To find work in the film industry you first need to understand how the hiring process works. Unlike ordinary day jobs, the majority of film workers are self-employed.
Subsequently, this means finding your own work. And this is can be especially difficult in an industry where people typically hire who they know first. Although the Film & TV 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 TV 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 TV 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 finding work does become easier.
So let’s look at the best steps for breaking into the film industry.
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 experience. This initial experience can be found in a few ways.
- Working on student films
- Making your own films
- Working on low-budget productions
Secondly, there are also entry-level job roles in film that don’t require any past know-how. However, since the industry is highly competitive producers are still going to lean on hiring people who have initial experience.
The traditional entry-level job roles in film 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, 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.
Finally, another way of starting out in 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 on 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 sufficient income.
Whatever your job role and work route there are several ways you can find work in the Film & TV 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. Let’s break down the techniques filmmakers can use to begin finding work.
Online 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 the most popular UK based film job sites.
- The Talent Manager
- Talent Bases
- The Unit List
- Shooting People
- The Call Sheet
- Staff Me Up
- Star Now
- Stage 32
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. For example, location-specific groups like the London Filmmaking Network or department-specific groups such as Art Department UK.
Here are some active groups that you can join.
- People Looking For TV Work
- London VFX/Animation
- Leeds Indie Filmmakers
- Manchester Filmmakers
- Scottish Filmmaking
- Cardiff Filmmaking
Traineeships and Apprenticeships
The UK has several official traineeships for aspiring filmmakers. Many major film, media, and TV companies will have similar programs. These positions are competitive but it is worth trying to get onto a professional traineeship.
Here is a list of trainee schemes currently taking place in the UK.
- ScreenSkills Apprenticeships and Trainee Finder
- BBC Trainee Schemes
- Mama Youth Project
- ProCam Trainee Programme
- Channel 4 Apprenticeships
- The Grierson Trust
- Creative Access
- Sky Academy
- BBC Writers Room
These are government-run organisations 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/dictionary.
The only catch is that film commissions favour people who already have experience within their job role. However, it can be useful to see what help your local commission can offer.
In the UK our major film commission is Creative England we also have regional commissions.
- Film London
- Wales Screen
- Screen Alliance Wales
- Bristol Film Office
- Screen Yorkshire
- Screen Scot
- Film Edinburgh
- Northern Ireland Screen
Many filmmakers and producers hire who they know and trust first. This is why networking is vital if pursuing work in the film industry. Networking can be as simple as meeting people on set or connecting with people on a Facebook group.
In-person 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 organisations that run filmmaker networking events year-round.
This is how filmmakers find work in the film industry. It’s a matter of being diligent whilst building up your experience, skills, and contacts 😉