How To Become A Film Runner
A film runner is the most entry-level job role in the film industry. Many filmmakers start out within this role before progressing to other positions.
If you are clueless about what film job you want to pursue, then consider starting out as a film runner. This job role allows you to see first hand how a film crew works together.
I personally started out working as a runner on indie productions before I focused my job role. The initial experience allowed me to understand the reality of film work and what is expected from every department.
Even if you have a dream job role in mind, an entry-level position can be a humbling first step into the film industry.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about this job role. Including what to expect from this job, how to find work and how to progress from this role to another.
What is a Runner on a film set?
The tasks carried out by a film runner require little training. In short, you will be doing simple menial tasks on set that no one else wants to do. The job will alter per production, the list below describes some of the typical jobs a runner might be asked to do.
- Driving Cast And Crew To Set
- Basic Office Admin Tasks
- Making Tea And Coffee
- Blocking Off Roads
- Looking After Guests
- Cleaning The Set
Film runners can work in all departments (art department runner, accountancy department runner). On smaller film sets you will likely be assigned as a floor runner in the assistant director department.
There you will be working on set taking orders from the 1st AD. A good film set runner will be alert, enthusiastic and willing to help at all times. Use your time working in this job role to learn as much as possible about the filmmaking process.
Where To Find Work
Paid work within this job role is highly competitive. You will be applying for jobs amongst a pool of recent film graduates and career changers. As such some work experience might be required to stand out.
This could be as simple as working on student productions or helping out on a few indies. You can complete this initial work experience whilst still studying or working full-time. Online you will find film jobs sites, forums and Facebook groups where filmmakers are looking for people to help them out on low/no budgets.
Once you have that initial experience, you are more likely to get chosen for paid work. This paid work can be found on film job sites and Facebook groups, but also from adding your details to crew databases (for example, Creative England and local film councils such as the Bristol Film Office).
How To Apply To Jobs
Once you find paid work, you will likely need to apply with a CV and cover letter. If you are applying to a film runner job online (other than through a recommendation) you will need to include a CV.
A film CV is a simple one-page document with a list of your previous experience and skills. Importantly the job title you are applying for should be at the top of your CV. We previously published a detailed article on how to design your filmmaker CV.
Your email will act as a cover letter and you will attach your CV to this email in PDF format. For your cover letter keep this short, friendly and answer any questions that were asked in the job description. For example, the job description might have asked if you have similar previous experience or if you can drive a car.
Remember that all jobs in film, even entry-level jobs are highly competitive. If you didn’t get a job it doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough.
It’s likely you will have to apply to many jobs over a few weeks and even months before you get your first paid gig. The good news is once you have the experience, finding work will become increasingly easier to find.
Expected Salary Of A Film Runner
Film Runners are the lowest-paid members of a film crew. The role requires little training as such expect to be paid minimum wage (2019 UK rates £6.15 – £8.21 per hour). You might get a little more if you find work on a major production, but minimum wage is the going rate.
Subsequently if you are working in an expensive city such as London, the wage might only cover your rent and bills. This is not a job role that you will be working within for a long time.
Often people work as a film runner for a year or two before progressing to other film crew job roles. You can learn a lot from this role, but the tasks are menial and you will eventually want to progress up the career ladder.
Job Role Progression
A film runner isn’t the most exciting job in the film industry. I worked on two independent feature films and a few shorts before deciding to change role. This initial work was helpful, I learned more about the industry and made some useful contacts. Progressing from one role to another was easier after I had some basic experience behind me.
You can move from runner to any job role in the film industry. Traditionally you will choose a department to work in and then move up the career ladder (for example, camera department, art department assistant, art director, production designer).
However, you can also choose to go for a less traditional route such as making your own independent films or freelancing within any film crew job role.
Wrapping Up – Film Runner
A film runner is the film industries traditional entry-level job role. Many people choose to skip this step and start freelancing within there desired job role straight away. However, if it is film crew work you are aspiring towards then what you learn from this role could help shape your career for the better.