If you want a career in film, working as a film runner is a great way to gain industry experience. Even the biggest names in film started out as runners and worked their way up to the top.
Film runners play a vital role in making sure the production runs smoothly. Being a film runner will help you understand how a production works, and get a foot in the door of your dream career. It’s also a great chance to network!
Not sure if being a film runner is right for you? In this guide, you’ll learn everything about being a film runner — from how to find work, to how much money you’ll make.
Let’s dive in!
What Does A Film Runner Do?
A film runner is the most entry-level job role in the film industry. The role requires little training, and you don’t need previous experience to apply.
The tasks you’ll be doing as a runner depend on a few factors, like the scale of the production and how many other runners you’ll be working with.
Generally speaking, being a runner involves tasks like:
- Driving cast and crew to set
- Running administrative errands
- Carrying, collecting, and delivering equipment
- Making tea and coffee
- Blocking off roads
- Looking after guests
- Cleaning and setting up
Film runners can work in all departments (art department runner, accountancy department runner). On smaller film sets, you’ll likely be assigned as a floor runner in the assistant director department. There, you’ll be working on set, taking orders from the first assistant director.
When it comes to traits, there are a few key soft skills that are considered a huge plus in the role. A good film runner will be:
- Willing to help at all times
- Good at communicating
There’ll be a fair amount of hard work as a film runner. You’ll be on your feet, working quickly to help make sure the production runs smoothly. But that doesn’t mean you can zone out. Be sure to absorb as much as you can about life on set.
Where To Find Work As A Film Runner
Paid work as a runner is highly competitive. You’ll be applying for jobs alongside recent film graduates and amateur filmmakers, who are just as eager to get the job. Any relevant experience in film will help you stand out, such as:
- Working on student productions
- Helping out on a few indies
- Producing your own films in your spare time
Luckily, you can gain work experience whilst still studying or working full-time. Film Job sites, forums and Facebook groups are great places to look for work on low or no budget productions. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to get chosen for paid work as a film runner.
How To Apply For Film Runner Jobs
If you’re applying for a film runner job online, you’ll need to include a CV. A film CV is a simple one-page document with a list of your previous experience and skills. Don’t forget to also include the job title of the role you’re applying for. For more information, check out our guide on how to design your filmmaker CV.
Your email will act as a cover letter, and you’ll attach your CV to this email in PDF format. Be sure to keep your cover letter short and friendly, and address any specific requirements in the job description. For example, the job description might have asked if you can drive a car.
Remember that all jobs in film (even entry-level jobs) are highly competitive. If you didn’t get the job, it doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough! In some cases, you’ll have to apply to jobs over a few weeks — or even months — before you get your first paid gig.
The good news? Once you have the experience, finding paid work will become much easier. You just need to get your foot on the ladder with your very first runner job.
What Can I Earn As A Film Runner?
Film runners are the lowest-paid members of a film crew. It’s important to think of the role as something you’re doing for the experience, rather than the money.
As the role requires minimum experience (and offers minimal training) you can expect to be paid minimum wage.
People often work as film runners for a year or two before progressing to higher-paid film roles. The bottom line? Don’t let the wage put you off!
Film Runner Job Role Progression
A film runner is a stepping stone role. This means it can help you move onto higher-profile roles in film. The role you move on to depends on what kind of work you enjoy doing.
Traditionally, you can choose a department to work in and then move up the career ladder (e.g. camera department, art department assistant, art director, production designer, etc.) but there’s no set formula. You can progress from runner to any job role in the film industry.
You can also go for a different route, like making your own independent films or freelancing with a film crew.
I worked on two independent feature films and a few shorts before deciding to change roles. My experience as a runner gave me a great foundation and also helped me figure out which department I wanted to specialize in. Everyone’s journey is different. It’s always worth speaking to a few industry contacts (or even finding a mentor!) to get a sense of your options.
And there we have it — everything you need to know about being a film runner! It’s important to note that you don’t have to have experience as a film runner to have a career in film. Some people skip this step and go straight to more specific internships, trainee or freelance roles. If you have industry contacts who can help you in your film career, this might be a better option for you.
Having experience as a film runner will definitely help launch your career in film. All in all, it’s a great way to dip your toes into the field without feeling locked into a salaried position. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, after all!