4 Storytelling Experts Share Invaluable Advice for First-Time Filmmakers

In the golden age of television there’s no shortage of aspiring storytellers eager to express their truth behind the camera. For many hopefuls who aren’t blessed into legacy Hollywood families, the barrier to entry for creatives in the film industry can seem almost impossible without a leg up from existing showbiz professionals. Refinery29 is shifting that limiting belief alongside Kate Spade with the introduction of Pilot Season, a collaboration incubation program for first-time female filmmakers, providing support for them to achieve their creative dreams in the form of short films, which will debut later Spring 2019 on Instagram.
The program kicked off with a mentorship lab, bringing together five filmmakers selected from hundreds of submissions, to fine tune their projects with the guidance of expert mentors. From award winning writers and directors to coveted career coaches, we rounded up the best insider secrets and wisdom dropped from the weekend to share with R29’s creative community, sans the film school fee. Future Coppolas, Bigelows, and DuVernays, take note!
Kisha Imani Cameron
Professional Career Coach and President of Completion Films
“The trick is realizing you become a powerful artist because of who you are, not in spite of who you are. The trap is when young artists look to the world first instead of their own experiences for storytelling. You can’t get tripped up and distracted by what everyone else is doing because your career path may look different from the person’s to the right or left of you. Different people’s careers peak at different times, and our journey is our own. It’s okay because success for everyone is different. Figuring out what success and fulfillment is to YOU is paramount first, so you can design your career path around that inner truth.”
Ry Russo Young
Director and Filmmaker, The Sun Is Also A Star, Before I Fall, Nobody Walks
"As women we're conditioned to be 'nice' and to put others before ourselves. This kind of behavior is in some ways antithetical to the job of being a director, as a big part of a director's job is to ask for things. I've found it helpful to treat the film as my boss. Everything I do is in service of making the movie and telling the best story. It's never about me, it's about the movie"
Kristen Naiman
SVP of Brand Creative At Kate Spade
My advice to filmmakers looking to do branded entertainment work is this: Look for the places where the stories you tell have natural overlap with the brand story you're being hired to tell. In brand work you are the ghostwriter, and as a ghostwriter you need an authentic inroad. When you find the overlap, your story and the brand’s weave together seamlessly, and the result is authentic to both visions.”
Tracy McMillan
American author, television writer, Winner of the 2010 Writers Guild of America Awards for Dramatic Series for Mad Men
"Many times emerging writers and filmmakers start with cool ideas they want to communicate, but learning how to turn those themes into actual stories is a skill. A story is a thing — it has a beginning, a middle, and an end (not necessarily in that order), with any number of moving parts. Learning how to craft story takes practice. Lots of it. Whether you're a writer or director, or even producer, my biggest piece of advice is to think of yourself as a storyteller first, and let everything flow from that. Without a strong story, even the most dazzling technique is just eye candy."

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