One Minute Film School

Stop Watch 1
Today, I had a fella send me this message on LinkedIn:

Hi Mr. Kandborg. My name is *****. I have a story idea that I would like to direct and was hoping if you would like to work with me. I been trying to get in touch with producers but have no luck. Please let me know.

Typos aside (I certainly hope they’re typos), rather than dismiss the request out of hand as vague, incomplete and, well, odd, I decided to offer some suggestions since countless numbers of them were percolating in my head, unbidden. I’ve subsequently decided to post them here because I feel they may have some universal value to aspiring film makers everywhere.

Hi, *****. Sorry to hear that you’re having trouble getting in touch with producers. Maybe you aren’t being clear with what you’re looking for. You say you have an idea. Do you have a script? It’s unlikely that any established producer would be interested without one. As I like to say, having an idea for a movie is like having an idea for a painting. “Flowers!” Doesn’t mean much.


vsBad Flower

If you don’t have a script, write one.

If you don’t know how, learn.

If you have no talent for writing, find someone who does.

If you have a script and no one wants to produce it (because really, why should they?), produce it yourself.

If you can’t raise a lot of money, make it for a little (I know of features that were made for $5,000).

If you can’t raise any, write something else, either something better, something cheaper or something shorter. Maybe all three.

If you want to direct a movie, direct a movie. It’s never been easier.

If you’ve already directed one, direct another.

If you’re any good, someone will notice, believe me.

If you’re not, please stop.

I hope this helps. Good luck. And remember: if you want to work in the circus, you’d better get used to crazy people, anxiety and the smell of shit. Embrace the shit.

All the best,



I’ve thought all of these things when confronted with the boundless (and borderline insane) blind enthusiasm of one aspiring filmmaker or another who has, usually inadvisably, appointed himself the next Tarantino simply because he really likes movies, even though he may not be able to articulate, like, why. But I’ve rarely said them. Partly because I’m fairly sure they don’t really want to hear any of it, but mostly because I can’t bear to see the dreams of a fellow human being, however misguided, recoil and disintegrate before my eyes like a vampire hit by a sunbeam.

And I find nothing kills a crazy dream faster than a brush with reality.

Which is why I like to keep mine tucked away safely in the dark. On the few occasions where I’ve found the courage, or more accurately the hubris, to actually ask for a reality check like my new friend *****, the subsequent slivers of light have mottled the surface of my fragile, sacred passenger just enough to render me mute, confused and ultimately, immobile.

So the surprise here is that my advice to ***** is really advice to myself.


Maybe this time I’ll have the wisdom to listen.

[NOTE: If this or any of my previous posts have encouraged you to think a thought (or hear a Who) you might otherwise have not, go ahead and comment, share or subscribe. Go on…]

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52 thoughts on “One Minute Film School

  1. You know this dilemma is a lot like what I faced, except for me its still photography. First I spent my time shooting junk I thought was cool cos people on fb or flickr said so, then I went through some serious introspection on what I should be doing, unlearning everything and starting over, and then you shoot and shoot and you really need someone to tell you things as it is. At the end of it all i know the answer- I am dead serious I want to pursue this seriously:) Introspection is always good and in some cases very badly needed.

  2. Really great post, thanks for sharing that information. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed as well, that is so exciting!

  3. Tim Shey says:

    I suppose a film that is good will eventually be discovered. A great novel, like MOBY DICK by Herman Melville, may not be discovered for a number of years. MOBY DICK was published in 1851 and it wasn’t really appreciated until the 1920s—now it is considered a classic.

    If someone has talent, that talent will be expressed somehow—through a script, a film or a manuscript. They will find a way to get their creative work to the public. That’s why some people use blogs. I have seen some brilliant blogs.


  4. I hope he replies. Inform us of the outcome, if so…

  5. I write fiction, and as I was reading your suggestions, I couldn’t help but think that a lot of these suggestions I’ve done variations on, as I’m self-publishing and I’ve been doing most of the work myself. It’s interesting how sometimes the creative fields can overlap like this.

  6. varun321 says:

    I’m not a filmmaker, but I really liked your tips. They were simply, yet true and helpful.

  7. free penny press says:

    That was an “Oscar award” or “Best at Sundance” response if I ever heard one.. loved it!

  8. Jred says:

    That is such sound advice…It’s encouraging in the “you can do it sort of way”, but also has the strong handful of reality it needs “you can do it, but you actually have to do hard things to make it happen”. Reality is harsh-but ideas are ment to adaptable and to evolve. Its not pretty, but the process of making something that is your dream rarely is…

  9. A dose of harsh reality goes down just about as smooth as well tequila, but is entirely needed to give some people the push, in their career or towards their next drunken make out. Love the “If you want to work in the circus, you’d better get used to crazy people, anxiety and the smell of shit.” That just about sums it up. Thanks for sharing, and congratson FP!

