As part of the peer-led series of workshops by filmmakers in Exeter, Caleb Mitchell will be sharing tips on How To Start A Film Business From Nothing. We caught up with him to find out what to expect
Where’s the best place to start a film business from nothing?
I was at zero, I had no camera, and no audio equipment. I’d shot a couple of short films as DP. But I suppose, there are a few ways to start from nothing.
You need the desire to go and create: a goal to work for yourself and be filming; to have an interest and a passion. I started out shooting weddings. And part of the reason for that is I had my own wedding video that I loved. And I thought, I love weddings, maybe I can shoot these.
I do think that charging people as soon as you can is really important. I charged for my first wedding and it’s good because it made me think I need to make sure that what I create is worth their money.
You trained as an actor, how did that set you up for being on the other side of the camera?
At drama school, we were taught how to film, how to be crew, how to do sound and how to light a camera. We would film each other. That was important, because it gave me a sense of what it would be like to be that side of the camera. I really enjoyed it. And I was DP on a short film at the end of the year, which was great.
What that’s done for me is two things. Coming from a short film background, it means that I care about stories. When I film weddings, I use sound design and I try to give a feel of the day and find the unusual things that happened.
And it gives me an understanding of what people feel when I’m filming them, and how to talk to them, how to get them to do what I’d like them to do, because I know what it’s like. I know that people feel uncomfortable, often.
Without giving too much away, what will you be covering in the workshop ‘How To Start of Film Business From Nothing’?
How to find work. I’ve tried lots of different avenues for that, some more successful than others. How to manage your time. That’s a big thing, especially if you are working another job, and you only have limited time to edit. How to do the business side. And setting your rates. I find that very challenging at times to know how much I am going to charge.
Also, the importance of staying inspired and connected to other filmmakers. I’m blessed to know a couple of other filmmakers who are brilliant, and are ahead of me, so I call them and I ask for advice.
And then knowing when to invest, and what to invest in, and how to develop as a filmmaker.
My aim is that the workshop is a lot of fun. I’ve got some games in mind. There are going to be prizes!
Who should attend – those looking to set up, or people who are in the midst of their own film business?
Probably both. I’ve started from scratch, so I know what that feels like. And I also know what it feels like to have started a business and think, where do I go now, what’s next and how do I get there? Right now I’m thinking about bringing on some other people – what I would gain and lose.
It’s also for anyone who’s thinking about freelance, because when you go freelance, you’re your own business. I still remember that being a scary moment when I committed to going on my own.
You’ve touched on lots of lots of different aspects. What are the key skills to being your own boss in your own business?
Obviously, you need to know the technical side – how to shoot, use cameras, and audio equipment. You do need some business skills and planning. But I actually think the most important one is interpersonal skills. What I’ve discovered – and I think it’s the same in acting – in business, people hire people that they know. If you can start working with a company, they probably will continue working with you. Competence, I feel, is almost assumed. But are you good to work with, do you get things done on time, are you good with people?
Can you give us a taste of highs, lows, your proudest or most unexpected moments of running your own film business?
There have been lots of highs and lows. My favourite part has been seeing my work now, compared to when I started.
There have been some lows. What I remember was editing Zoom videos during Covid. It was fairly straightforward, but I remember I was exporting, and it was late and due that day. I had an issue with exporting. I’d never seen it before. And I was up until about 4am, figuring out what the problem was. That was a particular low moment.
One of the most unexpected was when I filmed someone’s wedding, and they said to me a few weeks later that their wedding was going to be on BBC Songs of Praise, and could I share some footage? They used about five seconds worth, but it was amazing to watch TV and think that’s my shot and to be able to say that my work has been featured on BBC Songs of Praise.
Do you enjoy having a film business?
It’s great fun being your own boss and having a film business. I really like people, and I guess that’s probably why I’m thinking about how I expand the business and bring other people on board, because I do spend a fair amount of time on my own editing and I’d quite like to work with other people a bit more. I think there’s plenty of work out there. For those who are interested and persevere. And so, I’m excited to help anyone who wants to start their own business.
Cheers Caleb, thanks for your time!
Top image: Caleb Mitchell, courtesy of Emily Appleton of Appleton Event Photography
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