How to express your value as a filmmaker to people who want to hire you

In my early career, back when we all still shot on film, telling cinematic stories was VERY expensive and it required hiring a lot of expensive experts. For example, getting your film colored was tens of thousands of dollars. Now we grab the free version of Resolve and we’re off to the races. So, needless to say, getting a gig was tough. It required getting people over the fear of saying ‘YES’. The reason, if they said yes, it meant they had to explain to their boss why he needed to write a big, fat check to an unknown filmmaker. So, taking a risk on a young, upstart filmmaker was a big decision.

Filming Location: Los Angeles

I learned early on to know what I was good at and how to explain why that was valuable. But others weren’t so lucky. Because work was tougher to come by, many of my colleagues took, the “I’ll take anything” approach to the job hunt, and that became a huge problem for them. They were whatever they thought the person handing out the job wanted to hear. I call it the “actor, singer, dancer, glider pilot” method of getting hired.

The problem with this technique is that a producer or studio who is looking to fill a gig opening has no idea how to hire that person. I’m often on the hiring side of things and recently I had a guy in for an interview for an associate producer gig. I needed someone to do research and help the casting director interview some candidates for the show. When I asked him what kind of content he was best at producing, he gave me a laundry list of disparate genres. He didn’t have a clear answer as to who he was and therefore couldn’t explain his value to me. When I asked him which one of those he was best at, he said, “I can do anything”. He essentially was saying, “what do you need me to be good at and I’ll say that I’m good at that”. He was like a kid, standing on the corner with a snow shovel, amongst ten other kids with snow shovels, saying “pick me”. He didn’t get the gig.

So, what’s the antidote to “Pick Me” syndrome? Be able to say EXACTLY who you are and be sure you can explain EXACTLY what the value of hiring you is as opposed to someone else. Be the someone that is adding value to the project in contrast to someone who is merely looking to for a job.

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