As a filmmaker (someone pursuing what society deems unrealistic) I discovered how it felt to fall victim to sleepless nights worrying about the health of my future. Then, during my tenure as an intern in a corporate setting, I learned something about “our” industry that altered my notions about the feasibility of making a living in the world of moving pictures (which I’ll get to in a bit).
Filmmakers, student or otherwise, aren’t exactly the pillars of hope and confidence we should be. Lately, I’ve been running into extremely talented filmmakers who, at any time the word “money” is mentioned, complain they’re not making any. When I ask them why, their answer is always the same: “I get jobs but most of them pay little to nothing.” Then, without missing a beat, they say, “There just isn’t enough work in this industry.” That’s nonsense. I’m writing this to let you in on a little secret: the demand for your skills is booming—your skills are relevant—so stop working for less than you’re worth.
The truth about video
Businesses, big and small--the only remaining vestige of substantial wealth--are growing aware that video is the most effective medium for marketing/advertising products and services. Here's some data for my fellow filmmakers:
By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic (Cisco).
7 in 10 people view brands in a more positive light after watching interesting video content from them (Axon Research).
Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product on an online retail site after watching a video (ComScore)
Online video was the fastest growing ad format in 2012 with nearly 55% growth (Emarketer).
These statistics substantiate the benefits of video for those already implementing the medium, and suggest a proliferation in video as a sure-fire way for businesses and individuals to engage customers, and most importantly, add more dollars to the bottom-line. The implications for filmmakers is more than positive. As more and more businesses implement video in their messaging strategy, the demand for filmmakers will grow rapidly. That means more money for us creatives.
Why businesses really need filmmakers
I know what you're thinking: with all that money and resources, why don't businesses just produce video on their own, in house? Reasonable question--and I have a reasonable answer.
I spent last summer at a PR Firm in Manhattan. My coworkers, many of them graduates of top-tier schools, were bright, energetic, hardworking--all the ingredients for success. They all had freakishly awesome writing skills. Public speaking? Forget about it; they were born to speak at podiums before large crowds. But they all had one, glaring deficiency: none of them could tell a compelling visual story with video. That's right, while my coworkers could write concise, persuasive, long-winded essays, blogs and speeches, none of them had the faintest idea about scenes, sequences, or three-act structure--never mind the technical aspects. To me, the skills of the people in the office, while impressive, seemed antiquated, more suited for the days of dust covered tomes, feather quilt pens, and frequent trips to the town cobbler. (This is my second cobbler reference in two weeks.) And as my time with the firm--one of the most respected in the PR industry--progressed, I realized, more and more, that my cohorts were 100% dependent on my boss and I, the wacky video people, for compelling visuals.
But it wasn't their fault; why would they have an understanding of visual storytelling? They mastered what they were taught--skills unrelated to video.
And this lack of know-how on the part of business professionals is precisely why filmmakers are, and will continue to be, in-demand assets.
Why video alone isn't enough
According to YouTube, 100 hours of video get uploaded to their site every minute. Can you say over-saturation? As more businesses and individuals utilize the magic of video, the competition for attention will become a fierce, cut-throat battle. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds, according to Statistic Brain. This means, without question, that many of the videos uploaded to the web will be lost, forgotten forever, swallowed in the vast ocean of multi-media on the web.
How are videos supposed to stand out
With all of these videos fighting for limited attention, there is only one solution: good storytelling. The days of businesses telling others how great their products and services are are over. People, with limited attention spans, will no longer give products and services the time of day—unless those products and services come with a story. Uri Hasson from Princeton, found that the brains of storytellers, and listeners, synchronize. Meaning, when products and services are wrapped within a story, the consumer builds an emotional attachment with that product or service. It’s visceral. Aside from the emotional connection provided by stories, they also do something perhaps more vital for businesses: they tell themselves. According to Buffer Blog (check them out) “Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.” So, if businesses tell a great story, through the mouths of others, those stories will spread, and with that a perpetual conversation will build. (Free promotion—the best kind.)
Filmmakers are the kings and queens of storytelling
So let’s think about it. Stories are needed for economic prosperity and video is the en-vogue storytelling medium. Therefore, video holds the keys to success, or lack thereof, for businesses, brands, or anyone with something to sell, really.
Filmmakers, new or experienced, need to stop settling for low or unpaid work. It doesn’t matter who’s asking you for it. Our services—visual storytelling—at this point in time, are crucial for the success of others. We need to start banding together as one faction of artists, and start looking out for each other. Anytime you let someone underpay you, it affects us all. It sends a message to everyone: the skills of filmmakers aren’t that valuable. Fellow filmmakers, I implore you, respect yourselves and other artists—get the money your talents deserve. The world needs your skills.