I had decided I wanted to be a film director since I wad 14 years old. I started making short videos with my friends and I enjoyed the idea of making my own films. Even though the decision was made in a very early age in my life, managing to work professionally as a director is a long journey. I would say it’s a Marathon and not a sprint and personally I have not yet reached the finish line.
When I graduated from high school, I studied Philosophy and History of Science in the National University of Athens and on my free time I kept making short films. On my 3rd year at University, I had a chance to direct a children’s play on stage where I realised how much I liked directing for theatre as well. I continue directing more plays and once I finish my studies I went to London to study filmmaking.
It was an intensive year at London Film Academy where I studied. It gave me all the skills I would need and the insights of what does it take to become a filmmaker. London was a source of inspiration for me, the scale, the projects and the people coming from all over the world. I decided to stay in London and work as a freelancer between UK & Greece.
I continued making plays back in Athens and in London I started building my portfolio as a young director.
It is quite difficult to convince people to give you money to direct a promo so the first step was to start making my own videos. I’ve learned how to edit more professionally and noticed I was good in editing.
As I needed a way to make money whilst building my director’s portfolio I started applying to editing jobs. This way I was saving money to shoot my films and I could stay in London.
It is very helpful to get a job inside the industry you want to break through, as you can network and learn from within how things work.
This is what I have been doing. Right now as I director I have started getting my work noticed and I have been making more commercials and promo videos. I have also moved on directing plays for a grown up audience, even though I continue creating children’s plays.
It is still a long way to go in order to make your own money solely from directing but a combination with self-shooting director, editor can lead you in the right way.
Eventually you will have enough contact and you will get noticed from production companies that will ask you to pitch for bigger projects. And it goes from there.
The key is not to compare yourselves with others, as each one of us have their own personal path. And I would say don’t give up, maybe the next best thing is around the corner but you would need to make a turn.
Being a director is a great life experience. You meet a lot of new people, which helps you broaden your horizons. Every day is a new day and no day resembles the previous one. You can travel around the world and not having a 9 to 5 job means you can make up your own schedule and choose your own holidays. On top of that, being in a creative industry you always need to stay open minded in order to have new ideas something that I believe makes you grow as a person. Same goes for theatre. It is the same discipline and way of life, the only difference is that it is not as hectic as film and also there is less money in theatre. The best part is that you actually create something that you can communicate to a large scale. You will inspire, touch and sometimes help other people to make sense of their own lives.
Of course there are some downsides to the profession. Being a freelancer also means that you are constantly looking for a new job. There are no paid sick leaves or paid holidays. You need to plan accordingly in order to not be short on money. Networking is not an option but mandatory in order to secure a network of people that can offer you a job. You should have self discipline as you would need to do your own research and sometimes you do work from home, which means there is no one to give you deadlines but yourself. This can also make you feel lonely as you either work by yourself or you to places for a short period of time and perhaps you won’t have enough time to grow relationships with everyone else. Film industry is massive and in London specifically there are people from all around the world trying to make it. There is a lot of turning down, your films, your writing, your ideas or offers for work. You should be sure that rejection will not get you down. You should accept the fact that negative answers will be a part of your “job description”. If you cannot handle this well and you begin to question your work or even worst yourself, maybe you should do this as a hobby but not a profession. It can get very tough.
Lastly, being a freelancer in a creative industry and especially a director means there is no clear path on how you can “make it”. You are an artist on your own right, and your career is very close to your personal journey. Every director has a very unique story and what has worked with him/her is not necessarily the way you will become a director. This can be tricky and it make you feel lost as no one can really give you a map to follow but only advice on what has worked with them.
Being a freelancer director needs a lot of patience and determination in order to make money and projects. You have to believe in yourself, invest everything you have and never give up.
Eleanna S., London, 14 May 2019.