To get into the film industry you first need to understand how the hiring process works. Unlike normal day jobs, the majority of film workers are self-employed.
As a result, this means finding your own work. And this can be especially difficult in an industry where people typically hire who they know first. Although getting into the film industry is competitive, know that it is possible to make a lifelong career working within it.
Below you will find some practical tips on how to kick-start your film career.
As a filmmaker, you are likely going to be a self-employed freelancer. This means that you will be actively looking for clients to work for as well as filing your tax returns.
Filmmakers work on a job by job basis. This is especially true for film production crew, however, there are a few contracted production jobs within film production. Keep in mind that contracted production jobs are hard to come by. But if you are certain that you don’t want to be self-employed, look for work in the offices of film and media companies.
This work won’t necessarily be creative, but it will provide you with a more secure income.
Being self-employed isn’t easy. It will take time for you to build up a client list and become trusted. However, for many people after a few years of trying to get into the film industry work does become easier.
So without further ado, here are our 8 top tips for breaking into the film industry.
1. Be Patient
Firstly, to make enough regular income as a freelancer you will need to build up a client base. This means promoting your services and building trust amongst a network of filmmakers. It will take time to meet enough people and find enough work to freelance full-time.
This is why many filmmakers have side jobs when they first start. Having a part-time flexible job is useful during these early stages.
The majority of job roles in the film industry require you to have previous work experience. This initial experience can be found in a few ways.
- Working on student films
- Making your own films
- Working on low-budget productions
2. Entry-Level Film Jobs
Secondly, there are also entry-level film jobs that don’t require any past know-how. However, since the film industry is highly competitive producers are still going to lean on hiring people who have initial experience.
The traditional entry-level job roles in the film industry are runner or trainee. A production runner is a general entry-level role that requires basic work across all departments (such as making tea and coffee). A trainee is an apprenticeship type position working for a specific department. For example, grip trainee, camera trainee, and make-up trainee.
So, specific trainee positions like this are great if you already know what department you would like to work within. The runner role allows you to work across a variety of departments and experience how they all work together.
3. Work Routes
Another way to get into the film industry is to work within your desired job role straight away. This could mean working on low-budget films for many years before being trusted in professional productions.
As a result, many people work between low-budget films and professional work. This allows you to practice your desired job role whilst still making a decent income.
For example, a person might work as a production designer on low budgets and as an art department assistant on professional productions. This allows them to build up their portfolio and still take home a good income.
Whatever your job role and work route there are several ways you can get into the film industry. At first, try to apply to jobs in bulk (expect to get 1 out of 10 jobs you apply for).
In time you will build up enough contacts and clients to not have to be looking for work consistently.
4. Online Film Job Sites
There are job sites that specifically advertise film work. The majority of film crew work on these sites will be low-budget. But this is the easiest way to find local projects and build up your work experience.
Here is a list of some popular film job sites.
|🇺🇸 USA||🇬🇧 UK|
|ProductionHub||The Talent Manager|
|Staff Me Up||Talent Bases|
|Backstage||The Unit List|
|Entertainment Careers||Shooting People|
|StarNow||The Call Sheet|
5. Facebook Groups
These groups are good for networking with other filmmakers but also sometimes advertise work. To find groups use the Facebook search bar and look for groups that apply to you.
Here are some active groups that you can join.
|🇺🇸 USA||🇬🇧 UK|
|Film Industry Network||UK Film Jobs|
|Georgia Filmmakers Network||Crew Me Now|
|San Francisco Filmmakers||UK Film & TV Jobs|
|New York Filmmakers||Last Minute Film & TV Jobs|
|Florida Independent Filmmakers||Film & TV Production Crew UK|
Many major studios and small local production companies will have film internships for aspiring filmmakers to get hands on experience. These positions are competitive but worth it and might be your direct ticket into the film industry.
