Freelance Movie Maker Turns His Childhood Dream into Reality

It’s not often that a kid raised in a small city is slowly but surely making a name for himself in the movie industry, but that’s exactly what’s happening to one Petaluma hometown boy. It’s even better when this path to success happens on one’s own terms by turning to freelancing.

Austin Smagalski currently works as a freelance film editor, but he’s also handled freelance directing stints in the recent past. Not bad for a guy who had a strong and passionate childhood dream and then made that a reality by the decisions he made as he grew into adulthood.

From the age of six, Austin had a strong feeling that he wanted to be a filmmaker; that desire stayed with him all the way to high school, when he began attending some filmmaking classes at Petaluma High School during sophomore year. When high school was over, he attended Santa Rosa Junior College to take film classes on campus. At the same time, he found a group of friends with whom to make short movies.

That’s when things really began shaping up for Austin’s freelance career. In his last year at SRJC, he met editor Noah Diamond and cinematographer Khalil Omer, two professionals in the film industry with whom he still works today. The two men, both from Petaluma also, are his core team, and the three men have collaborated on various projects since leaving college.

Their most successful film to date was 2014’s “Wake,” a short film. It did fairly well and garnered some much-welcome attention from critics. It received film-festival selections in three countries and Oregon’s McMinnville Short Film Festival’s Emerging Artist Award.

Check out my latest short film:

A photo posted by Austin Smagalski (@austinsmagalski) on

His latest movie tackles a more somber issue than anything he’s ever done in the past. Titled “Unspoken,” it deals with the distressing and embarrassing issue of male sexual abuse. According to statistics provided by Austin, one in six males will suffer sexual abuse before turning 18. Further complicating this sensitive issue is the stigma connected to male sexual abuse, as some guys will just not speak of any abuse they’ve received.

The film is currently available on Austin’s website for viewing and downloading. This is part of Austin’s plan to broaden the number of people who can view his projects by not restricting them solely to film festival attendees.

Thanks to the freedom of being a freelancer, Austin has the opportunity to also work with local businesses in the area. This helps him supplement his income with steady engagements, such as doing promotional work for the Petaluma Film Alliance and Bellyful Dinners. Members of the local community also got to know him better when, in 2013, his documentary on “Petaluma Batman” became popular.

Austin’s story is a great example of how one can make freelancing work even in the film industry, which is notoriously difficult. Freelancing jobs in film can take the shape and form of movies, but also promotional work for business and editing opportunities. Even those freelancers with lofty ambitions of one day writing and directing huge features are smart not to turn down this type of fundamental work.
Breaking into film industry freelancing isn’t an easy pursuit, but Austin demonstrates how it can be done, if you just have the necessary passion and determination for your craft in the first place.

Guess where I have a meeting today? #Filmmaking #Editor #Editing #Paramount

A photo posted by Austin Smagalski (@austinsmagalski) on

Is there a freelancer or entrepreneur who inspires you to follow your dreams? Tell us about them in the comments.

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