Aspiring Filmmakers Take Heart: Passion for Directing & Screenwriting Can Lead To The Top


Anyone familiar with Tom Cruise should know about his boundless passion for the art and science of making films. While Tom has talked about his love of movies throughout his career, the real proof of his devotion is in the finished product. Regardless of the movie, fans feel the intensity, drive and joy the action star brings to making memorable cinema. His passion is all in service of creating films movie lovers the world over can connect with emotionally.

Tom isn’t alone in his love for movies and movie making. The worldwide interest in filmmaking spiked with the rise of the Internet, giving normal fans an outlet to distribute their own creations. This revolution in filmmaking is aided with the introduction of high-quality, less expensive equipment, giving the average person access for the first time to create  professional quality films.

In reflection of this shift in making movies, the team at is reaching out to the filmmakers with some resources to help you get your movies written, directed, acted and distributed! We also will connect you to a list of aspiring filmmakers through Tom’s Twitter stream – including directors, screenwriters and actors – to start getting your dreams off the ground.

This week we concentrate on resources for everyone behind the camera – the writers and directors. We’ll give you the links to resources for getting your movies out on the Internet, festivals to enter films into, film contests and competitions to earn exposure or money, and schools to train for a career in the movie industry.

Aspiring actors will find plenty of helpful advice in this post, but should return to the blog next week for resources specifically for performers.

But for now, filmmakers are in the driver’s seat. Check out all the info below!


The real starting point that every new filmmaker should be aware of is the explosion of resources online for distributing movies through the Internet. There’s nothing better than getting the opportunity to have your creation looked at by the entire world. These online channels offer a new route for unknown filmmakers to put their movies out into the world, a route to success and possibly a career in the movie industry.

The most popular online video site for aspiring filmmakers to host their movies with is easily YouTube. With over 2 billion video views a day, pretty much the entire online world is looking at a video on the Google-run site. But one of the little known resources available through the site includes the YouTube Screening Room; a venue for serious filmmakers to have their original productions featured by the site. The Screening Room hosts all kinds of movies – including the documentary series Project:Report that partners with the Pulitzer committee for the vaunted journalism prize.

You can read further into the resources available for filmmaker on the YouTube blog, including their sub-blog for filmmakers: the Creators Corner.

Another video hosting site popular with filmmakers is Vimeo. This site caters to a much smaller audience than YouTube, but differs in one respect: Vimeo is composed completely of original material. Movies on Vimeo then don’t have to compete against clips from television, movies or video games. The site is exclusively to distribute original films of all stripes. It’s for this reason that Vimeo became a popular venue for films from independent producers and music video artists.


Some of the best opportunities for filmmakers and screenwriters available on the Internet come in the form of legitimate open competitions and contests that can rocket a films’ prestige from unknown to worldwide hit in mere hours. Some destination websites for directors and writers hold these competitions annually, semi-annually or regularly, giving filmmakers the chance for exposure, production deals and even cash. Screenwriters are also in luck, with open competitions judged by some of the film industry’s biggest talents available for entry.

Below are some of the many film, direction and screenwriting contests or competitions available for filmmakers around the world.

Big Break Film Contest

Brought to filmmakers by the online film portal I Am Rogue, their Big Break Movie Contest opens the door for any filmmaker with a feature-length (90 minutes or more) movie to find an audience with distribution through AMC Theaters in the United States! The crew at I Am Rogue will set the winning film and filmmakers up with a professional critique, help fine tuning the production, create a professional trailer, and get the film into theaters.

Some of the judges include the head of film production company Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh, along with Hollywood star Kate Bosworth and Relativity Media president of worldwide production, Tucker Tooley.

Open Films Get It Made 2

The filmmakers resource website Open Film hosts a number of regular film competitions of their own, including the Get It Made contest series which awards $50,000 in cash and another $200,000 in financing to movies under 40 minutes that can expand to feature length following the contest. That’s a healthy amount of coin for an online film competition! The site’s advisory board includes Hollywood actors James and Scott Caan, Robert Duvall and director/producer Mark Rydall.

