Directing in the Digital Age

Some Guy with a Camera1 writes in:

I, probably like most people on this website and similar ones, was inspired when I read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew. I’m curious though, that book was published in 1996. Which it turns out, is quite some time ago (heck I was only 6 at the time)…

So, how much of his “process” still applies? I mean, making independent movies now is easier, especially with digital cameras, sound recorders, and computer editing. But because of this, competition is greater.

If you have a decent feature or short, how do you show it off to the right people? Rodriguez literally knocked on doors of production companies. I haven’t tried, but I feel like that tactic nowadays would get you kicked out of a lot of places. Los Angeles is still the business center of the film industry, so is the best option for aspiring narrative film directors to live there, or visit for a few weeks and promote the sh*t out of your project? I just don’t like the idea of throwing work up on the internet to disappear forever into the bowels of Youtube.

Thanks for existing, TAPA.

Well. Not sure why you’re asking a PA for directing tips, but here goes!

The problem with online is that, with few exceptions, people prefer to watch videos that are short (under five minutes) and funny. To build your career this way, you need to be making videos consistently, which is a lot harder than writing a blog daily.

But if comedy sketches aren’t your thing, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. The internet didn’t replace the old ways of doing things. Studios and distributors are still here, looking for new talent.

Film festivals still exist, too. Agents, producers, and all kinds of film people attend these all the time. The internet has improved the submission process, thanks to Withoutabox. Upload your movie once, and send your movie to every festival under the sun.

Success breeds success. Just showing the producers your film isn’t going to do much, unless it’s incredible. They need social proof. That’s what festival awards (or view counts on YouTube) are. Once that happens, you’ll be in a good position to start talking to producers, agents, and managers.

I don’t recommend literally knocking on doors, though. I’m not convinced even Rodriguez did that; it’s just a good story, I suspect.

Meeting people is the key. You know, networking, making friends, connecting with others. So, yes, coming to Los Angeles is a good idea. But so is going to the South by Southwest, or Sundance, or wherever.

The movie you make now is not going to be a big hit. Especially because you’re probably not going to have a huge budget.2 But if you get it into a festival somewhere, and some producer sees it with a crowd of people who love it, she’ll recognize your talent.

And if you’re standing right there, ready to shake her hand, she just might ask, “What’s your next project?”

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. No, seriously, that’s how he signed his email.
  2. Nor should you.
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4 Responses

  1. Hi, TAPA. This is that guy with a camera. Sorry for being such a wiseass. What sounded like self-depreciating humor when I wrote it comes of as kind of aloof and rude when I read it here.


    1. Hey Alex,

      my name is Charlotte and I’m a PA at an international pay-TV network based in LA that is basically old-school MTV, but for online videos. Part of my job is to find cool videos on YouTube – and then the licensing department reaches out to the artists, gets the rights to their videos and we play them on our channel (paid, of course).

      I understand that you may be married to film as a medium, but if you’re not then consider making short-form YouTube content! A ton of YouTubers (Corridor Digital, Karmin, Mike Diva) have translated their YouTube careers to bigger things – including branded content. Like TAPA says, it’s just another good way to have your work seen. Plus you don’t need to be in LA!

      If you have any more questions about it feel free to send over an email ( – just address it to Charlotte!

      Happy creating!

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