How To Get Started In The Film Industry

Filmmaking November 24, 2019 5 min read

So, you want to get started in the film industry. And it may seem like there’s no way to get in. But the good news is, there are films being made in just about every major city around the world all the time.

Some are major feature films, some are smaller shorts or documentaries. But there are also corporate films and videos, government films and any number of other productions.

Getting started is largely about finding your role and meeting the right people. Here are some tips for getting your start in the film industry.

Know What You Want

It may not be possible to jump into the film industry and be a director out of the gate, but if you know what you want to be doing, you can start down a path to your dream job. Consider looking for entry-level jobs like production assistant in order to get a foot in the door towards your goal.

If you want to be a key grip, try and get a job on the lighting team. Hauling equipment may not sound ideal, but getting in the door and doing a good job at the tasks you are given will help you move up when opportunities arise.

Wikipedia has an extensive, although not complete, list of film crew positions. You may not even have known that some of these exist, but some of the lower-level positions can lead to higher-level positions once you have some work under your belt.

Don’t Turn Down Experience

Sometimes there is a fine line between a valuable experience and a waste of time, but always be open to what each experience can bring you. Maybe you get a chance to work with a well-known wedding videographer. You know you don’t want to make wedding videos, but it turns out the videographer is well connected in the film industry and has years of experience working on films in the past. You can gain a lot of education and connections by working with that videographer and showing that you work hard and are eager to learn.

Just because something doesn’t appear to be ideal on the surface, doesn’t mean it can’t be valuable. On the other side of the coin, working on a film just to work on it may not be worth it either. Try and figure out who’s on the crew, who’s behind the film, and what the plans are for it before you lock yourself into a job that could be a dead end.

Meet, Meet, Meet

Maybe more than most industries, the film industry is about connections. There are many people trying to find a way in. Productions can be expensive and fast-paced, and everyone wants a solid crew that they can trust.

Meeting lots of people and gaining their trust will be a huge benefit. Even if you want to work on sound in a film, getting to know camera operators, grips, producers and the like may result in a call when you least expect it.

Go to industry meet-ups, local events, film screenings, and volunteer your time when you can to make loads of connections. You can also join industry groups like guilds where you can become a part of the larger community for your specific expertise.

Get Educated

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a career in the film industry is to get an education. Films schools are everywhere, from programs as prestigious as the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Southern California and the NYC Tisch School of the Arts program in New York, to smaller art schools and even community colleges around the world.

Different programs will offer different levels of education, but most will give you some background on what you need to succeed, a general understanding of equipment and technique, and sometimes help with job placement after school. When seeking out a film program, try to find alumni that you can talk with to see how their experience was and what they thought of the program. This can also help you down the line if you graduate and are looking for connections.

Getting a degree in film or a related subject may help you skip a few steps in the process to working your way up the ladder.

Educate Yourself

Getting an education in your desired role in the film industry is valuable. Having a degree never hurts. But once you get into the working world, what you know becomes more important than where you went to school.

Spend free time educating yourself about equipment, techniques, trends, and the industry, so when you have a chance to impress someone, you’ll know what you are doing.

Read blogs and trade publications, watch tutorials, and practice every chance you get.

Getting the opportunity to work on a film and failing to get the job done could really slow your advancement and opportunities on new projects. But stepping into a role and showing that you understand what you are doing will win you many fans on the job and get you more work in the future.

Know Where To Look

Many times there are plenty of job opportunities, you just need to know where to find them. There are national sites for hiring film crews like Mandy, and Production Hub. These sites have constantly updated lists of opportunities to look at. You can even find opportunities on sites like Craigslist, but be careful to properly vet those jobs. They aren’t always what they seem.

Look for local sites that also list opportunities like local film festival sites and industry forums. Crews are also in high demand, so listings are generally plenty. Think about other cities that are close by where you might be able to find opportunities that you can travel too as well.

Make Your Own Films

The absolute best way to show how good you are is to create your own projects and put them out to the world. By creating personal projects, you have the opportunity to take creative freedom and try new things.

If you love what you do, it will show in your work and help you make a name for yourself. Before you know it, people will be seeking you out for advice and want you to be a part of their productions.

Treat your own projects as if they were professional jobs and make them the best films you can. Not only will they help you to network and build a reputation, but they will help you get the practice you need and teach you lessons about how things go wrong and how to adjust.

It may seem pretty daunting to try and break into the film industry. It’s true that a lot of people want to be a part of it. But if you are willing to put in the work, learn everything you can, and spend time getting in front of people, you’ll be well on your way. Don’t miss out on opportunities and make the most of everyone you get to maximize your chances of moving up.