Here is a list of internships currently taking place.
|🇺🇸 USA||🇬🇧 UK|
|Warner Bros||Working Title|
|Sony Pictures||Tiger Aspect|
|Paramount Pictures||Lime Pictures|
We also have another article which gives more tips on how and where to find film internships.
7. Film Commissions
These are government-run organizations created to encourage filmmakers to shoot in particular regions. These sites will contain information and advice for local filmmakers and occasionally advertise professional work. On some of these sites, you can also add your details to a crew database.
The only catch is that film commissions favor people who already have experience within their job role. However, it can be useful to see what help your local commission can offer.
|🇺🇸 USA||🇬🇧 UK|
|Film California||Creative England|
|Georgia USA||Screen Scotland|
|New Mexico Film||Film Cymru Wales|
|Nevada Film Office||Northern Ireland Screen|
Many filmmakers and producers hire those they know and trust first. This is why film networking is important if you want to get into the film industry. Networking can be as simple as meeting people on set or connecting with people on a Facebook group.
Networking events are also hosted by film commissions, film festivals, local cinemas, or film unions. By working on low budgets and taking advantage of training opportunities in time you will make enough contacts to freelance full-time.
Here are some organizations that run filmmaker networking events year-round.
|🇺🇸 USA||🇬🇧 UK|
|NewFilmmakers Los Angeles||Eventbrite Film Nights|
|IFA Chicago||BFI Film Events|
|Woman in Film||Raindance|
|BECTU Freelancer Fair|
To sum up, this is how to get into the film industry. It’s a matter of being active whilst building up your experience, skills, and contacts. Good luck 😉
Film Industry FAQ
If you have never worked on a film set, you will need to find some initial work experience.
The film industry’s entry-level jobs are runner (also known as production assistant) and trainee. If you have no previous on-set experience, these are likely the only positions you will be able to find paid work within.
A runner is a general assistant on set, for example, making tea and coffee, answering phone calls, and driving actors to set. In comparison, a trainee is a junior role within a specific department, for example, sound trainee, camera trainee, and grip trainee.
If you know exactly what department you wish to work within, it makes sense to pursue a trainee role. In contrast, apply for runner roles if you don’t know what job you want or wish to work within the production management team.
A career in the film industry might not have been your first career choice in life. So, if you find yourself switching jobs, consider how your past work can cross over to film.
For example, if you worked previously in an admin position, your current skills can cross over to a production office. Not to mention skills such as management, organization, teamwork, and budgeting help a film set.
Similarly, as someone with no work experience, you might need to start in an entry-level film job. Unless you know how to do specific jobs in the film industry, you will need to start as a runner or assistant to learn a job role.
The advantage of having some past career experience is that you are more likely to be trusted with early responsibility. Additionally, you can use your past skills to move up the ladder faster and tailor your film resume to meet the requirements for a film job role.
The majority of jobs in the film industry are freelance, which means you get paid per job and don’t have a long-term contract. In particular, for regular income, you will need to find a full-time film job.
Overall full-time film industry careers won’t be on a film set. You will find them at production company offices, within television and commercial companies. These positions can still be creative but won’t be on feature films or TV series.
However, it is possible to switch a career in the film industry from full-time to freelance in the future. You might need a regular income, to begin with before taking the risk towards freelance work. For example, a commercial director can use their experience to direct fiction later in their career.
In reality, full-time work will be just as competitive as freelance film crew work. You will need to similarly start in entry-level positions or cross over your past career skills. Still, starting any new career, even if not creative, will take time.
Lastly, a word about dream film industry careers. Dream job roles include all of the above-the-line positions in the film industry, such as screenwriter, producer, director, actor, and DOP.
All of these popular roles don’t have a set career path. So if you look at the biographies of people within these roles, you will find varied careers. Of course, What is certain is that you need to practice your craft. Such as by making your own films, studying film, or learning by watching others.
Above all, you will need to be patient and never stop learning. Both of these will help you in your journey of getting into the film industry.