Developing Your Brand As A Filmmaker With Director & Writer, Mike Pecci

Monday 6 May 2019

If you're not familiar with the name Mike Pecci or his amazing podcast 'In Love With The Process' then honestly - where have you been? Mike's podcast is my go-to to listen to, and I knew he'd make a fantastic guest on Into The Script sharing with you all his advice, tips and tricks when it comes to making a name for yourself. 

Mike is not only a podcast host, he is also a writer and director, and he knows exactly what it takes to hustle in this industry, but also how to develop a professional name and brand for yourself as a writer/filmmaker. 

So, as always - grab a notebook and pen to take notes!

  1. Hi Mike! It’s a pleasure to be able to feature one of my favourite filmmakers and podcast host’s on the blog. As mentioned, you hold multiple titles as a director, screenwriter, producer and host, and with over 28.1K followers on Instagram – it’s fair to say you’ve become a force within the industry to be reckoned with.

Thank you!  Glad to be here! You might say that I am a work-o-holic, but you gotta be these days in order to survive.

Can you share your top 4 tips that you feel are essential for building a professional brand and platform as a successful filmmaker or writer?

Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

There is that old saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become a pro at anything. It’s totally true.

With filmmaking it takes about 8 years before anyone really notices what the hell you are doing. The first 5 years should really be spent learning about the language of cinema. Researching, testing ideas and theories, finding some kind of income to keep you afloat and most importantly -- adjusting to the lifestyle.

All the while, you should be building your social presence.

I don’t just mean social media, but in real life too. Go PA on film sets, cooperate shoots and commercials. Hang out with you favourite musicians and artists. Collaborate and build your network.

Chances are, you will need to rely on them for your whole career in one way or another. Learn how to be confidant and use that confidence to self promote your work and lifestyle. That’s key.

The people who take the risk and enter the world of freelance fascinate most 9-5ers. If you can make it work, be proud and share your experiences!

2) Over the span of your career so far, you’ve been fortunate enough to have many roles within the industry. Do you feel your roles as a writer, director and producer have given you a better understanding of the filmmaking process by understanding it from multiple-angles?

If so, please can you share why you believe other filmmakers should also try their hand at other roles within the industry.

  Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

After finishing a short term directing program at New York Film Academy, and producing 3 short films, I decided that moving back to my home town (Boston) would be a huge benefit. I’d be able to use my connections when producing my next short films and set up my own commercial production company.

A negative aspect was that at the time in Boston there was not a huge community of young filmmakers willing to jump on board with a you whipper-snapper like me. This forced me to learn quite a few roles.  

I taught myself cinematography (tackled digital when it first started) because I had a specific vision of how my films should look. I also picked up writing, which is still not my strongest skill, because I needed stories to direct.

 Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

One of the most important things I learned was how to edit. With those 4 essential positions (writing, directing, shooting, editing) I was able to learn how an idea can be harnessed and shaped into a script. I learned how to pull together resources and learn how to communicate an idea to a team of professionals that has never been seen before. I learned about audience perspective, lenses and blocking…hell the whole visual language of cinema while studying to be a cinematographer.  

Then with editing, I learned how to throw all that away, and build something amazing from a bin full of clips. If you are aiming to direct, it’s imperative that you learn ALL the roles needed to make a film.

You don’t have to be a master of all of them, you just need to know what steps are needed to fit and actor for wardrobe, put up 5 20ks and diffuse them correctly, how to plant microphones in a scene and how to make sure everyone is confident in your vision, even if you aren’t.

  1. What would you consider to be the most important elements of a script when reading through it for the first time? Can you elaborate on the importance of these elements?

Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

When I first started writing, being a visual guy, I would write long complicated descriptions of camera movement, blocking and character motivation.  This was stuff that made sense for my director’s notes, but exhausting for anyone else to read.

Luckily I teamed up with my writing partner Will Simmons a few years ago who has a lot more experience writing than I do. We have been working together on the two features we are developing and the process has taught me a lot!  

