If you’re a would-be filmmaker, then you’re probably not going to impress any pros with your knowledge or talents, no matter how good you are. Many of them are burn-out-cases with no interest in the next generation, but even the nicer ones have a healthy wariness of the endless numbers of hungry up-and-comers.
Yes, you should selflessly do lots of amazing favors for people above you on the ladder, but understand that many of them will simply consider that to be your obligation. (In fact, they feel that they’re doing you a favor by letting you do them a favor.) And yes, you should also selflessly help people below you on the ladder, but beware that they may only resent you more as a result.
Movies and moviemaking have lost their magic for most filmmakers. Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone, amateur or pro, how much movies mean to you, because they’ll just roll their eyes. It’s like someone at a lawnmower company making a speech about genuinely loving lawnmowers. Nobody is going to believe it.
But… as soon as you step outside the world of movie making, most people you meet, even highly-paid professionals, will find your status as a filmmaker to be enchanting. Even then, they may still be slightly wary—after all, anyone can claim to be a filmmaker, but if you’ve got a degree, or a credit, or a prize, or anything that makes you seem legit, then that’s all they’ll need to be dazzled by you.
I put in a lot of time assisting professional editors, but I got my first paid solo editing job because I was the only editor that this client had ever met. Likewise, I apprenticed to a lot of screenwriters, but I got my first paid gig because I was the only screenwriter who the author of the novel knew personally.
And it works the other way too: the more time you spend developing interests outside the world of film, the more interesting you become to filmmakers, who, after all, are tired of talking about movies. Whether at a party or a pitch meeting, they’d much rather hear that you spent the weekend at a glass-blowing retreat than a Robert McKee seminar.
So when I got those jobs, had I finally “made it”? Let’s get to that next time…