How To Start a Filmmaking Business in 2021

So you want to start a filmmaking business but you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we’ll go through exactly what you need to-do to get started, here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:


  • Gear - The Basics
  • Choosing Your Niche
  • Marketing Your Business


There’s a good and a bad thing about starting a filmmaking business - there’s a low barrier to entry. All you reallyneed is a decent camera, a tripod and some lighting equipment. But because that’s all you need there’s a ton of competition so I want to help you find a way to differentiate yourself from the pack.  


Let’s start with the essential gear you’ll need to get started:


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The Camera


Let’s start with the best camera is the one you have on you - your smartphone. Certainly a capable tool for shooting TikTok or Instagram Reels, some individuals have a made a career out of shooting almost exclusively with an iPhone, such as @jordi.koalitic on Instagram, who has 5.6+ million followers on that platform (and that doesn’t include YouTube, TikTok, etc.).


Realistically though, if you’re ready to make the plunge to starting a filmmaking business, I would start with the camera most appropriate for your niche. If it’s wedding films, perhaps you want a good hybrid - such as a full frame Sony mirrorless camera such as the Sony A7 III. Or if you’ll be shooting a lot of run-and-gun, and you want something with the best in-class stabilization with less rolling shutter, perhaps the Panasonic GH5 is your best bet. Or perhaps you’ve been in the business for quite some time and you’re ready to start a high-end filmmaking business, then perhaps one of the RED cameras is what you’re after. Whatever it is, remember that your main goal of a business is to generate a profit. So if you want to spend $54,000 on a brand new RED camera, be sure to have a solid plan on how to generate at least $100,000 worth of net income in year one.


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The Lighting


Whatever niche you decide to focus on in video, you’ll need lighting, and this is something you won’t want to skimp on. A lot of the cheap LED lights you’ll see on Amazon have a low CRI rating, which means you’ll see an undesirable quality of light leading to a flat washed out image with a tint of green (think cheap fluorescent lighting).


I’d recommend this bundle of lighting from D&O Lighting:


  • 2x - 180W Pro Bi-Color LED Panel (120º Beam Angle) with remote control - These feature plenty of power at 180W and a high CRI of 97+. You could make the argument of getting 3 for the standard 3-point lighting setup that a lot of videographers use.
  • 2x - D&O Lighting SoftBox + Grid for LED Light Panel Studio Lighting - I would opt for the version that includes the grid because it will give you an additional tool to control the light.
  • 1x - D&O Lighting Carrying Case Case for Two 180W LED & Four 190Wh V Mount Batteries
  • The lights include AC adapters to plug-in, but I would also recommend a few batteries just in case you don’t have access to a power supply.


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The last piece of essential equipment I would recommend is a good solid video tripod. Manfrotto is one of my personal favorites for tripods, but there’s a lot of good brands out there.


I would start there as far as gear goes and then focus on generating revenue. From there you can consider special tools such as gimbals, sliders, etc.


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Choosing Your Niche


There are many different types of video production, what suits you is often personal preference.

However, I would recommend specializing in a niche (at least getting started). Now, we all want to be the next Steven Speilberg, but if you want to be on his level you’ll have to make a little money to fund some of your projects.


The most popular niche to start in video production is without a doubt, wedding filmmaking. It’s lucrative because your clients aren’t quite price sensitive, with the average cost of a wedding film ringing in at $1799. If you shot just one wedding film a week at $1799, you’d be at about $86,000 for the year. If you shot just a few business videos, you could easily top $100k a year as a one-man shop.


Speaking of, short business videos are one of the best money makers for a filmmaking business. Whether it’s a short video for a local businesses website, a few videos for their social media, or a full on commercial, the demand for video is at an all time high and shooting business videos can potentially lead to…


Commercial Video Production. Often spanning multiple days, you’ll likely have to graduate from the one-man shop to a full-on video production company to handle big commercial productions.


There’s plenty of other areas in video, social media, once it’s own niche, is now actually pretty broad. For example, you could specialize in just shooting Instagram Reels and TikTok videos, the demand for that is insanely high because that’s what sells right now. Or you could shoot real estate videos, it can be potentially lucrative, just look at this video of this $70 million dollar house just purchased by the owner of Minecraft (oh and he outbid Jay-Z and Beyonce). There’s documentary filmmaking, music videos, product and food videos, anything you see a video for, there’s a potential market there.        


Marketing Your Business


Alright, so you’re set on your gear and you know what niche you’re going to focus on, now’s the hard part - marketing your business.


Personally, I’d focus most of your efforts on SEO, but that takes time, so in the meantime you’ll acquire leads via PPC on Google or Facebook, or Pay Per Lead on sites like Thumbtack.


Arguably, the strongest ranking factor for local SEO is an optimized Google My Business profile. I would start there and get 10 reviews as fast as you can. You can also start a Yelp Business account, a Facebook Business page and fill them out as consistently as you can, as a consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone) is another ranking factor.  


Next you’ll want to focus on On-Page SEO. If you want to focus on wedding films, and you’re located in Hawaii, the title tag of your homepage should be something like “Wedding Filmmaker in Maui, Hawaii - Your Company


From there, you’ll want to create content, this helps Google understand what your website is about. Google crawls your website and if it sees blog post after blog post about wedding filmmaking, then naturally, that’s what they’ll think your website is about. The content you create should be better than anything else that’s come before you, after all, you’ll eventually want people to link to your blog posts, which helps your SEO.


SEO takes time though, so I’ll show you how to start getting leads immediately. It’s location dependent, but Thumbtack is a great source for pay-per-lead. Essentially, you’ll only have to pay when a customer directly contacts you. Yelp is starting to copy this model as well, but it isn’t quite effective. I’d focus on the organic side of Yelp (getting reviews) for the free leads.


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Facebook ads can be another great source of leads. For example, let’s go back to the example of shooting wedding films in Hawaii. Did you know you can target engaged couples? Not only that, but let’s target who’s often the real decision maker - the woman. And then we can target a household income of $150k+. We can further narrow that targeting of people interested in getting married on the island of Maui in Hawaii. All of a sudden, if you’re in the US, you’re narrowing an audience of 350+ million down to a few thousand highly qualified leads.     


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Taylor Scrybe - March 15, 2023

Love these tips Colin. One thing that really accelerated my career was having a Mentor too! I use to connect with mine now, mentoring is honestly the way to go.

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