Will knows how to write a script that is enjoyable to read. That is the most important note I could ever give. Remember that the people who will hopefully read your script (producers, executives, actor or agents) read a ton of scripts every month. Chances are they will have their assistant read it first, and at that point the reader is so disconnected from who you are and the story you envision.  They are going to judge the script as a script. Make it fun to read and for god sake, and make it a fast read.

It may not be exactly how the film will turn out, but at this stage it’s more important to hit them with something that is exciting to flip through. You can always expand it out in future drafts with the director, who will come in and change it all up anyway.

I joke with Will all the time, the job of the writer is a brutal and unforgiving one.

It takes hundreds of hours to distil and idea down to the page, only to have some have interested assistant mark it up with notes.

You gotta have thick skin and have the ability to look past it all to the finish line.

  1. What advice do you have for other filmmakers and writers when It comes to networking and building professional relationships in the industry?

                                                                  Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

Writers, make friends with directors. Form creative collaborations with the visual storytellers that you love. Find a way to hang out, drink with, and help out on set with the new generation. Sending scripts never works.

I never read scripts unless they come through my agent or are from a friend. Last thing you want to be accused of is stealing an idea from someone if you decide to put a dog in your next movie and some writer claims your stole his idea from a script he sent years ago, that happened to have a dog in it.

It’s a sucky game. Meet in real life, be ready to talk out ideas and give support, see if you trust that person and then maybe write a short film or two. That’s if you are getting started.

                                                           Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

You can try the traditional route, which is getting an agent then hoping they have great connections to directors on their roster. Then your script gets thrown on some huge pile and potentially passed around. Did I mention that it’s a really tough business? Haha!

Directors. Shoot films. Just make shit.

Make it fast, exciting, and fucking cool. My short films got me my writer, my management, my agent, and in the room with every major production company in Hollywood.

This happened on year 12 for me. That’s 12 years of learning and mastering shit.

Buckle up guys and girls.
  1. Your podcast ‘In Love With The Process’ is hugely successful, and one of my all-time favourites when it comes to in-depth discussion on all things media and film related! How did the podcast come about, and what advice do you have for anybody wanting to start their own?

Basically, once I reached around 12 years in the business, I started getting a reputation for my work. It’s a weird moment because most of my time before that was spent with my head down and grinding out stuff.
Suddenly I start getting emails, comments, phone calls with questions from young filmmakers? How do you make it in the business? How do you start your own company? How can you raise money for short films? How do you have a relationship when work comes first?
These were some serious questions.
Sure I’d get the occasional questions about what gear I use, but I could easily tell them to do a youtube search for those answers.  
It was when one person wrote to me saying “I don’t think I’ll make it in this business. No one knows who I am, I can figure out my style and I don’t know how to convince people to believe in my vision.”
I responded with: “Don’t give up, how long have you been at it?”
Response: “Two years!”
Me: “Are you kidding me?! You got 6 more years of this before any of that happens! What you are feeling is normal, just push through it.”
At that moment, It occurred to me that there wasn’t a place that filmmakers, photographer or artists could turn to for true honest advice.
Insight that wasn’t filtered through some social media filter and mentor that gave access to what they learned while they were learning it.
That’s when I started the podcast. Now I know many of you might ask, why do it? I learn so much from every episode I do. I meet new creative, have an excuse to talk with the veterans that I will eventually hire on my films, and really get a frequent assessment of the bullshit that is floating through my head. It’s healthy, it’s fresh and most importantly – it’s fucking fun!
You want to start your own? Listen and subscribe to mine first!
  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given for working in this industry, and would you mind sharing with us?

Photo Credit to Mike Pecci @mikepecci

Remember that directing is a social job. It requires human contact. There are so many things you can do with the Internet these days (and social media) and you should take advantage of all of that. Just remember that when you are on set, and you have 40 people standing around at the top of hour 14, looking to you for wisdom, you have to be able to communicate.
You have to learn how to understand how people react to your voice and the vibe you project. This is true with any position actually. It’s something they don’t teach you in film school. Learn to be charming and epithetic. It will get you hired.

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