my geeking out about amazing shots. What really boosts my confidence is actually explaining camera related knowledge to him. For example the other day he asked me what the device the guy holds up in the porn scene in Love Actually is? And I could answer the question and it felt like maybe I have actually learnt something in my time in film school. So my advice is to find anyone who will listen, who also doesn’t know about film, and just explain film to them. Not in a patronising kind of way but in an excited knowledge sharing kind of way. Just wait and see how good it makes you feel.

3. Take A Class

If you have the time and the funds taking a short class in film making or camera work can be a great way to learn what you think you don’t know and to meet more people to make stuff with. I took a videography class last year when I wanted to cement in my brain what I thought I had forgotten from my uni days. Turns out I remembered a lot more than I thought and it really helped me gain confidence in my ability to work a camera and plan a shoot…plus I did actually get a paid gig out of it. Whatever area you are interested in there are lots of short courses available to just provide that little boost of knowledge and give you more confidence. They are also a great place to practice tip 1.

4. Watch More Movies

I consider watching films research. They are inspiring, entertaining, and get me more motivated and excited about being a filmmaker than anything else, except maybe actually being on a set. Inspiration for me acts as great confidence booster as long as I act on it. If I’m struggling with self-doubt I usually whack on one of my favourite films or, even more inspirational, a behind the scenes feature to pump me up and get me excited about making films again. If a film truly inspires me I will go home and work on that screenplay I haven’t touched for months or start looking into film groups and gigs that might be happening in the local area. Acting on your inspirations and following through with wherever it takes you can reinstate a bit of confidence in your own work that could potentially lead to your next career step.

5. Don’t Work With Them Again

So I was fresh out of high school and nabbed some work experience as a wardrobe assistant for a short film production. This was my first on set experience, and whilst I did learn a lot, it was an awful time. The production team constantly fought, the AD called to yell at me for leaving after she told me I could go home, and in general the whole thing was a pretty big disorganised mess. My confidence took a MASSIVE hit and I didn’t know if film was the area I wanted to be in. Then after I cried it all out I realised that it was just a bad production and I never wanted to work with that team again.

The same way that it’s healthy for us to get rid of toxic people in our lives it’s important to do the same when it comes to our careers as well. If someone ever makes you feel inferior despite if you always work with them, if they’re a friend, if it’s a great career opportunity, don’t work with them again. There are plenty of lovely humans out there who are just waiting to collaborate and even if they aren’t famous or work for a big company it will definitely make you feel more confident working with people who make you feel valued. You’ll probably make better content too.

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