  10. Having the power to crush dreams is a hard position to be in.

    I used to just nod, smile and say “it’s good” but I realized that was the worst thing I could do. In some delusional brains that’s all the affirmation they need to pursue “it’s good” as a career.

    My workshops in college would’ve been so much less painful had people had the balls to criticize, contructively, some students’ work.

    But coming from someone just getting ready to start in this “circus”, your advice is spot on. Thanks for sharing.

  11. nicholeck says:

    I have the same inability to kill people’s dreams, no matter how unrealistic or misguided! Even if I sometimes think that the sooner they get over their dreams and move on, the better (lest they end up like Willy Loman).

    I especially liked this observation of yours: “If you’re any good, someone will notice, believe me. If you’re not, please stop.”

    Do you know of any guidelines that can help people realize if they’re not “any good” at something? Is it just the test of time? (i.e. It’s been three years, and no one’s noticed; it must be time to stop.”)

    • marcfz says:

      I think it depends on your desire to keep doing whatever it is you’re questioning.

      Playing guitar (example):

      Say someone has been practicing 2 hours every other day for 3 years.

      *-Do I dread picking it up?

      -Am I consciously aware of the improvement I’ve made in these 3 years?

      -Are you getting what you want out of playing the guitar?

      -Do people pay genuine attention to how you present your hobby?

      *If you hesitated to say “no” for the first question, you should stop.

      If you said no to number two, it may just not be your thing.

      If you don’t even know what it is you want out of it and you go ahead and ponder this question and still have no reasonable answer, you’re probably better off searching for something you can comfortable say you love.

      If you’re quick to say no to the fourth question, (and it could depend on amount of exposure), ask yourself “how much does validation matter to me? Is the validation I give myself enough?” If you’re content with self-validation, there is nothing wrong with that. If you’re constantly seeking validation you’re just saying your not 100% sure about the work you’ve created and most likely didn’t spend the time to think about this because you were just worried about having a finished product.

      -I’ve gone through that last question many times in regards to guitar/songwriting. It can be a handful. I’ve learned to revise, edit, create alternate verses/chord changes when I write songs and am implementing these new rules with a song I am currently writing.

      Ok, this is a long comment… I hope this helps.

    • Hi, N. I apologize for leaving you hanging. This week has been one of the busiest of my life, and I don’t expect it to abate any time soon. Nonetheless, I want you to know that your question has been haunting me a bit, and I believe it deserves a measured, considered response. Yours is the single-most asked question of any artist, I’m sure, although not always aloud. It’s universal among those of us who search for that which we can not describe, but which we hope we will know when we see, or feel, it. Let me just say in the brief time I have to give you at the moment that the fact that you are asking that question, truly asking it, is a very good sign. It’s those who fail to ask it that worry me most.

      When the whirlwind that is my current day to day sets me down, I intend to devote my next post to this very question. I may not be able to answer it to your satisfaction, I’m not sure anyone can, but you’ve moved me to try.

      Oh, and by the way, three years is nothing. It’s taken me a lifetime.

  12. Christina says:

    Very well written and very good advice! It actually gave me a needed reality check. I don’t want to make movies, but I find it applicable in any line of work.

  13. pgdavis2013 says:

    Perhaps reality can be killed by brush with crazy dream

  14. artmoscow says:

    Creative people are extremely sensitive to criticism but strangely immune to their own commercial failures. Why a creative mind can’t be inventive in raising finance? What you’ve written here is very true for painting & sculpture as well.

  15. This just gave me a strange feeling… What a straight forward and shockingly honest advice! Really interesting 🙂

  16. Joel BB says:

    Great post! Nothing wakes you up like a cold cup of coffee …and particularly liked the possibly indirect ‘Dexter’ reference of your ‘sacred passenger’ (to Dexter’s ‘dark passenger’)! -unless that’s just a coincidence, either way, cool post!

    • Thanks for catching that. According to David Kamp’s article in Vanity Fair (May 2012), that’s referred to in television writing rooms as a ‘one-percenter’, which he describes as “a joke that very few viewers will get but is possibly worth including, often for its sheer cleverness.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s reassuring that I didn’t have to say “See what I did there?” You, Sir, are in the 1%.

  17. So true. Also, if you think you have a great idea, but it needs lots of stunts and awesome special effects, it’s probably not such a great idea. At any rate, it won’t get made well on a tight budget.

