Is becoming a genre 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 genre filmmakers do?

Still unsure if becoming a genre filmmaker is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a genre 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 Genre Filmmaker

Becoming a genre filmmaker typically involves a combination of education, practical experience, networking, resilience, and a passion for the specific genre(s) you wish to work in. Here’s a guide to pursuing the career:

High School Diploma or Equivalent
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. High school provides a foundation in basic communication and organizational skills, and it prepares students for further learning. Basic education in subjects like English, creative writing, and visual arts can lay the groundwork for a future in filmmaking. Participation in drama clubs, film clubs, and media production classes can provide early hands-on experience.

Develop a Passion for Film and Genre
Watch films. Immerse yourself in the genre(s) that interest you. Study classics and contemporary films to understand genre conventions, styles, and storytelling techniques. Read books, articles, and interviews with genre filmmakers to gain insights into their creative processes and industry experiences.

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

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

Master’s Degree
While generally not required, some filmmakers choose to pursue a graduate degree to further their knowledge and skills in filmmaking. A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in film production or screenwriting can provide advanced training and opportunities for specialization. Many MFA programs require the completion of a thesis project, which is often a short film or a feature-length screenplay, giving students a significant portfolio piece.

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.

Some organizations and institutions may offer professional development workshops, courses, and certificate programs that cover scriptwriting, visual storytelling, cinematography, and editing techniques tailored to particular genres. Examples include Horror University (part of the Horror Writers Association) and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) workshops.

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, lighting, cinematography, editing, sound recording, and more.

Make Short Films, Collaborate, and Get an Entry-Level Job
Start by creating short films in your chosen genre(s). Participate in student film projects or independent productions to learn different roles and aspects of filmmaking. Look for opportunities to work as a production assistant, intern, or crew member on film sets to gain industry experience and make connections.

Find Your Voice and Style
Work on finding your unique voice and style within your genre. This can help set you apart from other filmmakers. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques and ideas within the genre to innovate and push boundaries.

Build a Portfolio and Market Yourself and Your Work
Create a reel or portfolio showcasing your best work, especially short films or scenes that highlight your skills in the genre(s) you love. Maintain an active online presence to promote your work, share your journey, and connect with fans, industry professionals, and potential collaborators and funding sources. Submit your films to film festivals to gain exposure, receive feedback, and expand your network.

Create and Produce a Feature Film
Develop and write a full-length script or acquire a script that you are passionate about and that fits within your genre specialization. Seek funding through grants, investors, crowdfunding, or partnerships with production companies. Assemble a talented cast and crew, and oversee the production of your feature film.

Seek Exposure and Distribution
Submit your feature film to film festivals to attract distributors. Work on securing a distribution deal through traditional studios, independent distributors, or streaming platforms.

Continuous Learning and Evolving
Keep up with industry trends, new technologies, and emerging voices within your genre(s) by attending film festivals, workshops, and industry conferences. Seek feedback from peers and audiences to improve and evolve your filmmaking skills.

While certifications may not be as prevalent in filmmaking as in other fields, the recognition and validation of one's work, as well as opportunities for continued learning and development, are key factors in establishing oneself within the community. Here are some credentials that may be pursued by filmmakers:

  • Artist Residencies and Fellowships – Participating in artist residencies or fellowships focused on various genres of filmmaking can provide valuable training, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Some residencies offer certificates or acknowledgments upon completion, which can serve as a credential in the field.
  • Software Training and Certifications – Many 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), Avid (Avid Media Composer), and Blackmagic Design (DaVinci Resolve) offer training programs and certifications to validate proficiency in their software tools.
  • Animation and Visual Effects – Animation techniques and visual effects are often used in films. Software certifications like Blender, Cinema 4D, or even basic stop-motion can be useful.
  • Film Festival Awards – Winning awards or receiving recognition at prestigious film festivals can be a form of certification. Festival laurels and accolades can add credibility to your work and help establish your reputation as a filmmaker.

Professional Organizations
There are several professional organizations and associations specifically tailored to the interests and needs of genre filmmakers. These entities provide resources, networking opportunities, advocacy, and support for filmmakers working in various genres such as horror, science fiction, fantasy, and more. Here are some notable examples:

  • Horror Writers Association (HWA) – The HWA is dedicated to promoting and supporting the writing and publication of horror literature. It annually presents the Bram Stoker Award for ‘superior achievement in dark fantasy and horror writing.'
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) – The SFWA is an organization for published authors and industry professionals in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and related genres.
  • Women in Film (WIF) – This organization advocates for gender parity in the film industry.
  • International Thriller Writers (ITW) – The ITW supports and promotes thriller writers and other professionals in the thriller genre.
  • Fantasia International Film Festival – This film festival, based in Montreal, Canada, focuses on niche, low budget movies in various genres, from horror to sci-fi, fantasy, and cult films.
  • Screamfest Horror Film Festival – This Los Angeles-based annual film festival is a renowned celebration of the horror genre.
  • Women in Horror Month (WiHM) – WiHM is a global initiative that celebrates and promotes women working in the horror genre, including filmmakers, writers, actors, and artists.
  • Directors Guild of America (DGA) – The DGA represents directors, assistant directors, and unit production managers working in film, television, and other media.
  • Producers Guild of America (PGA) – The PGA is a professional organization for producers working in film, television, and new media.
  • 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.
  • Film Independent – This is a non-profit arts organization that champions the independent filmmaker.
  • 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.