Is becoming a commercial filmmaker right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do commercial filmmakers do?

Still unsure if becoming a commercial filmmaker is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a commercial filmmaker or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

How to become a Commercial Filmmaker

While there are no strict prerequisites to becoming a commercial filmmaker, obtaining relevant education and training can greatly enhance one's skills, knowledge, and prospects in the field. Here are some educational pathways to the career:

High School Diploma or Equivalent
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. High school education provides a foundation in basic communication and organizational skills, and it lays the groundwork for further learning.

Bachelor's or Master’s Degree in Film Production or a Related Field
Many aspiring commercial filmmakers choose to pursue a degree in film production or screenwriting. These programs provide a comprehensive education in filmmaking techniques, theory, history, and practical skills. Students may learn about screenwriting, directing, cinematography, editing, sound design, production management, and other aspects of film production.

Alternative degree options include visual and performing arts, multimedia arts, or another relevant field.

Film School
Attending a dedicated film school or film program can provide intensive hands-on training and mentorship from industry professionals. Film schools often offer specialized courses, workshops, and access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for students to develop their skills and create portfolio-worthy projects. Some well-known film schools include the American Film Institute (AFI), New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, and the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts.

Online Courses and Workshops
For those unable to pursue a degree or attend a traditional film school, there are numerous online courses, workshops, and tutorials available that cover various aspects of filmmaking. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and MasterClass offer courses taught by industry professionals on topics such as screenwriting, directing, cinematography, editing, and more.

Internships and Practical Experience
While formal education is valuable, gaining hands-on experience through internships, apprenticeships, and entry-level positions in the film industry is also essential for aspiring filmmakers. Interning at production companies, film studios, advertising agencies, or media organizations can provide valuable insights into the industry, build professional connections, and help develop practical skills.

Build a Portfolio and Create a Professional Brand
Start building a portfolio of your work by creating short films, music videos, commercials, or other video projects. Your portfolio should showcase your creativity, technical proficiency, and storytelling ability. Consider collaborating with other aspiring filmmakers or local businesses to gain practical experience.

Establish a professional online presence by creating a website that contains your portfolio, resume, and contact information. Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Vimeo to share your projects, connect with potential clients, and demonstrate your expertise.

Specialize and Define Your Niche
Identify your areas of interest and specialization within commercial filmmaking. Whether it's advertising, branded content, documentaries, or specific industries like fashion or food, defining your niche can help you focus your efforts and build a reputation in your chosen field.

Networking and Professional Development
Building a strong network of industry contacts and mentors is crucial for success in the film industry. Attending industry events, film festivals, workshops, and networking functions can provide opportunities to meet fellow filmmakers, industry professionals, and potential collaborators.

Stay abreast of industry trends, new technologies, and emerging platforms in commercial filmmaking. Continuously expand your skills and experiment with new techniques to remain competitive in the ever-evolving film industry.

The following are some industry-recognized credentials for commercial filmmakers:

  • Software Training and Certifications – Many commercial filmmakers use industry-standard software for editing, visual effects, and other post-production tasks. Software companies like Adobe (Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects), Apple (Final Cut Pro), and Avid (Avid Media Composer) offer training programs and certifications to validate proficiency in their software tools.
  • Film Festival Awards and Recognition – Winning awards or receiving recognition at film festivals can serve as a form of validation of a filmmaker's work and expertise. Many film festivals have competition categories specifically for commercials, branded content, or advertising campaigns, providing opportunities for filmmakers to showcase their work and gain industry recognition.

Professional Organizations
Several professional organizations and associations cater to the interests and needs of commercial filmmakers, providing resources, networking and professional development opportunities, advocacy, and support for professionals working in various aspects of the field. Here are some notable examples:

  • Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) – AICP is a trade association that represents the interests of commercial production companies in the United States.
  • Directors Guild of America (DGA) – The DGA represents directors, assistant directors, and unit production managers working in film, television, commercials, and other media.
  • Producers Guild of America (PGA) – The PGA is a professional organization for producers working in film, television, and new media.
  • One Club for Creativity – Formerly known as The One Club, this international non-profit organization celebrates excellence in advertising and design. It hosts the prestigious One Show awards, which honor outstanding creative work in advertising, including commercials, branded content, and other forms of advertising communication.
  • Commercial Producers Ireland (CPI) – CPI is an industry association representing commercial production companies and related businesses in Ireland.
  • Advertising Producers Association (APA) – Based in the United Kingdom, the APA represents production companies, post-production facilities, and individuals working in the advertising production industry.
  • Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) – IFP, the US’s oldest filmmakers' non-profit, believes independent films broaden the palette of cinema, seed culture with new ideas, and foster activism.
  • Sundance Institute – The Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford, is committed to the growth of independent artists. The Institute is driven by its programs that discover and support filmmakers, theater artists, and composers from all over the world.
  • Film Independent – This is a non-profit arts organization that champions the independent filmmaker.
  • International Documentary Association (IDA) – The IDA is a non-profit that promotes nonfiction filmmakers, and is dedicated to increasing public awareness for the documentary genre.

Persistence and Resilience
The path to becoming a successful commercial filmmaker can be challenging and competitive. Be persistent, resilient, and dedicated to honing your craft, building your network, and pursuing your passion for storytelling through film.