I often hear newbies ask, “Now that I’ve spent $10,000 on movie-making equipment, how can I start making money as a movie-maker?”
The short answer is, “You can’t.” The longer answer is, “It depends.”
Ten thousand bucks is not a lot of money on gear. If you’ve spread it out over a complete production kit, you probably have only a small and superficial kit. Especially if you’ve put money into a camera, there are probably plenty of other people in your area who have gear of similar quality. Cameras are the easiest thing in the world to borrow or rent. Everybody has a camera.
If you target your spending, you might become the go-to guy for that gear in your area. Not too many people own professional-quality lighting gear, or audio gear. I get a lot of smaller gigs with the promise that if you hire me as your audio guy, I’ll bring along my mics, boompole, recorders, etc. — plus my fresnels and LED lighting instruments, stands, etc.
Look at your area and see what’s not common. Can you be the guy who has a camera stabilizer — not just a hand-held Glidecam, but an arm and vest so you can shoot all day? Are you the only guy around with a gimbal stablizer that can handle a larger camera, or a drone that can carry something heavier than a GoPro?
Find a niche and fill it!
With the best will in the world, it’s not going to be easy. Most people (as in, the overwhelming majority) don’t make a living as movie-makers; they just try not to lose too much money. Even if you make it, the rule of thumb is that success takes an average of six years of doing something every day for your career. Movie-making is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
If you’re making your own movies, keep ownership and control and remember the “long tail”. The movie you make this year won’t make you rich, but you can still be making money off it five years from now. Make a movie a year, and in five years you’ll have five (small) sources of income — and (more importantly) a body of work.