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How can I get a job in the film industry?

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

There are no hard and fast rules about breaking into the film industry. It's extremely hard and very competitive. Many many many people dream of working in the movies, but fall by the wayside in their attempts because it's impossible to break in. The film industry lives off the concept of "who you know" and quite frankly, that is the only way you're really going to get anywhere. If you don't know anyone in the industry, go out and meet them. Spielberg spent day after day down on the Universal lot, bugging them until they gave him a job. One of the beautiful things about the film industry is that once you're inside, it's lot easier to meet the people that can make your dream happen.

Also, don't aim for the top straight away. So you want to work for ILM in special effects (reality check time) you and about a billion other people. The thing that is over-looked these days is that there are a multitude of other companies that do the same work as ILM, which just don't have the profile. Try them first, particularly the small, budding ones, as they are probably more likely to give you a job. And once you're in the field that you want, it's up to you to prove that you've got so much talent that ILM will come running to YOU.

Going to film school is another great way to learn the basics of the trade (and find out whether you have the armoured skin and stick-with-it-ness to make it in this, at times, demoralising occupation). However, don't expect to get a job straight out of college like your buddy who did law. Most film school graduates end up being very overqualified (on paper) for their entry level jobs as PAs, coffee makers, assistants to assistants etc. One of the biggest problems facing many film school grads is that they often have little or no experience in using current industry standard equipment. This is due to the fact that all but the most prestigious film schools are poor faculties which cannot afford to keep up with the rapidly changing technology of the industry (in my course few years ago we used cameras and editing equipment that was almost 30 years old - they still get the job done but they area far cry from the precision machines that today's industry is using).

There is not many ways of getting around this problem, so expect to encounter new and fascinating equipment when you get your first job. Nevertheless, film school can be a valuable and worthwhile experience for giving you a grounding in the industry, as well as the ability to think about what you are putting on screen.

Finally, if all else fails just get out there and do it. Robert Rodriguez got his break from scraping together a couple of grand, borrowing a camera, some actors and a few other things and just doing it. It doesn't really what camera you use when you're starting out - it's more about what you're learning through doing it. Use your smart phone, or pick up a cheap second-hand DSLR or camcorder on eBay. It may not allow you to make the next $200 million blockbuster, but it will enable you to get something done.

Regardless of what happens, your first film will probably turn out crap. And it is more than likely that the next couple will also look forward to being buried deep in the cupboard. None-the-less, when you are starting out it is better to have two or three shit films behind you, than nothing at all. And you will have learnt a hell of a lot at the same time.

If you are serious about working in the US film industry, you should read Breaking into Film, by Kenna McHugh. This excellent book provides a wealth of information on planning and executing your film career. Although it is very Hollywood-specific, the basic principles are extremely sound and can be related to any film industry around the world. You can buy this book now from store.

If you are in the UK, you must visit Skillset. A joint training venture between many top British industry players (including the BBC, Channel 4 and PACT), Skillset provides both (free) guidance and training for people wishing to persue careers in film, broadcast and multimedia. Information here will probably be of greatest benefit to UK wanna-bes, but the underlying principles should relate to any country.

Also in the UK, PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) provide some limited career information at their website. For those interested in both traditional and new media careers, you should visit
the incredibly useful Skills Net site, which not only offers industry overviews, job descriptions, and a training guide, but also offers some suggested routes for pursuing that job of your dreams!

If you already have some skills, then you might find the following sites useful to start finding work: (India)

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 11-Nov-2008


Older Comments

Carlos  |  11-Jun-2009
I think the short answer to this good question is...indie films. They do not require you to have a lot of experience but some is needed, also their budgets are not huge like most people think. In the end in order to get a successful job in the film industry you must 1) have an educational background in films and 2) know someone who is closely related to indie films and ask for a job. Hard to believe is that simple.