After thousands of conversations with my fellow filmmakers I’ve come to some conclusions. One of them? Learning to become a filmmaker is a unique challenge for each of us.

Many filmmakers are learning the ropes by doing. The “low cost of entry” means that anyone can pick up a camera and start shooting without training. That’s a beautiful, bold decision. But it can cause problems, too.

How do I know? That’s exactly how I made my first film, Abandoned Allies.

Q&A following the premiere of Abandoned Allies at IMAX at Marbles in Raleigh, N.C., in August 2012. Photo by David Leblond.

Q&A following the premiere of my first film Abandoned Allies at the IMAX at Marbles in Raleigh, N.C., in August 2012. Photo by David Leblond.

Not only is it challenging to learn how to make a film, it’s also an incredibly expensive learning process. What little time, money, and energy you started with is depleted in the end. You can feel so drained after the battle (aka: making your film) that you can hardly think of starting another one. That could begin a downward spiral where you question if the struggle is worth it and if you really want to be a filmmaker.

There’s good news, though.

If you’re willing to fight that battle, you’ll get comfortable in that chaotic space. You’ll learn that it’s more than a dream — it’s something that makes you feel ALIVE. And fighting that hard gives you the type of confidence that only comes with experience.

So do yourself a favor, my fellow filmmaker. Educate yourself by listening and reading. You can learn a lot — and that’ll make things easier on you.

It’s easier than ever to get your hands on information about making and distributing films, thanks to the internet. Whether you’re on your first production or you’ve already finished a few movies, keep learning how to build a solid independent film career. There’s good stuff out there if you know where to find it.

This is why I want to share the names of some people I’ve I’ve enjoyed following in the past year. Each one has generously shared their time and expertise using social media to build their own fan base. They’re helping people like me, who are hungry and eager to figure this out, so we can become better filmmakers. That, in turn, helps independent film as a whole.

Becoming a better filmmaker is crucial, by the way.

Because the “barriers to entry” are really low (aka: it’s cheap to buy a camera and make a film on your own), there’s a lot of competition. In other words, the market is flooded with indie filmmakers who think their first film is the best thing since sliced bread. Most of them aren’t. (Mine have had plenty of room for improvements.)

So a great way to stand out is to (1) tell really great stories and (2) make them an unforgettable cinematic experience. I want that for you. In case you haven’t heard, you’re a part of something really big.

The industry is changing rapidly and, in my humble opinion, talented independent filmmakers are in the right place to capitalize on those changes. Everything I read points to a shifting paradigm where smart, passionate, and hard-working independent filmmakers can come out on top. It’s pretty exciting!

So do your homework by reading as much as you can about the industry. Make great films. Always strive to be a better storyteller and a good human being. And, obviously, start following these peeps so you can learn more.

Without further ado, here are five people in film you should start following right now to improve your craft and your understanding of the biz.

Ted Hope, film producer and CEO of Fandor [Source: Fandor Blog]

Ted Hope
Film Producer, Hope for Film | @TedHope

While I’ve never met Ted Hope, sometimes I feel like he’s in my mind. It’s freaky. What he posts online is often the stuff I’m thinking about obsessively: changes in the industry, how to make better movies, etc. He, of course, has much more authority on the matter — and it’s really cool to hear him confirm a lot of my suspicions. He’s a passionate dude who seems to really want the industry to change for the better. I dig that.

You can read a short bio on Fandor’s website, since Hope became CEO in February 2014. There’s great stuff posted on Facebook, Twitter, and

Sheri Chandler, independent film marketing and publicity [Photo source:]

Sheri Chandler
Marketing & Publicity, | @SheriChandler

Even though Chandler is changing direction (she just accepted a job; read more here), her blog is filled with valuable insights about independent film marketing and publicity. She posts a lot of the stuff filmmakers need to know on her blog, which she states will still be around even though she’s changing direction. It’s a valuable resource so I highly recommend pilfering through it now.

Stacey Parks, founder of Film Specific [Source:]

Stacey Parks
Founder, Film Specific | @FilmSpecific

If you want to learn more about independent film distribution (aka: getting your film seen by audiences), Stacey Parks of Film Specific is a great person to follow. The blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel are places to get free info about distribution. There’s also a podcast, book, and a membership if you want to delve deeper. I haven’t joined as a member, so I can’t speak to details about it but you can get more info here if you want. (I’m not an affiliate so I don’t profit off of anything you decide to purchase.)

Jason Brubaker, film producer and distribution consultant [Source:]

Jason Brubaker, film producer and distribution consultant [Source:]

 Jason Brubaker
Distribution Consultant, FilmmakingStuff.Com

While I haven’t been following Brubaker for long, I have found most of what he shares to be valuable. He has a blog and occasionally does free webinars. Most of the free ideas he shares online are things I agree with, like the fact that independent filmmakers really need to understand marketing. Most of what he shares for free will lead you to paid products like 100 short film ideas for $7.00. Since I haven’t seen his paid products, I can’t vouch for them here; however, should that change I’ll be sure to let you know. (Again, I’m not an affiliate so I don’t profit if you do decide to invest in what he offers.)

Shane Hurlbut, director of photography and educator [Photo source: @HurlbutVisuals]

Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Cinematographer, Hurlbut Visuals | @HurlbutVisuals

While doing some research for an upcoming production, I ran across Hurlbut’s blog one day. It was about a year ago. I fell into the wormhole and immediately consumed almost everything he’d published.

When the Illumination Experience — a workshop where Hurlbut teaches filmmakers (at all levels) about cinematography — was announced, I signed up almost immediately. In fact, I dropped everything to go through the course twice because it was so valuable. You can read about my take-aways from the course here.

Of all the people listed in this post, Hurlbut is the only one I’ve met in real life. I’m a huge fan. The dude is one passionate machine. One day I’d love to have a budget big enough to hire him as my DP, but we’ll get to that later.

Not only is Hurlbut intensely passionate about capturing beautiful scenes, he’s an educator. He seems to really enjoy helping eager newbies like me find the way. Through his blog and membership site, he shares insights about the industry and tech details about being a director of photography.

As part of the Illumination Experience, participants get a few months to try out Shane’s Inner Circle. I’ve only been in it for a few weeks but have already found it to be really helpful. As I mentioned earlier, most of the folks I’ve recommended here have built their own fan bases and this one is pretty powerful. I like being a member of the club, especially because it helps me communicate my vision as a director when I work with a DP.

One last thing on Hurlbut, specifically for the ladies. What continued to impress me was his support and appreciation of powerful women. He speaks so highly of them. I genuinely appreciate that.

There are more people to follow.

If you liked this post, started following these folks, and want more info like this please use the comments please tell me so. For the sake of finishing this post and finally publishing it, I had to limit myself to just five people; however, I have a long list of people and publications that feed me great info. I’m happy to share them with you.

Do you have favorites you’d like to share? What kind of info on the industry do you love to read?

PS: If you’re new here and want to follow my filmmaking journey, be sure to sign up for my free monthly email updates here. I’m working on some really fun stuff, and would love to share it with you. It’s totally free and new emails are sent each month. You can also like my Facebook page for all-inclusive updates.

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