How I started a career in filmmaking

Film countdown clock - starting a career in film
Tom Worth has carried out a number of roles in the film industry, including editing, directing, VFX and graphics. He’s now a senior editor at Formidable Productions.

How do I get into movie production? What skills do I need to work in the film industry? Should I go to film school? If you’re asking yourself these questions, you can find answers by reading about Tom Worth’s career in filmmaking. Tom succeeded without a film school degree, moving instead from product design to graphic design to film and creating his own opportunities along the way.

Tell us about your job in film production and what it involves

Primarily I now work as an editor but I also do some VFX, graphics and directing. I ran my own small production company for many years so I have done pretty much everything to some degree.

From an editing point of view you are the person who is given the footage and has to pull it all together into a coherent story. There is a well-known adage that a film is written three times: once on the page, second on the shoot and the third time in the edit. This is very true. I find editing to be a really satisfying and creative job. It’s a strange one too though as if you’ve done it well then nobody will notice as they’ll be totally engrossed in the story.

I’ve also done some directing, including a feature-length documentary about the UK battle rap scene. I really enjoy the documentary process as it’s about finding the story as you go and in that way is very similar to editing. I’m always better and more creative when I’m reacting to stuff that’s there and happening than I am planning things ages in advance.

Do you have a permanent job, work freelance or something else?

I was freelance or running my own company for the last ten years but recently started a new permanent salaried job.

How did you get into a career in filmmaking – did you go to film school?

I did a degree in product design but during that degree I realised I didn’t really want to be a product designer. I tailored my final-year projects more to concentrate on the graphical presentation rather than the projects. After graduating I got a job doing sports TV graphics, which I did for ten years. I designed title sequences including for all the international Premier League broadcasts for about five years. I also worked at two World Cups.

I then left and went freelance and quickly set up a production company with a friend. We made short films, music videos, corporate films and all sorts. Eventually we moved into making features and documentaries. So my journey into filmmaking has been pretty much self taught and I believe strongly that if you want to learn how to make films, just go out there and make some films.

Is this a typical path into filmmaking?

It’s not a typical path at all. However, I do think that coming from a design background has been useful in many ways. It makes me approach things in a different way than someone who came from a more traditional film training background. But I do also sometimes wish I’d gone to film school.

What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are the downsides?

I love to make films that get an emotional reaction from an audience. That’s the best feeling when you make people feel something. The downside is that it’s really, really tough to make enough money to actually live. You need a lot of determination, patience and hard work, and a supportive partner also really helps.

What skills or personal qualities do you need to do your job well?

I think enthusiasm, a work ethic and friendliness go an awful long way. There are so many different jobs in filmmaking. There really is something for everyone. You will learn much of what you need to learn by getting out there and making films. You’ll find the role you enjoy and then do everything you can to master it.

What are your top tips for a school student wanting to get into a career in filmmaking?

Get a gang of like-minded filmmakers together and go out there and make some films.

  • What film school does – if you decide to go – is introduce you to loads of other people who want to make films and you help each other to make the films you all want to make. But you can also do that outside of film school.
  • Your films will initially be rubbish but they’ll get better with practice. I regularly enter 48-hour film challenges and also help to run one and I believe they are the best way to learn the craft.
  • Upload your films to Youtube or Vimeo and try to get an audience. Listen to what people say and use that feedback to make better films.

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