During his Golden Globes speech last night as he was deservedly accepting the Cecille B. DeMille Award for his outstanding contribution to entertainment, Steven Spielberg pointed out that his success was largely due to the mentoring he received throughout his career. He then proceeded to point out others in the audience like him, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard, whose success could also be linked to strong relationships with mentors.
I cannot stress enough the value of having a mentor in your career in filmmaking. They have been through all of the ups and downs of the business and can help guide you through the good and bad times. And they can provide you with the right introductions to other successful people in the business. Or they can help you get backing for your company and/or films. Look at indie producers Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy. They worked for Scott Rudin and now they have a production deal with Rudin's company.
Finding a mentor is not easy. You need to get yourself out there and either make yourself invaluable to a successful film professional or create a piece of work that a film professional can get excited about and in turn get excited about you. I've found most of my mentors by working hard for successful producers. Even as an intern, I worked very hard to prove that I was worthy of being mentored.
Mentors are not the magic key to the kingdom of success in film. You will need talent and a ton of hard work to sustain a successful film career. However, mentors can provide that crucial help to open doors and give you that push that can help your talent shine through.