The site also hosts contests from partners such as the My Movie Pitch competition and the Clearwater Film Festival Promo Trailer Contest.

48 Film Project

An emerging online trend in online film contests includes creating new material in a limited amount of time in a collaborative environment. One of the leaders in this trend is the touring competition called The 48 Hour Film Project. The challenge of this contest, to write, shoot, edit and score a complete movie in 48 hours! Each team – ranging thus far from one to 118 people.

The competition circles the glob on a tour from city to city, until it finishes it’s yearly cycle. Winners from each city then compete on a global scale for a chance at a $3,000 prizer and, more important, an opportunity to get screened at the prestigious Cannes film festival. Take a look at the calendar to see when the contest will be making it to a city near you.

filmaka site

The Filmaka Digital Studio is an online site that hosts regular film contests and has attracted a widely diverse global filmmakers who compete for prizes ranging from $15,000 in cash and exposure through distribution or airing films on television. Some of the panel of judges at Filmaka include Academy Award-nominated director Werner Herzog, directors Neil LaBute, Wim Wenders and Paul Schrader, along with Academy Award nominated actor Colin Firth.

Zoetrope Screenwriting Contest 2010

Founded by Oscar-winning director and noted auteur Francis Ford Copolla, American Zoetrope has been a home for some of the most original screenwriting and filmmaking over the last 40 years. Known for hosting filmmakers with an independent streak and literary bend, Zoetrope is also the home to a well-known screenwriting contest judged by Mr. Copolla himself! The contest includes a membership to the Zoetrope Digital Studio, which helps screenwriters through workshops and critiques of writing to make scripts stronger.

Tom Cruise worked with Francis Ford Copolla early in his career on The Outsiders.


film financing film slate

While making a film can be hard work, it’s mostly fun work. Getting a film financed… that can be another story altogether. Part of the job of a filmmaker is finding financing – whether a studio, private financiers or *gulp* credit cards – to help transform a concept into a wondrous flickering image on the screen. The folks at FilmSlate published a detailed primer on how to find the kind of investment filmmakers need to make that transformation a reality.

Money is unfortunately the lifeblood for many film productions. The equipment and time needed to make movie magic possible has always been expensive. That said, the article at FilmSlate repeats what we at believe – passion and planning can help you find the resources to make your filmmaking dream come true!


Nearly every aspiring filmmaker dreams of success, whether that be at the box office, from reviews or just through the reaction of the fans. But some measure of satisfaction is also taken from the praise of peers at film festivals. While not every filmmaker can waltz into prestigious festivals like the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, or the Sundance Film Festival, there’s still plenty of room for competition at some other festivals around the globe and in the United States.

New York Film Festival 2010

One of the largest domestic film festivals in the U.S., the New York Film Festival, provides such an opportunity for filmmakers starting out. Their New Directors/New Films series has given a venue for burgeoning talent to compete and gain notice for nearly 40 years. Some of the alumni of the competition to gain wider fame through the exposure includes Tom Cruise collaborator Steven Spielberg with his movie The Sugarland Express, which was honored by the festival in 1974.

austin film fest

The Austin Film Festival – a well-known jumping off point in the success of directors and screenwriters like Richard Linklater – has created an environment specifically designed to cultivate the talents of young and upcoming filmmakers throughout the United States and world. The Austin Film Festival Young Filmmakers Program is filled with competitionsworkshopscamps and expositions to give a leg up to filmmakers starting on their road to movie careers.

The online portal Open Film also has a resource for you filmmakers through their Open Film Festival Calendar. This is your opportunity to find festivals in your area to meet with other filmmakers, get inspired by their work, or hopefully compete for a prize in a competition!


While it’s not the only route to making movies, learning the craft of film from experienced professors and industry professionals offers many promising directors and screenwriters the knowledge they need to break into what is a hugely competitive industry. Below are some of the finest schools from around the United States that have particularly strong programs in cinema production, along with some of the more notable alumni that have come from the specific institution. Collaborators of Tom Cruise will be bolded on these lists, so keep your eyes peeled!

