How to stand out in the film industry. and make yourself more hireable

How to Stand out in the film industry.jpg

Finding work within The film industry is competitive. Finding any job in the world these days is difficult – I applied to thirty jobs last month myself before landing my current part time job. Things will be harder for you if the job you are applying for is creative and in demand. There are jobs out there in film but likely you will be one of many (if not hundreds) of people applying. This post will look at some for the ways you can stand out in film and make yourself even more hire able.

Become seen as an expert

The best advice I can give to you is focus when it comes to your career. There are hundreds of jobs in film yet sometimes we over simplify ourselves saying that we are general ‘all round’ filmmakers or by listing more than two job roles onto our CV. 

It is not impressive to do a lot of jobs. Filmmakers who list themselves as being a director/ writer/editor  and every crew job in between find it the hardest to be hired. In feature filmmaking only one person is hired per job role. So consider  this when you are applying for work on a film crew does your CV promote the job role you are applying for? Having focused experience will make you stand out in film. 

But I want to be a general freelancer? Well you can be the all round freelance filmmaker but keep in mind that even here a focus is useful. Often freelancers will focus on a niche such as  ‘fashion, events, corporate, commercials, online’ you may find as a freelancer at the start you can make a living doing anything and everything – but it is only though focus that you become seen as an expert. 

Show off your versatility  

Depending on your job role having experience in a variety of production types and genres could help you become more employable. Consider how a DOP could look more versatile if they have commercials, features, shorts and commercial jobs on their CV. The same applies for directors and producers.

Just make sure to follow the expert rule above and don’t have your CV experience mixed up with many different job roles (camera assistant, director and editor credits on your CV for instance could look confusing and unprofessional if applying to a Production Assistant job role).  Being Focused and versatile is the sweet spot. Work within a variety of genres and production types to show how versatile you are within your job position.

Have a show reel or portfolio

It may seem obvious and not vital but consider how for some job roles a visual look at your creations could help make you stand out. An Art Director would gain greatly from an online portfolio - with photos of their work and clips from the films they have worked on. The  same for a DOP, Director, Storyboard  Artist – consider if you have visual job and how you could stand out with a showcase of your work. These days every CV will be viewed online as opposed to in person. You can html link your website on your CV or email footer.  

A clean online profile

It is possible that every person who hires will look you up online. This might be as simple as clicking onto your show reel link or they could go as far as a full Twitter or Facebook search (stalk). Make sure that anything in view that links to you in the public is non offensive to whomever could be hiring you. Its recommended online that you have a picture of your face for your profile picture on any social media or website – when your future employee sees your face they are more likely to trust and hire you. Following people you have previously worked with via social media is also an easy and non intrusive way of keeping in touch and staying in peoples minds for future work.

Named artists and show buisness

I found great success in writing down the names of famous people and well known production companies I worked with on my CV. When a future employer is looking at your CV they can see that another professional was willing to hire you. It makes you easier to employ - try listing the names of any directors, producers and actors of notable credit you have worked with onto your CV. The film industry is very closely knit and in time you will start to get known within that work circle. I have been hired before when a producer recognised the name of another producer he studied with on my CV. List the names of directors, producer, actors and anyone notable you have worked with on your CV. 

Collaboration and Networking

It would be great if every job you worked paid a good wage. When you first start out working in film likely you will help out on many unpaid independent productions. Likely when you no longer need to do this you will be glad to never work for free again. However film does run on a who know who basis, you consistently need to keep learning and meeting new people. 

I have known people to work on lower budget productions to help out friends, practice with new equipment and work a job role a few ranks above their usually place. More than once low budget work has paid off for myself and lead directly to professional paid work. Being open to collaboration and helping out friends with projects has a way of paying back and getting yourself more known within the film industry. Perhaps saying you will work on an indie production for only a few weeks in a year would be of benefit. Make sure your getting something from every low budget job your help out on. Being open to collaboration could very well pay off later.

OK so there is a list of ways you can stand out in film. Focus your job role, show versatility, have a show reel, make the most of your online presence, show off on your CV and keep networking and meeting new people in film.

