5 Ways to Create and Sustain a Film Community

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

by Eric Toms

People often get the wrong idea when it comes to money and the film business. We hear about films making millions of dollars and assume that everyone working in entertainment is Scrooge McDuck rich. Spending afternoons swimming laps in their vault of money. Like all industries, there is a lot of money at the top followed by everyone else struggling to make ends meet. That’s why film communities are so important, be it on-line or in person events, whether you’re planning on making a film or just an avid cinephile. The arts run on these communities to foster new talent and create work for audiences to enjoy, because no one makes a movie alone. Watch any awards ceremony and listen to the list of ‘thanks’ given out during each speech. 

When I wanted to learn about making feature films I signed on to be the producer of the Making Movies is HARD!!! podcast. There was (and still is) no money, but I‘ve learned a ton and it was uplifting to hear that our podcast was inspiring people to make their own films. When I was frustrated that every short film showcase charged money, I set out to create my own short screening night that was 100% free. Five years later, the Night of Shorts Night in Los Angeles is still going strong. 

But not so fast. Any community is like a plant that bears fruit, meaning that you can’t just expect to grab a strawberry anytime YOU want one. You have to help grow and sustain that community through time, money or resources. The arts community doesn’t have a lot of money (a real hot take, I know) so there is a constant need for volunteers and if you feed your community it will give back to you tenfold.

Here’s a few ideas to help you get started creating a film community and ways to make it flourish…

  1. Volunteer at a Festival - There are hundreds of film festivals and all of them run on the wonderful people who take tickets, pass out badges, and answer emails. The great part about volunteering at festivals is that you will be looking at other artist’s work for free and interacting with the filmmakers themselves. Not only that, but your fellow volunteers will no doubt also share in your interests. I’ve spoken to plenty of artistic teams who met volunteering and have gone on to create scripts, films and plays.
  2. Create an Event - If you look for a list of entertainment events in your local area and don’t find anything then this is a great opportunity for you to start an event of your own. I was frustrated because everywhere I looked people were charging filmmakers to screen their work, so I created my own short film screening series called The Night of Shorts Night, a free short film showcase that is held once a month in a restaurant/bar. Folks show up and screen their work and the restaurant gets a crowd of people. It’s a great relationship and has helped filmmakers screen their work as well as meet other local filmmakers.  
  3. Offer a Space - Reach out to filmmakers or theater groups and offer up an extra space. A living room, a backyard, or garage is perfect for shooting, reading scripts or holding meetings. This can be too intrusive for some people, but if you’re game then turning part of your home into a performance space is a huge help to the artistic community. 
  4. Help Others - You probably have a list of projects you want to complete, but don’t forget about the others in your community. When you hear about someone’s project, reach out and offer to lend a hand. Pick up the coffee, drive someone to set, write up emails - whatever you’re comfortable with will mean the world to them. I started producing the podcast Making Movies is Hard! when my friend posted that they needed help. The experience has been amazing because not only do we offer a platform for filmmakers to share their experiences, but I get to hear a brand new artist list what has worked and hasn’t in their career which is exceedingly valuable. 
  5. Be a Cheerleader - If you’ve attempted to create anything in life then you understand the artistic struggle. Putting yourself out there is vulnerable and very scary. Having someone in your corner to pump you up is a wonderful feeling. Reach out to your friends and colleagues, and give them a complement. I have a friend who writes a short shout-out on social media for her friends, pointing out their best qualities. It is a great surprise and can really be a shot in the arm for the artist.

I hope this article has been helpful for you and for your community at large. By putting your work and focus on your community it will not only make you feel better for lifting up your fellow filmmakers, but will help you create your work. 

Photos courtesy of Eric Toms 

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About the Author

Eric Toms
Eric Toms is a filmmaker living in the Los Angeles area and his first feature film, Bakersfield Noir, will be released in 2023. He also produces the podcast Making Movies is HARD!!!: The Struggles of Indie Filmmaking hosted by Liz Manashil and Alrik Bursell, which just celebrated its 400th episode. Eric is also the host and co-creator of the Night of Shorts Night, a free short film showcase that has been running in Los Angeles for over five years. You can reach out to him via his web site, erictoms.com.

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