  • The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) – Founded in 1961 as a training ground for filmmakers and animators in Los Angeles, CalArts became a known feeder for the legendary animation studios of the Walt Disney Company. To this day, some of the most talented storytellers in the medium of film spring from this institution. Some CalArts alumni include Knight and Day director James Mangold, PIXAR director Brad Bird (The Incredibles), Disney Chief Creative Officer and director John Lasseter (Toy Story), Oscar nominated director Tim Burton (most recently of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland), and Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation).
  • American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory – The destination for the most daring and artistically complicated directors, AFI has provided a home for some of the most challenging movie makers to grace the silver screen. Some AFI trained directors include Oscar-nominated directors David Lynch (Blue Velvet) and Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line), as well as screenwriter and director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull).
  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film and Television – Site to the education of some of the biggest names in filmmaking over the last 40 years and beyond, UCLA has consistently cranked out some of the finest directors and actors to work in the medium. Some of the alumni include Oscar winner and director of The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola, A Few Good Men director, Rob Reiner, as well as Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) and director Alexander Payne (Sideways).
  • University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts – Some of the biggest names in the film world have passed through the halls of USC, including industry heavyweights who’s innovation from the late 1960s on have changed the industry permanently. Some of the alums include Oscar winner and director of Far and Away, Ron Howard, Star Wars creator and founder of Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas, director Robert Zimeckis (Forrest Gump), comedy writer and director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), and director Bryan Singer (X-Men).
  • New York University (NYU) Tisch School of Performing Art – From the East Coast school known for intense dramas and dark comedies, NYU delivered some of the most critically acclaimed auteurs from the last three generations of filmmakers for both direction and writing. Among the distinguished alums are Academy Award winner and director of The Color of Money, Martin Scorcese,  and Academy Award winner and director of Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone. Other Oscar winning directors to emerge from the school include Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), and Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men).

So there you go Tom Cruise fans and emerging filmmakers! The beginnings of a career in film can be in your grasp through some of the resources found in this post. While not completely exhaustive, reading through the information here and on the links can get you started on the road to cinematic expression and fame. We can’t wait to see you make it!

Thanks again to all of the followers on the aspiring directors, writers and actors list on the Twitter page. We think you guys are bound for great things and love to keep in touch.

Again, stay tuned for next week as the Tom Cruise blog unveils resources for aspiring actors.


  • Dan Bonds


    I’ve been a extra in Contact, and Queen mini series. Do you know if Explore Talent web talent agency is on the up and up. If not how can I get hooked up to travel the acting road again?


  • Patrick Ford


  • David Branin & Karen Worden

    Mr. Cruise,

    Thank you for including us on your list of aspiring directors, writers and actors. We are not just aspiring, but we are making films.

    We also host a radio show entitled ‘Film Courage’ that speaks directly to the heart and passion of independent filmmakers. One day we hope to have you join us in studio or even on the phone where we can benefit from your passion, experience and wisdom.

    Our best,
    David and Karen

  • swapnali

    really felt glad that our generations hidden talent is about to unleash…its a great effort to rise and shine.thanks

  • http://ihavenowebsitesir Ajith kumar

    Iam a director and actor as well as screenplay potrayer and also a stuntmen! i can do the excellent work if u give me a chance plzz..i want quality in films…i wish my goal will be succeed at sooner !

    because im 17! from 6 im addicted to the films ..watever it is..but i can do it!please…i do not please for the right ones..if you are not interested on my post..i will be pleased to you understand this…me a middle classed boy- height 5:8 … weight:52 .im trying my level best to prove myself understand..iplease!

  • Robin R Robertson

    I am an aspiring actress who really appreciate the information given to me!Also,Iam intersted in taking classes regarding film making and directing!I love the art and I know I can contribute greatness with your help!Thank you some much and God Bless!Robin

  • Harsha Kishore

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! It’s exactly what I need, what I’ve been searching for for like the longest time. I’m so glad I’m following you on Twitter or I probably wouldn’t have come across this. You’ve always been one of my favorite actors & a major inspiration! My dream is to be a professional actor and director and maybe even a screenwriter. There’s nothing else I’d rather do with my life… & I’ve also always dreamed of working with an amazing actor, like yourself. :) <3

  • Michael Palombo

    Great post!! Tom your a soldier in the art of film, thank you(-:

  • Ravi Vora

    This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for to start my filmmaking career as a Director. Thank you so much Tom!