These techniques are nothing revolutionary but these simple ideas work. Are you having trouble standing out in film, what are your biggest struggles right now with tackling a career in film?

Six Work routes into the Film Industry – How to get your dream film job?

Six Work Routes Into The Film Industry

I made the great mistake of believing there was only one way into the film industry.

When I first started out I thought of only one route in – what I call the ladder route. This is the traditional route into film work climbing up the crew ladder from trainee, assistant to head of department. 

As with all routes into the film industry the traditional route in has its Cons. It can be very competitive to find professional on set training. In England assistant roles for my job position for example (script supervisor) are rare to come by and so I was left working my job role on independent productions at the beginning of my career. 

I have found six routes into film and you can download my one page list below. How you create your career is up to you. And you can change route along the way and mix it up by trying out various strategy’s. Personally I am heading in an online direction with my film work. How about you what direction do you see yourself going down? What work routes have you tried?

The Six Work Routes

1. The ladder route.

The traditional route into film. This would mean starting out at the bottom in any film department and working your way up. Ideally this route will give you professional training and you will be taught the industry’s highest standards of working. The best thing about this route is that you are trained how to do the job on the job by professionals.

The hardest part with this route – the big con I'm afraid is that these paid for entry level jobs and training are very hard to come by, it will be easier if you already have contacts in the industry. However don’t lose hope apprenticeships and paid for internships at major companies do exist. Make sure you have a search online and take advantage of any entry level programs in your country. I know there are a several in England, be sure to have a search and apply – regardless of high applications you might still be chosen for professional training.

2. The Indie Route.

This will Likely be the route you will find yourself in if you can not find professional entry level jobs.  From working on Independent films you can start out straight away in your desired job role (working your way up from low to higher budget productions). For example you could start out as a freelance Director from the get go, learning on the job and avoiding the assistant roles altogether.

However this route does have its own troubles. There is no guarantee you will find enough paid work and the lack of training can lead to bad habits. Becoming an assistant and working for others has it's benefits - which is why many people start out as assistants on independent productions and work there way up to assistants on more professional films. However you personally choose to play the indie route is up to you.

3. The Company Route.

The company route guarantees that you are paid monthly, and this can be the easiest way to go from full time work to film work. The majority of jobs in film are freelance (self employed) and the transition from a full time job to self employed can take many years. There are full time contracted jobs in film however the majority of these are in development, pre-production and post production.

The more creative jobs ‘on set’ usually hire freelancers only. Most contracted jobs are office based admin work – yet still there are some contracted production crew jobs for recurring broadcast like TV, Soaps and News. To find out if there are company film jobs in your location be sure to search online before you commit to being self employed you never know there might be local jobs in film and TV being advertised on a contracted basis.

4. The Freelancer Route.

A freelancer is more likely to be a jack of all trades. These jobs may be outside of the film industry with most freelance work coming from the corporate, business and events sector. I know many filmmakers who make very good income from general freelancing but it does take you away from the creative work.

Being a freelancer for more than one job role can also make you less hire able when it comes to film set work like that on TV or features. As with all routes into film each one has its Pros and Cons. Being an all round freelancer taking on any job that comes by can be a great way of starting out but sooner or later you will need to focus your job role if film set work is the goal. 

5. The Online Route.

The internet has opened up an abundance of new job roles. YouTube is the biggest online distribution platform that I feel filmmakers have not yet to taken full advantage of. The main difference between making films for a company Vs YouTube– the instant satisfaction of making a film and placing it up for an audience to watch straight away. Many businesses are now placing video into their marketing plans leaving lots of new jobs for videographers in sectors such as business, sales and journalism.

It does take time to build up a client base to freelance online alone. YouTube has no guarantee of finding a large enough audience to make a living from its revenue. I can foresee that many new jobs for filmmakers will be showing up online over the next 5 years so don’t dismiss the internet as a route into the film industry. For all we know the filmmakers we will be talking about in the future might have their beginnings on YouTube.

