The world of filmmaking is certainly attractive to many, but it’s not necessarily the easiest to break into. Although online video outlets like YouTube and Vimeo make getting the word out about your project easier, there’s no guarantee even the most polished amateur film will garner the attention it deserves — much less secure its director a gig working in Hollywood. But everyone has to start out somewhere, right? Even the director behind Guardians of the Galaxy, one of Marvel’s biggest hits, had to hone his craft for years before he was invited to step behind the lens of the spacefaring adventure.
And now, in an effort to parlay some of his well-earned success into a learning moment for young filmmakers everywhere, Gunn, along with his actor brother Sean, were on hand at the Terminus 2016 event to discuss breaking into the industry.
In a video recently shared on James Gunn’s Twitter account, the brothers agreed that, for writers, directors, and actors just starting out, practice makes perfect – and a key component of getting enough practice is to find a creative tribe you click with, and work with them as often as possible. James offered:
“Having that group of people around you is the only way you can learn how to become a filmmaker. Success really is a result of repetition, doing something again and again and again and again, and learning how to do it. So by crafting a community of people around you that you can create with, it makes it a lot easier to learn filmmaking.”
As for the age-old question of whether or not you need to live in Los Angeles to have a reasonable shot at a full-time directing and writing career, James reluctantly admitted that living in L.A. makes things easier.
“I hate telling people that ‘cause people hate to hear it. But it’s kind of like expecting to get a job in the auto industry and living somewhere where there is no auto industry.”
Given the ambition required to forge a career in the notoriously competitive filmmaking industry, James concludes with some rather unexpected advice: by cautioning against being too myopic and potentially overlooking another career path where your true gifts are perhaps better served. Confessing that he himself once dreamt of being a rock star, the director relays that he eventually had to face the sobering reality that he couldn’t sing.
“On that path of going towards that thing you want to be, you may find a moment, an opportunity, where you are wonderful at something. And when you find that moment, cherish it and live it fully. Because you may be better at something else then that thing you want to be.”
The advice proves to be a welcome and unconventional departure for those familiar with more commonplace “take no prisoners, never give up” flavored pep talks that are often delivered to aspiring filmmakers. While there’s not an emphasis on giving up, per se, the advice instead indicates that open-mindedness might reveal a path you hadn’t considered before.