Looking for a job in the film industry? Here is how to launch your film career
By Sophia Lin
Once hailed as one of the most notoriously difficult industries out there, finding a job in the film industry is now easier than ever. With the influx of content thanks to streaming services, job opportunities in film and TV are undoubtedly on the rise. But sometimes, starting out — that first leap of faith — might just be the hardest. Especially for those without prior film experience or contacts in the industry, it may seem all the more daunting. But with the proper preparation, it can certainly be done — and perhaps even without a hitch. From examining newer strategies like joining Facebook groups to outlining well-known ones like networking, this list will arm you with the information needed to get your foot in the door.
Even if your ambitions seem out of reach, rest assured that there are many paths to your final destination. And should one route not work out, there are always many, many others. So, with that in mind, here are 9 tried and true strategies to get a job in the film industry.
1. Use Your Personal Network
Networking and connections are inevitably a big part of the film industry — film is all about teamwork, after all. As a result, a lot of jobs end up being advertised through word of mouth, and people often look to their personal network to fill the positions they need.
In order to successfully leverage your personal network to find a job, you must first build one — the stronger and more extensive, the better. This can come from some of the strategies discussed later, such as working on sets and reaching out to local offices. Film school is also an effective way to form the initial network you need. As you get to know more and more people, you’ll start hearing about jobs from them. Or, better yet, you can reach out to ask them what they’re working on and if they have any job openings.
2. Join Online Groups and Forums
Thanks to technology and social media, joining groups online is a more recent yet lesser-known method to get a job in the film industry. For crew calls or networking with local filmmakers, there’s an abundance of film Facebook groups and online forums where you might find exactly what you’re looking for.
Luckily, finding these groups are just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Typing keywords into Facebook or any other platform’s search bar will find groups near you, and from there, you can join the discussion right away. From a quick Google search, you can also find several websites listing some of the best groups and forums to join, and depending on your area of focus, you can pick and choose what’s right for you.
We all have to start somewhere, and a good deal of filmmakers start with volunteering. It’s typical to begin helping out on short films and low-budget sets, and then working your way up to larger productions. An extra pair of hands is typically welcome almost anywhere, and volunteering is a smart, quick way to get hands-on experience. Although any work experience is beneficial, volunteering within the position you hope to eventually be paid for is usually the best way to go.
Reach out online, or if there’s a shoot nearby, you can ask around on set to see if any departments offer volunteering opportunities. Oftentimes, you’ll be put to work promptly, sometimes even the day of. Not only will these unpaid work experience credits look good on your CV, but all your volunteering will double as a chance to establish yourself and build your network.
4. Make Your Own Films
A slightly different approach, making your own films gives you the chance to take charge and do what you want to do without climbing that ladder up. And while it may seem riskier right off the bat, it’s an investment that can really pay off down the line. The films you make can be used as portfolio pieces. As well, a strong body of work is often one of the deciding factors that enables you to get a job in the film industry.
On the other hand, the relevant experience might just drive you into a career as an independent producer. Those who decide on this path work within the indie film scene, with a good many running independent production companies. Some also decide to pivot into the studio system and end up working on big-budget films.
These days, most studios and networks, from major film studios like Paramount to independent companies like A24, offer internships. They often accept applications for several terms each year and boast internship programs. These programs span a diverse range of fields, from creative development to casting. The wide majority of these internships are paid, allowing you to learn, gain experience, and earn money all at once.
It’s a great way, especially for film students, to start working and break into the industry. It builds a network outside of your regular bubble of people, potentially acting as a pathway to higher-level jobs. And sometimes, with good performance, internships can lead to full-time jobs at the same company.
6. Reach Out Locally
With many people competing for large film companies, it is easy to overlook the impact of reaching out locally. Local film production and media companies, can all be great places to gain experience and find job opportunities. You will gain more well-rounded and practical production training from smaller companies. Getting an encompassing look at every aspect of filmmaking can be more productive than pigeon-holing you in just one.
This also extends to local film festivals, screenings, and expos. Working or volunteering at these nearby events give you a chance to better understand the festival circuit, expand your horizons, and make new connections in the industry. For many working filmmakers, film festivals were their entry point, the critical factor that led them to get a job in the film industry.
7. Get Experience On Set
If your end goal is to work on a film set, it is critical to get as much experience as possible at every point of your journey. While you’re in school, search out student film sets to work on. Or on the weekends, research the shoots happening around your city that you can help out on. Working as a production assistant on local shoots is a great way to get experience on set.
For those without existing contacts in the industry, one method would be to utilize the aforementioned online and social media groups to look for opportunities. Once you’ve worked a bit on sets, you’ll also have built a network of people. And your name may very well come up when they’ve moved on to a new project with open positions.
8. Use Online Job Sites
Platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed advertise their fair share of entry-level film jobs, and some sites have their own film-related job boards. Not to mention, there are also job search engines specifically designed for those looking to get a job in the film industry, like Talent Manager and The Unit List.
One key perk of this strategy is the ability to search for the specific roles you’re interested in. Your search will draw up a list of thorough job descriptions. Online job sites also serve as an effective way to discover new positions that you wouldn’t have taken on otherwise. All in all, especially if you’re starting out without a network or much experience, this is one proven way to get hired.
9. Gain Non-Film Work Experience
Though it may seem fairly counterintuitive, gaining work experience outside of film can have its benefits. For one, any of the general skills you learn in the workplace will come in handy on set. From managing assignments and delivering under pressure, these are important skills. In fact, these transferable skills are often ideal for entry-level jobs in the industry. You will gain the administrative skills that will further support your production assistant position in the future.
On the flip side, this can also translate to office jobs within the film industry. These are the people working behind the scenes; positions like entertainment accountants, business managers, and web developers. Though not typically associated with the film industry, these are just as viable career paths that you might find yourself interested in — either for the long haul or as another route to get to your desired occupation.