6. The Start-Up Route.

Starting up your own production company and creating films under your own company name. This is great route in if you are business minded. Decide on what type of content your company will be known for instead of ‘making everything’. I know people who have made this work for corporate films, weddings, events filming, music videos and commercials. Likely you will be spending 80% of your time operating business tasks as opposed to the actual creative work.

Just make sure that whomever you start up business with you get along well with – I have known companies to fail due to  partners falling out. Treat your start up as a professional business with contracts and an office if you can afford it. Likely this route in will need some investment to set up.

I hope this has been of some help letting you know the different work routes you can take as a filmmaker. I can’t stress this enough you can change direction at anytime and I have depressed myself before by considering only on route into filmmaking. 

What route do you plan on taking into film? let me know in the comment section below.

Short Film Script Ideas

short film script ideas

Short film script ideas. This is a mini guide on how to come up with ideas for your short films. Below you can find a list of prompts & resources that might help spark ideas. It is best to not over think at this initial stage. Don’t worry about the budget or practicals of making the film. 

For now just focus on the story, you can adapt the script as you make drafts. It is best to just start writing and worry the script format later otherwise you will never get started. If you are just starting out in filmmaking focus on a short film for now and don’t dive straight into a feature length script. Slowly build yourself up to larger productions. 

Real Life Events

Probably the easiest (and most common) way is to take inspiration from things that have happened to you in your own life. You can use the themes and lessons learnt from your own life to generate a story idea. It is best not to make it obvious the story is about you and avoid mentioning peoples names, you can be more subtitle and take your ideas from for example - an emotion, a modern problem, a rumour you heard.

Media Inspiration

You can take inspiration from the world around you. It’s typical for artists to take inspiration and adapt from one another. This maybe from watching a film, listening to music, your version of an old fairy-tale or a myth. Traditionally stories are all very similar they follow the same guidelines - the romance, the horror, the tragedy all genres that follow the same codes and conventions. Following genre conventions could help you with writing your screenplay. 

Your Favourite Film

Watch your favourite film, turn off the audio and study the shots used and how that story is told through images on screen. Perhaps you can do a modern adaption of your favourite film or implement the stories themes into different locations and situations. Its OK to gain ideas this way, most ideas are not as unique and original as you might expect. 

What resources do you have to make your film? List what locations you have access too, what camera / equipment , props, actors – perhaps create a story around what you have at hand. Try to get into the habit of keeping an idea journal. This way you will never be caught short - forcing yourself to conjure up a great idea for a deadline. 

List of Ideas

  • Write about something that has brought you great pain or happiness
  • Work backwards, write a great ending first then work out how to get there
  • Find a location first, write various scenarios of what could happen there
  • Write about a topic you are passionate about, a sports game, a music genre, an art style 
  • Stick to a genre, work within the typical genre conventions - romance, action, horror, filmnoir
  • What is your favourite film and why? 
  • What is your favourite book and why? 
  • What is the most frightening thing that could happen to you? How does your main character react to this
  • Make a short film based around a feature film idea. The short film is your feature films pilot
  • Work with what you have access too. What equipment, location, props and costumes do you own?
  • Who or what is the antagonist in your story? What is going to hold your protagonist back?
  • Use the lyrics of your Favourite song as a starting point
  • Write about something you are dealing with in your life right now. What is on your mind?

idea examples

  1. Based on a true story - Joy, The Wolf on Wallstreet
  2. Influenced by other films -Star Wars, Kill Bill
  3. Based on a short film - Bottle Rocket,  Evil Dead
  4. Based on legends – Mulan, Gladiator
  5. Based on a novel – Dexter TV series, Blade Runner
  6. Influenced by Dreams – Blue Velvet, Inception
  7. Inspired by art – King Kong,  Metropolis
  8. The writers life – Taxi Driver, Being John Malkovich
  9. Based on a short story – AI, Little shop of horrors
  10. Inspired by Poetry - O brother where art thou


Would I have been friends with my parents in high school? -    Back to the Future. Writing about my time with my friends in New York - How I met your mother TV series. Spending time with my niece in the summer break – My neighbour Totoro

Resources: Any Possibility  | EM Welsh |Pinterest Story Ideas