Becoming a “High Agency” Filmmaker
There’s a psychological trait that will determine whether or not you “make it” as an entrepreneurial filmmaker.
In the coming years, those who have this trait will thrive, while those who don’t will find fewer and fewer opportunities. And the best part is, you get to choose whether you develop it.
I’m sure the suspense is killing you, so I’ll come right out and tell you that the distinction here is between “high agency” filmmakers and “low agency” ones.
We’ll get into exactly what that means soon, but first I want to tell you a story that beautifully encapsulates the concept.
What The Hell Is Agency, Anyway?
In the world of psychology, the term “agency” simply refers to a feeling that we have control over our lives.
A person with strong sense of agency knows that they can make certain choices, take certain actions, and sway the course of their lives for the better.
In their book, The Power of Agency, Anthony Rao and Paul Napper summarize the concept like this:
Agency is about being active rather than passive, of reacting effectively to immediate situations and planning effectively for your future. In simple words, agency is what humans have always used to feel in command of their lives. With it, people are able to live in ways that reflect their interest, values, and inner motivations
So that’s agency within the context of psychology.
Why High Agency Is Essential for Filmmakers
You might be asking yourself why I’m spending so much time on this seemingly simple concept of agency.
The short answer is… the world is changing at a rapid pace, and the future belongs to high agency individuals and teams. No doubt about it.
The technological landscape is changing. The distribution landscape is changing. Audience tastes and behaviors are changing. Then you’ve got emergent technologies like blockchain, AI, VR, and others that will eventually shape how we create and consume content.
Hell, all of these things are already disrupting the media industry, and they’re already creating new possibilities and opportunities. That trend will only accelerate in the years to come.
Now consider this.
If you’ve spent the past 10 years believing a cultural story about how it’s impossible to make a living from indie films, are you going to be the one to take advantage of these new opportunities?
Of course not.
If you don’t feel a sense of agency over your filmmaking journey, then you won’t even look for new trends and opportunities. You’ll be blind to them, and they’ll pass you by.
In your mind, the future is predetermined, so there’s no point in keeping your ear to the ground. There’s no point in continuing to try and fail.
And that’s the sad part of this. I know so many filmmakers who are in that exact spot. They’re cynical and jaded and pessimistic because of how things were 5-10 years ago.
Yes, there was a time in 90s and early 2000s where indie filmmakers were thriving and making a good living with uncompromising work. Then the markets changed, foreign pre-sales dried up, and distributors became pickier, stingier, and less transparent as the market was flooded with new content.
And for awhile, there wasn’t much reason to hope for a better future. A small handful of folks made it, but most were languishing, going into debt, and never making a dime from their hard work.
From this environment, a whole generation of indie filmmakers lost their hope and their agency. They bought into a cultural story and succumbed to fatalism.
Sadly, most of these folks are going to get left behind as the world changes—and it inevitably will.
But a small handful of filmmakers—the high agency ones—are going to spot these opportunities and run with them. They’re going to build thriving careers doing what they love.
The best part of this is that you get to decide which path you’ll take.
So if you’re interested in developing a sense of high agency, the rest of this (massive) article will be your guide.
Because trust me, it is something that you can develop.