How to survive as an independent filmmaker


I guess this is the question every filmmaker asks if he’s not employed by one of the major studios or have a multi million dollar developing deal.

I am far my self to have a real answer to that question but I would like to start this series as some sort of collective brainstorm and out-loud thinking process of things I think we can do to accomplish a sustainable career doing what we most love and maybe taking a look at some case studies of successful filmmakers.

I will try to talk out of my own experiences, what I am doing with my own projects as I try to find answers and I’d love it if you jump in the discussion by commenting or sending out your thoughts, projects, ideas or advise.

I will start by introducing myself.

My name is Xavier Agudo, I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and I live in Berlin, Germany. In my opinion one of the most exciting and inspiring cities in the world, but with a lot of vices and bureaucratic German institutions that may prove a real pain when trying to make a living as a creative.

I wanted to be a Rock Star when I was 12 and on my way to the top I decided to become a filmmaker as I discovered music, literature, theater and technology and realized that I could combine all of those in film.

I have spent most of my adult life studying, getting an associate degree as an audio engineer after trying to study something actually helpful (Electrical Engineering) at a university, then getting a Bachelor of Arts degree in a 5 year Film Studies program, getting trained for 3 years parallel to that at a theater group to become an actor and finally spending 2 years at Grad school for a Master of Arts in Media Production which brought me to Germany where I decided to stay and form a family with a German woman and my now almost 3 year old daughter.

I’m well over my thirties and I have always managed to work in some way or another inside my field, either theater or film, except for some odd jobs I had to take for a couple of weeks as a grad student in Denmark when the Venezuelan government decided I couldn’t have more access to my own money back home. But other than that I have worked as an audio editor, actor, dubbing producer, dubbing translator, freelance editor, assistant director, multimedia designer for theater and I have created some image films, product films and spots to generate income.

Being in Germany staring from scratch and building from the ground up a new professional network in a language that is perversely difficult and having the stigma of being a foreigner (from a third world country, where all your previous experience is less than relevant) has been utterly complicated and challenging. But being here has also provided me with opportunities and tools to try to develop my own path that would have been almost impossible back home.

I have been freelancing for the last 2 years, developing my own projectsberlin_junction_horizontal_poster_FINAL_low with some modest achievements. But during that time I have managed to sneak in a Guiness World Record and finish my first solo feature film. I am still to see real financial compensation from any of those, but there is a plan and we will discuss that during this series.

So, here I am sitting at a Starbucks paying for an over priced cup of tea while I work on several projects, email sponsors, try to get state funding, brainstorm ideas and have an sms fight with my very German girlfriend. I am mostly working at home though, that is until my daughter comes from Kindergarten and then it’s mostly Papi time until she falls asleep and I can get back to my computer or go through my Netflix queue list, which I also call work.

I probably work more and longer than most executives, but don’t make a fraction of what they make a year.  I’m still confident though that I can make a modest living doing this. I feel the opportunities are out there and it’s just a matter of time and much more hard work.

I hope this can inspire you to share your story as we devise ways to figure things out and try to prove that the world still needs us and we don’t have to sell our souls to the corporate devil.

So, what´s your story?


About xagudo

Xavier Agudo is a Berlin-based Venezuelan filmmaker.