  18. godtisx says:

    I hear you about dashing dreams, but the nature of it will involve that (with us and him/her). So definitely get out there and do it. Also, everything isn’t for everyone. I beat myself up alot because I don’t write happier. But it’s not like I rent the stuff I think I might be better off writing (anyway)! 🙂

  19. P. Bharat says:

    Great advice, and much needed for me. I’m glad you posted it on your blog and didn’t keep it for the eyes of Mr. ***** alone :p Thanks.

  20. Cool exposition here, thanks for putting this difficult, awkwardness into words.

    Sounds like X needed someone to listen pay attention, bring his dream our to live or die. It’s hard do find a good listener, sounding board, to explore with.
    Desperate need requires desperate measures.
    Probably took a lot of courage to write that.
    Also, all the advice sounds simple.
    It’s not!
    It takes weeks and moths of work, training, study, practice, mistakes, being lost.
    Having someone to ground it and talk to to, focus how to do these steps seems to be what X is reaching out for. Maybe his gang members, family or classmates are not supportive.

    It would be nice to help.
    You can have him or her contact me. waywardspirited at g mail
    I know how hard it is.
    I’m in middle of the sidelines of film making. Script writing is a nightmare!
    I can’t spell either. There are lots of dreams and truth way to hard to articulate on ones own.
    We need each other.

    Keep up the good work!

  21. says:

    Your article … once upon a time … would have left me in anger … how dare you not help .. I might have thought … but yes … having walked my own journey where God made me learn everything the easy way … through my own experiences being my benchmark … I appreciate that we are all we have .. with Time either a friend or foe. Dabble with others less focussed and Mr.Time is enemy No.1. No apologies to anyone .. for no apologies are necessary to the self when you are true to it. You must be true to the God in you waiting to express his talents for your life. And yes everything changes … when the other person has a fantastic idea … something that might help you too … there is never one answer to anything .. its many layers must be explored. Go with truths .. that when that person has gone out of his way to contact you …. it may be God knocking at your door to bring you glad tidings for your life too. If missed it could well be your loss. Always look for synergies .. they often are blessings in disguise.

  22. This reminds me of the “accountant / would-be lion tamer” bit on Monty Python. Good advice all the same.

  23. A universal tip. And, so right on, that our advice is advice to ourself. Thanks

  24. scarlettsands says:

    Embrace the shit! Excellent.

  25. David says:

    For creative people who are serious about doing something, a brush with reality from time to time is essential. What matters is how the advice is delivered. As Brittany says above, “Having the power to crush dreams is a hard position to be in”. I think this aspiring filmmaker will thank you instead of hate you.

  26. dederants says:

    I love that reply you made to him; if anything, that’s the best response anyone could give to another person with blind ambition. It’s also advice we as readers of this post can take away from, because, in this day and age, it’s possible to do all those things you listed, and easy ways of learning them if we don’t know how. Thank you for such an amazing post, and congrats for this post making its way to Freshly Pressed!

  27. bronsonfive says:

    Love it… and I am glad you are spreading the word.

  28. Nice. This no-frills advice could could be used in so many arenas outside of film-making. Loved it.

  29. arollinson says:

    Your honesty is refreshing in a world of dishonest bloggers.

  30. Marcela Cava Balsa says:

    Nice tips! You’re a genius!

  31. rubiescorner says:

    Someone forgot the discipline it takes to be consistent in what you are putting forth, and that takes a frame of mind that is like a steel trap. You con’t take criticism, unless it is honest, forthright, and helpful. You become guarded about the negative comments, because they will make you lose momentum. So will the doubt, and small remarks that seem to nag you once they are said. People need to be free to be the creative person they really are. Don’t bind someone who has more creativity than you do. Helpful comments are encouragement, and frankly that is all I want at some phases of creativity. Leave the sour notes where they belong, and give me encouragement, and real thoughts that will empower me to do more than I am.

    • I fear I’m having trouble gleaning the thrust of your point, so I apologize if I’ve missed it. But my thoughts on “leave the sour notes where they belong, and give me encouragement, and real thoughts that will empower me to do more than I am” are this: That’s what friends, family and counsellors should do. That’s kind of their job and that kind of support is invaluable. But it’s not the way to becoming any good. It’s just not. That’s the way to becoming stuck and mediocre, to become even more distrusting of true guidance. Blind support is what creates the delusion that explains the horrifying and humiliating auditions on shows like American Idol, and the violent lashing out that occurs when the curtain is pulled back. Those people are wasting their lives waiting for Guffman.

      Shore yourself up and seek out criticism, get out of your head and let others add to your understanding of your craft, whatever it is. There is not a person alive who has benefited from cutting themselves off from honest, informed input. Picasso learned from others, which allowed him to create anew. There are no “negative comments.” Understanding that is the most important step to becoming “more than you are.” ‘You need to work on your structure because I was bored buy page 40’ is not negative, it’s a chance to fix it and to learn why you made the mistake in the first place.

