Sharon Wilharm, from Homeschooler to Film Producer

Sharonis a former homeschooler turned film producer, having created, along with her husband and children, several documentaries and full length films. Sharon describes herself as an “Accidental Filmmaker” having been encouraged by her husband, who had a broadcast journalism degree, to write a documentary for his first film, a historical documentary. Since then Sharon has studied and worked diligently to learn the craft of script writing, acting, directing and producing. Sharon, and her family, continue to work on films together, with each person taking an aspect of the project that they are good at; for instance, Sharon’s husband does the behind the scenes management while Sharon works on all aspects of the films look, such as costuming, props, etc  as well as managing the cast and crew. In fact, for the Summer of ’67 Movie, Sharon sewed most of the costumes, using vintage patterns and fabrics, scoured at garage sales and thrift shops. Apparently, being a film producer means that you get involved in the nitty-gritty details of things more than ever!

Sharon was gracious enough to speak with my by phone regarding breaking into the film industry and what it looks like from a training and career perspective.

Sharon’s tips for Homeschoolers interested in becoming a Film Producer, Screen Writer or Director:

  1. Realize that 90% of all films don’t break even- most people who work in the movie industry have other streams of income and additional jobs. (Skill Set: Learn how to fail well)
  2. Be constantly honing your craft; reading, going to workshops and film festivals, watching movies, networking with other writers and producers. (Skill Set: Become a Life Long Learner)
  3.  Understand the aspect of story really well and follow them – all movies follow the same basic outline: inciting events, debating reaction, act upon the reaction either positively or negatively, mid or turning point, resolution or climax. Literature analysis in action! (Skill Set: How to Write a Story, Literary Analysis).
  4. Budget well – Post production is as much a part of film making as shooting the film so save money for post production including color and sound. Post production does for a film what a good editor does for a book. (Skill Set: Financial Acumen and Responsibility).
  5. Learn how to manage details and people well (Skill Set: Communication Skills, Executive Functioning Skills)

Sharon’s top books/ helps to learn how to become a Film Producer, Screen Writer or Director:

  1. Save the Cat (for the beginner)
  2. Write a Movie in a Month
  3. Story by Robert McKee (more advanced)

Sharon also recommends going to Film Festivals around the country, as there are tons of classes, recruiters, producers and great films to be watched, along with contests, speakers and sponsors.

Fred and Sharon Wilharm

Where does Sharon come up with ideas for a screenplay? Often though real life. Her last film was inspired by her Dad’s involvement in Vietnam, the rich history surrounding where they lived.

Sharon mentioned the need to feed her creativity which she does by reading, listening to music, especially period music related to the time of which she is writing, watching movies and attending workshops, classes and festivals.

Film-making is an alluring field but Sharon mentioned that creating a film takes 200% commitment. Being involved in writing and producing a film is something that will take over every aspect of your life. Having your family 100+% committed helps as well, which is why Sharon is glad that she and her family have been involved in the work together.

As the filming gets under way, Sharon plans everything meticulously out ahead of time- blocking, timing, location and communicates with her cast and crew via a FB group page. When people show up for the shoot, they know exactly what to expect. This meticulous attention to detail saves  time and money as everyone understands the goal of each days shoot. (Skill Set: Time Management).

Because the cast and crew spend so much time together during a shoot, Sharon  cooks homemade meals for her team, freezing meals ahead of time for her 100 + person team. (Skill Set: Cooking, Once a Month Cooking, Hospitality, Budgeting).

For the film industry you don’t particularly need a degree; there are many internships that will provide hands on learning. The down side is that often these internships are unpaid. For that reason, it’s good to have training in areas that are easily non-location dependent and flexible in regards to work schedule. Many people in the film industry do not work in it full time and are very location dependent. In other words, jobs are located in a few, often high COLA, areas.

An often overlooked aspect of the film industry that provides more stability is to work for a large company creating training video or shooting commercials. While not  considered as compelling as working in on the next big blockbuster, but there is job security and benefits with this work.

While Sharon and her family have made seven feature length films and enjoyed their time in the film industry, Sharon is hanging up her screenwriter/producers hat Summer of ’67 . That doesn’t mean she is stepping away from the creative life as she plans to to focus on writing novels and teaching the art of screen-writing and directing.

Sharon’s parting words of wisdom have less to do with the film industry and more to do with one interacts with others. She mentioned that she and her husband were doing videography work for a company (her husband also owns a videography business) and were treated badly by the people they were working for, as if they were less then others. Her goal has always been to approach whom they work with with a servant’s heart, doing small things for people to showing them respect and dignity. (Skill Set: empathy, compassion, personal development). Wise words for all us to take in, regardless of what profession we find ourselves in.

Thank-you Sharon Wilharm, former homeschooler turned film producer, for a warm and wonderful interview! Wishing you the best of luck as you go from film producer to novelist!

Before you go, check out our Humanities: U.S. Foundations course as well as our Literature and Composition Course.

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