  • Tom Bennett

    I really think that what you’re doing here is great; aspiring filmmakers can never have enough in terms of resources. It’s great to see someone like Tom offer his support in this area.

    I think that the single most important thing that you can stress to people is the importance of great characters and story. Production values, expensive cameras and great acting can do little to rescue a bad or ineffective story, and this is the one thing that, IMHO, aspiring filmmakers seem to miss the most. I can say this because I’ve fallen victim to it myself :-)

    Access to great writing talent and coaches, and identifying legitimate, proven, story consultants, notes services and people who can provide validation and feedback on your concept and story BEFORE you commit your limited resources to filming it would be one of the most valuable things you could provide for people behind the camera.

    With the advent of the amazing digital camera and editing technology that’s available to indie filmmakers, the question is not whether we can produce something that’s on par (or close) technically to what the studios can produce. The question is one of can we produce content that people will want to see. While it has the potential, the revolution in digital audio production has not produced an army of John Lennon’s from the masses. It’s not that there’s not a lot of people out there making music, it’s that there’s more focus on making music, and not enough focus on what’s being said. The same is true for the indie film world; great film, like great music, starts with great writing.

    While this may seem like a given that indie/aspiring filmmakers would pay attention to this, I’m constantly surprised when I hear about people spending most of their modest budgets on camera packages, grip and post and don’t spent a dime on someone to review their script and offer notes or feedback.

    Learning the technical aspects of filmmaking, distribution channels and figuring out festival resources is helpful, but it’s all pretty useless if you have a horrible story to start with, and that is where every filmmaking journey begins.


  • Phillip Gibb

    not to mention all the crowd funding options for creative projects,
    e.g. IndieGoGo, KickStarter and
    With a good project that you are passionate about – there is no excuse – go for it!


  • Carol Saiz

    This sounds like a group of fine, informative film insiders that will open door for aspiring script writers and film makers! I pray that is the golden key to great films!

  • Blog Admin

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the insightful comment! We appreciate the thoughtfulness and obvious passion for filmmaking.

    You raise a great point about the power an engaging story has on the final product of a film. As we branch out with these posts about making movies, story, screenwriting and pre-production are areas we will definitely explore. Stay tuned!

    Again, many thanks.

    Team Tom Cruise

  • sean ryan

    What a classic photograph at the top of this blog on the set of Minority Report. What I wouldn’t give to be present at that conversation.

  • Harsha

    Again, thank you so much, Tom Cruise! You really are a HUGE inspiration! I’m really look forward for the next blog post for aspiring actors… Because, well, I am an aspiring actor. Please add me to your “aspiring2actwritedirect” list on Twitter, my ID is harshakishore. Thank you so much!

  • Harsha

    This is the third time I’m submitting a comment on here… Sorry about that! Third time’s a charm? That didn’t even make sense. But what I’m trying to say is… I’m not very good at expressing myself through words or whatever… But maybe now I can kinda fully express how I feel… First of all, I think it’s absolutely incredible what you’re doing & I have major respect to the fact that you actually thought about all those people out there (like myself) who are aspiring to become actors/directors/screenwriters. I seriously think that’s just so amazing & it’s really very encouraging, as well! & not to mention, HELPFUL. All the resources, etc. It’s all just absolutely amazing.
    You’ve always been one of my favorite actors and you’re one of my inspirations and I totally like am worshiping you right now for reaching out to all of us aspiring filmmakers.

