I am sure that you get many letters like this... Currently I am bored with my job. I have always wanted to get involved with movie production, especially effects. I try to keep up with new innovations but my resources are limited. What I am asking is how can I learn more, I was hoping you could recommend some books or possibly some other alternatives. My roommate has just purchased a small movie camera and we have been toying with the idea of putting something together. I am relatively young... So I am not without hope, I hope. Please let me know if you can help, I would be eternally grateful.

Thank you,

Dear S.S.

You are correct, your request is not uncommon. You are relatively young but you are getting a very late start with what you want to do with your life, this means you will have to work very hard to catch up with those who started when then were 10 and 12.

Books are an excellent place to start, but you really need a plan and a good story. The books I recommend are in my best books section. They are all very good. Read the list and see if you feel passionate about any titles or techniques. Also, download and read my comments in the careers section. I get letters all the time from professionals who say, "I wished somebody had told me that when I was first starting out."

In order for your career to take hold and progress you need to start right away with all the experience you can get. Contact the nearest college film school and contact every student film-maker you can get your hands on. If you have a portfolio they may plan your effects into their films. Don't worry about making it in Hollywood. Hollywood is a long way out and by the time you develop your career you might not want anything to do with it.

In regards to your limited resources, I suffer from that myself everyday, usually not enough time. You will, however, discover that you automatically put your time, money, thoughts and energy into those things which are the most important to you. Take a hard look at where you are expending your resources. Hopefully it is not TV, video games or dirty magazines. If you can't focus your resources in the direction you really want then you lack discipline or focus. You won't get very far in life without discipline. Discipline is the ability to put off what you want today for a greater reward tomorrow.

If you are disciplined and focused many things will happen that will surprise you. People will give you stuff (including opportunities) because they know you will appreciate it. Professionals will give you their time because they know it will be of value. Your family will give you support and encouragement because they know how important your goals are. Believe me, making up your mind will make a big difference. Don't worry about not making it and don't worry about money, just worry about being extremely good at what you do, everything else will fall into place. Also, make opportunities, don't wait for them.

In regards to your film project please consider the following observation:

When I was a kid I loved to find junk. If I found an old wheel in the field I wanted to make a go kart. If I found a old bike I wanted to put a motor on it. In every case it was the "find" that was providing the idea and the motivation. I was in essence letting junk determine my destiny. Fortunately, I realized the dynamics of this situation and greatly scaled down my project list. Now I have a rule; No new projects until the first one is complete. I also never build the project around the part. Instead I get the project first and then find the parts I need. Think about it, how many Hollywood bombs were planned around the special effects? The time period? or the actor? Why are they all field junk? It's because they depend on only one element instead of a good plan.

Make sure you have a good plan before you start, that's how everything falls into place for you. This advice applies to your film projects, your education, your life. If you don't know how to make a plan for any of these things ask somebody who knows, somebody who has been successful. Remember a mentor can't take you any higher than where he himself has been. In other words don't get career advice from your friends, they haven't been there. Don't get marriage advice from the old-maid down the street. Don't get academic advice from the Ph.D. who manages Ted's Gas and Groceries. Don't try to give yourself advice if you don't know.

Good Luck in your dreams, don't be afraid unless you don't know where you are going.

Warmest Regards,
Steve Biggs