Independent Filmmaker

Job Description:

Independent filmmakers produce films outside of major film studios.

Job Category:
Culture, Media & Sport

What you will do:

Most filmmakers specialise in one type of film, such as documentaries, horrors, or thrillers. Whichever genre you choose, your films won’t be backed by a major film studio (such as Sony Pictures) and the films you make are likely to be low-budget. In the film industry, this can mean anything from a few thousand dollars (like Paranormal Activity, which cost $15,000) to a few million dollars (like Juno, which cost $6.5 million). You’re also likely to have more creative control over your project.

Your responsibilities will depend on the film’s budget and the size of your crew, but many independent filmmakers will do some or all of the following:

  • scriptwriting
  • sourcing funds (from yourself, family and friends, a crowdfunding site, a financial producer, or an independent studio)
  • recruiting a crew and cast (or participants, if you’re making a documentary)
  • prepping for shoot days (creating shot lists, scene layouts, etc.)
  • directing and shooting the film
  • using software to edit the footage
  • marketing, promotion, and entering film festivals
  • distributing



You’ll need:

  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • broadcasting and telecommunications knowledge
  • legal & copyright knowledge

As well as:

  • creativity
  • staying positive / resilience
  • organising / time management
  • good communication skills
  • leadership skills
  • teamwork
  • good networking skills
  • research skills, especially if you make documentaries
  • adaptable – this often involves working with limited budgets and resources, so being resourceful and adaptable is essential to overcome challenges.

You’ll also need technical skills in filming and editing, and the ability to work on a tight budget.

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

There are no strict GCSE subject requirements to become an independent filmmaker, as filmmaking is a creative field that values a wide range of skills and experiences. However, certain GCSE subjects can provide a strong foundation and be beneficial for aspiring filmmakers. Here are some subjects that can be helpful:

  1. English or Literature: Strong communication skills are essential for filmmakers, as storytelling is at the heart of filmmaking. English classes can help you improve your writing and comprehension skills, which are crucial for scriptwriting and understanding narrative structure.
  2. Media Studies: If your school offers Media Studies as a GCSE subject, this can be very relevant to a career in filmmaking. It introduces you to key concepts and techniques used in film and media production.
  3. Art or Design: Courses in art or design can help you develop a strong sense of visual aesthetics and composition. These skills can be valuable when working on the visual aspects of filmmaking, such as cinematography, set design, and costume design.
  4. Drama or Performing Arts: These subjects can help you understand the principles of acting and performance, which can be useful when directing actors and working on character development.
  5. ICT or Computer Science: Filmmaking often involves working with digital technology and software for editing and post-production. A good understanding of computers and software can be advantageous.
  6. Photography: While not a common GCSE subject, photography can teach you important skills in composition, lighting, and visual storytelling, which are transferable to filmmaking.
  7. Business Studies: Independent filmmakers often need to manage their own projects, budgets, and marketing efforts. Business Studies can provide valuable knowledge in these areas.

Post School

There are no set entry requirements. To become an independent filmmaker, you’ll need the skills, money, and time to write, produce, and direct your films or documentaries. You can begin with low-budget, short films where you are the only person behind the camera, and work towards more ambitious projects as you develop your skills, network, and reputation.

A degree in filmmaking or film production could help you to develop the skills and experience necessary to launch your career. Degrees often have a strong focus on practical work, meaning that rather than simply learning how to make a film, you’ll get hands-on experience and an opportunity to apply methods as you learn them. A typical filmmaking degree will teach you how to write, direct, produce, and edit a film.

You’ll likely need industry experience and a portfolio of work to get into a degree, but even if you don’t plan to do a degree, you should try to get as much practical experience as possible – join a film group, have a go at making your own low-budget films, and look out for opportunities to volunteer with local film production companies.

Working Hours and Environment:

Your working hours will depend on where you are in the filmmaking process – the development and pre-production phase (writing a script, budgeting, recruiting a crew, etc.) could take the form of a regular 9-5, but the production phase (shooting the film) is often more demanding and can involve several weeks of 12-hour work days.

Your work environment will also vary. During the editing phase, for example, you’re likely to spend plenty of time working at a computer, whereas the production phase will take place in a studio or on location, so you should expect to travel. Most filmmakers spend a large portion of shoot days standing and using technological equipment, such as cameras and lights. You should also expect to spend some time in meetings, discussing other aspects of the production.

Career Path & Progression:

There is no fixed route for career development – your progression as an independent filmmaker will depend largely on building a strong portfolio of work, gaining a reputation in a particular genre or format, and developing a network of connections.

Independent filmmakers sometimes transition to working on large-scale studio films and TV productions.