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Filmmaker Dan Parkes on "Mighty Profile Stories"



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I studied at Brighton Film School in 2005 and subsequently set up a successful production company that mainly focuses on corporate work but also music videos and feature films. I work mainly as a lighting cameraman/Director of Photography but also as an editor and 3D animator.

How did you find your path in filmmaking?

My father was a studio photographer and hobby filmmaker so I grew up around cameras and started making my own videos as a teenager, shooting and editing VHS tapes in the early 1990s.

Who or what inspired you?

Just after getting married, my wife, Itsuka, asked me what I really wanted to do (I was working as the chief graphic designer in a daily newspaper at the time), and I said I have always wanted to be a filmmaker. She supported me when I quit my job and went back to school. When we moved to Brighton, we had absolutely nothing, no house or bank account, and we set up the business together from scratch. I couldn't have done anything without her.

Who was the first person who believed in you?

There are two, actually. I was at the wedding of the owner of the film school just after completing the last term and met a man who asked me all about what I was doing. After chatting for a while, he gave me his card and wrote £1000 on the back of it and said that’s for your next film. It was my first time seeing that you could earn a living chasing the dream! I later learned he was a millionaire, and he gave me some great tips for starting the business. About a year later, after starting the business, I spoke to our next-door neighbour about my bicycle being stolen, and to my great surprise, discovered he was a producer and looking for local crew. He became my first corporate client and gave me loads of advice on working in the corporate sector, and I can trace many of my clients back to him in some way.

What was the moment you knew you could be successful at what you do?

It depends on how you define success (the next question), but if you mean financially, in the first year, I started filming funerals for absent family (before streaming came along), which was really easy money, and I realised, you really can make money as a filmmaker, even if that means following around a coffin all day! That was my first taste of paid work.

How do you define success for yourself?

I wouldn't define personal success as financial. In fact, I would define it as being satisfied creatively and thus something for which there is never an 'end point' as I am always chasing lots of different personal film projects. So if I am still working and doing what I love, then I deem that successful. As the cliché says, it's the journey, not the destination. I love the process of filmmaking.

What’s been the most important skill you’ve developed?

Organisation -it includes everything, from the paperwork to people management, to time management, learning and training, and also purchasing and maintaining all my equipment. If you are well organised, then it allows you the freedom to be completely creative.

What’s been your greatest challenge?

The freelance lifestyle and running your own business means you never know when your next job is coming in. It can be very stressful at times when you wonder if there will be enough work around the corner to pay the bills. Also, managing corporate clients can be very difficult - they often don't understand how films work, have a corporate worldview and make choices that, as a filmmaker, is very frustrating. But you have to keep reminding yourself they are the ones who are paying for it, so sometimes (not always) 'corporate' must win over 'creative'.

What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you’ve made to do this?

I often think to myself that it is an amazing reward to be doing what I love and as a bonus, get paid for it! I never want to take that for granted, even when experiencing the challenges mentioned in the previous question.

What would you say to anyone just starting out in what you do?

My advice would be:

1. be organised (a website, showreel, kit list, rates, equipment checklists, invoicing etc),

2. communicate well (be specific, reply to emails accurately and quickly, keep everyone informed), 3. be proud of the work you do (set a high standard for yourself and never settle for second best, be professional in conduct and appearance) and

4. keep learning from others (watch online reviews and tutorials, see what works in TV and films, learn about new formats and equipment).

Teamwork is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking. So finding people who are really good at what they do and who work well together is a must. I have to admit that I sometimes struggle to find a crew who I can fully trust A community such as this can hopefully help facilitate that.

Join Mighty Filmmaker's meetups and discord chat to meet other filmmakers like Dan Parkes.

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