    My name’s Harsha. I’m basically Indian but I’ve been living in the USA for over 9 years (legally, of course) and I feel at home here in the US, I feel like my heart’s here, not so much in India (although, I really do love India). I’m 14. Yeah, I really am. Everyone says I talk (or rather, write) like I’m in my twenties and I’m beginning to think they’re right… So yeah, I’m really young but I really do believe that filmmaking and acting is my thing. It’s my only passion, it’s what sets my heart on fire, and nothing else drives me and makes me feel more alive (this all sounds so cliche, but it’s the truth).
    Like I said, I’m not so good at expressing myself… But it all seems to kind of change when I’m acting or even just watching an amazing movie. I feel strong and alive and it’s just so magical. I love acting and movies and filmmaking so much. I live for it & I live for the hope that one day I might actually make it in the film industry… & I wouldn’t give up that dream for anything!
    But my entire family is completely against it. But that really doesn’t bother me much at all. What bothers me is knowing that I’ll never have their support or encouragement or anything… But I’m not gonna let that stop me.
    My parents are incredibly harsh. Unimaginably harsh. They mean well… But they’re very harsh. They don’t swear or anything but it doesn’t necessarily take swear words to hurt someone, now does it?
    Another sort of problem would be the fact that my life is really unstable… As in, moving… & I don’t mean just cities or states, I’m talking countries and continents.
    But acting, directing… FILMMAKING. It’s my one and only passion. I’d die for it! & I wouldn’t give it up for anything because filmmaking means more than anything else in the universe to me. I have no idea why I just gave out my “story” but it’s just I’ve never been able to share it with anyone or anywhere before…

    It really means a lot to me that you’re taking the time to reach out to aspiring filmmakers. I really, really hope one day I get the chance to do a movie with you! Please follow me in your Aspring2ActWriteDirect list on Twitter. My ID is harshakishore. :)

    I’m really looking forward to the next blog for aspiring actors!



    P.S. I would love it if you could somehow get me in touch with an agent or something… Or if I could do some sort of online audition… ANYTHING. I know it’s really unprofessional and I’m asking for too much but… Well, like I said, I’d do anything to make this dream of mine come true!

  • Jenny

    Hi, I just want to say how great it is of you posting these blogs for all these aspiring people and I really appreciate the work you putting in because it’s extremely helpful.
    I’m only a teenager of 15 but I have a huge love for film. I’d watch a film more than twice and it never bores me. Any film affects me in some way. Every film has a different moral about it and I just love every moment of each and every film. I’m really interested in film making, but I just do not know where to start first. I’m only 15, so money is something I don’t have. I’ve always been interesting in joining drama sessions and things so I can understand more about how film develops and whats needed to be successfull in acting but money is always an issue for me! One place I was interested in was £150 per term and I, aswell as my parents don’t have the money for that. If I were to make a film I wouldn’t have the money for equipment such as really good video cameras etc. I also wouldn’t be able to find the people to be in the film i’m willing to make. I really have no idea where I should start with this. Film is a huge, huge, huge passion of mine and i’d do anything to be involved in it. Everything about film is facinating – the great acting, action, the green-screen scenes, everything.
    Acting is where i’d really love to be in film, and i’m in the same situation with this too as I have no idea where to start! I can’t wait for you blog on Aspiring To Act.

    I’d want to thank you for these blog posts, these resouces are really helpfull and I appreciate all the work you have put together.
    Thanks again,
    Jenny x

  • Si Wall

    All I really wanted to say was “thank-you”. It’s so good to see someone we all respect within this profession taking the time to encourage new talent. My first feature length film is being shot in just 10 days, and we are breaking all the rules, but the UK film industry is in serious trouble, so we have to think outside of the box and look to those that have gone before us as proof that it can be done.
    Thanks, and good luck to all of us that dare to dream.


  • Jenil Khamar

    Hello sir,
    It’s exactly what I need, what I’ve been searching for for like the longest time. I’m so glad I’m following you on Twitter or I probably wouldn’t have come across this. You’ve always been one of my favorite actors & a major inspiration! My dream is to be a director and even a screenwriter. Also, I am intersted in taking classes regarding film making and directing!I. I know I can contribute greatness with your help! I am right now 22 year old and started writing scripts and storys from 14-15. I am passionate about it. I request you to give one chance to learn new things about film making. I’ve also always dreamed of working with an amazing actor, like yourself.

  • Lukasz Antos

    Thanks for sharing the knowledge and links to other resources.nnSpeaking of YouTube and great filmmaking resources, I recommend these very practical filmmaking