      The notes that have benefited me the most, without exception, were written in red. Ignore them at your peril. If the world doesn’t ‘get’ you, it isn’t because you’re so clever. It’s because you’re not doing it right.

      • rubiescorner says:

        Thank you for your honest answers. I see many creative people going through life never using their intelligence, or their gift of creativity. They are not inspired. Maybe they were at some point. I believe in the education a person needs to do a good job in art, drawing, or music….or whatever the field of interest is. I am an educator, and I have seen too many students who lost themselves, because of someone who was too critical, or harsh. Yes, it takes discipline to do anything well in life. Without some kind of mentor, we would all be subject to thinking we were something when we are not. There is a balance.
        When someone comes across with too much criticism, anger, directness, and not any encouragement, I think it causes the student, or the person who is directing, to become discouraged. I am speaking from someone who doesn’t take the strictest road to produce a good student. There has to be a balance……..I want to know what you think, here is my work……….and don’t crush my work, and give me to reason as to why it isn’t good enough. There is no room for living in a dream world, but there is room for encouragement, and forthright criticism as long as it will help the person and not smash him. There is a fine line here. I don’t expect anyone to understand, or know what I am writing about, but I have overcome many things in order to be the person I am. One comment should not leave me paralized. When I am working as hard as I can, trying to get detail on something, I expect calm criticism, and help that will be constructive, but encouraging.

  32. Reblogged this on Ambient Sound Productions and commented:
    Some great advice on filmmaking

    • Thanks for the reblog. I really appreciate it. I’m wading through a seemingly endless swampland of work (note to self: Learn to say NO!), but when the dust settles, I look forward to checking out your some of your posts. Thanks again.

  33. […] via One Minute Film School. […]

  34. ideas are great, they can sometimes lead to something fabulous, or can just be plain ridiculous. no matter what it is and how it turns out, you still thought of something. 🙂 I have tons of those crazy ideas, all of which seem so brilliant at first, until reality sinks in.

  35. L. Palmer says:

    I think another way to put it is just go out there and do it, and if you don’t know how, learn how.
    Many people started from nothing, and had to build their reputation piece by piece. A lot of us dreamers often lose sight of the hard road that gets people even just to a steady career.

  36. murphykarges says:

    Great blog. I’m a songwriter/musician who has been in the business for 25 years. I’ve been able to make my living from it and I feel blessed that it worked out for me. But I’m now on the other side of the fence. I’m working at a record label I’m in charge of bands getting signed or not. I’ve received so many demos it’s crazy. Most aren’t good enough, and it has inspired me to write a blog that I haven’t finished yet. It’s called YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. But I don’t want to be a jerk that doesn’t encourage them. But at the same time, they want me to endorse spending thousands and thousands of dollars on them, so it’s a little different playing field. Thanks. This gives me some thoughts as I haven’t been able to finish that blog.

  37. Greg Probst says:

    Excellent advice. My favorite line was “if you want to work in the circus, you’d better get used to crazy people, anxiety and the smell of shit. Embrace the shit.” Well said.

    I’m in the process of self-funding a screenplay I wrote that I hope to direct soon and it is both exciting and nerve wracking. Your tips are valid. There’s no better way to get noticed than to start making moves to get your idea made into a film. Best wishes.

  38. Anita Mac says:

    Great tips! I get email requests like that for my blog all the time! Even though I only post limited numbers of guest posts, I get emails from people, full of errors (let’s go with typos) suggesting they have a post that must be published on my travel site – of course, there will be links that are mandatory to publish! Sadly, most of these requests have been dismissed as spam by me – I should refer these people to your post. I accept very few guest posts, but at least, send me a proposal and show me that you are serious before expecting me to respond and discuss the possibility! Am I being too harsh??? I don’t think so. Think we are on the same page here!

  39. That was brilliant! It can be applied to so many fields, too. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  40. Editor says:

    Have you produced movies? Why was the guy pitching to you?

    • Excellent question. I’ve been working in the film industry for about 15 years, the last five or so as a Location Manager, Location Scout, Assistant Director, Actor and, yes, Producer. You can check out my IMDb Page here: , keeping in mind that most non-union projects are not listed. Producing is a relatively new focus for me. Currently, I’m developing a feature based on a short I wrote and directed a while back. As to why **** was pitching to me (wasn’t really a pitch, per se, more like a cry for help), we’ll never know. He has not acknowledged my reply, which would seem to indicate that he has nothing, unfortunately. The ball remains in his court. If he truly wants to remain in the game, the least he can do is lob it back.

  41. […] One minute film school? This message could be applied to […]

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