How to become a filmmaker changing your career path to work in the film industry

 
filmmaking as a career  how to become a filmmaker
 

I have been told wrongly before that people should know what they want to do with there life by the age of 14. That you should not change your career. I knew that I wanted to work in the film industry from the age of 15, but I have changed my career goals several times since then.

Goals change often, as does ambition. If you are someone who has been working outside of film for some years (or decades) and want to change your career then this post is for you. 

I have also created a freelance job list to download below. This is a list of film departments along with freelance jobs that can be done for each skill. Just to get the ideas brewing on how you can realistically make money in this industry. Working on film sets is not the only work out. Extra Tips for filmmaking as a career - 

Click to Tweet: Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for doing it.

What to expect

The Film industry is unlike any other. As with all creative jobs, film is highly competitive, there is no clear route in and this is why most people find their journey into film a grind. It may take years to find the contacts and clients to have regular paid work. The Film industry work is mostly freelance however there are full time permanent jobs out there. First Consider if you would rather be attached to a company or self employed.

Most people in film mix up film production work with other freelance gigs . For example a budding camera operator may  shoot wedding videos at first to make extra money. 

Education and Training

There is no need for formal education in film, a degree won't get you work as much as a good showreel , CV and experience will. Some people enjoy learning inside of a classroom. Consider taking a short course at your local film school to learn the basics of the job you wish to do. A degree at a good film school can also gain you contacts in the film industry. See my article – How to pick a course in film production

Some countries/states will provide basic training for local people interested in film. Check out what is on offer at your regional film office. In the UK we have Creative England. Find your regional production office online to see what they have to offer. You will find that most major cities will have an active film industry.

You can also train yourself to do some types of work. Screenwriting can be self studied, making short films can teach you the basics of film production. Consider working on local low budget films for experience. How to become a filmmaker - Free work maybe needed at the start of your career, see this as a chance to learn on the job. 

Focus

At first you may not know what specific role you want in the film industry. Working on low budget films will give you a chance to see all of the job roles. In order to make money you need to focus your skills and consider how you are going to make money. When film is a hobby we can do all of the job roles ourselves but in order to make money you need to focus.

Work on feature films alone may not be enough straight away, it can take a while to get known in the film industry and to start getting those well paid gigs. For instance you will need to be able to show talent and experience if you wish to be a television director but you may choose to work up the ladder in television starting out as a director's assistant. 

Portfolio and showreel

For some job roles a portfolio may be needed to show what work you can do. This may be the case for a makeup artist or for a prop designer. A DOP will need a video showreel of previous work. A director may have a website with links to short films or promos they have made to show off their skills.

Sometimes you may only be hired for work when you can show you can do the job. This may mean working within another job role for a few years to make money whilst you get good at the job you want to do. job. The film industry can be a credits collecting game, you need film credits on your CV to show that you can do your job before people start paying you.

Making contacts

In time you will make contacts in the film industry. And you will find that you start to meet the same people again and again, the film industry is rather small everyone knows one another.

Keep in touch with the people you meet on set, there may be a film industry networking event in your local region. The only way to start making contacts in film is to throw yourself into the industry and start working, even if your first job is making tea and coffee for the cast and crew, this experience will give you insight into how the film industry works. You may like to read - 5 ways to find contacts in the film industry

Making Money

Have a search to see what film industry jobs are being advertised locally. You will find that the majority of jobs will be based in major cities. Consider what type of work you would like to do in the film industry - office work, production work, TV, Feature Films. There are many departments and jobs in film most of which you may not know of yet.

There may be office jobs taking on at production companies which could be the fastest way in, alternatively freelance what skills you have already, simple have a search online to see what type of work out there right now. Creative Skillset is a great site with details on all film industry job roles. Filmmaking as a career -

Steps to take

  1. Do you know what job you want in film? - Research this job, find out what skills are required from you to do this job role. 
  2. Watch someone else do this job - The reality of film work is very different to what you might expect try to gain experience on a film set, even a low budget one to see how a professional does this job. 
  3. What do you still need before you can get this job yourself? - Experience, contacts, an education, talent, a portfolio? Write a list of what you need to have gained and what skills you still need to learn.
  4. How will you make money? Do you need to get an entry level position to begin with or will you freelance your skills from the start. Have a deep online search into what jobs are out there in your film department. 

Are you changing your career over to film? What dream job would you like to do?

Any questions ask below -

How to get into the movie industry with tips on How to find work on major film sets.

 
how to get into the movie industry
 

How to get into the movie industry with Four Tips for working on major feature film productions. If you haven’t already download my FREE detailed E-book How to find work in the Film Industry with case studies. 

It is the dream of many not only to work on film sets but to work on major feature film productions the type you can go and see in the cinema once complete. The problem with this is that the majority of films being made never make it to the cinema. The majority of films being made are just not that good!

It is more likely in film that you are going to be working on Indie films or B-movies than on Hollywood feature films. At least that is at first but once you have the credits and contacts working on major films does happen and then it's the snowball effect, work on one and you're more likely to work on another and another. 

Download my FREE E-book with advice on how to get into the movie industry with case studies on how others have found work in film - 

Before working on major film sets here are four big tips to keep in mind,  how to get into the movie industry –

1. You must Ruthlessly Define your job role

Have you defined your job role enough? If you are looking for film work on a major film productions what job would you do? For instance if you are after a job as a camera operator and have no major feature film experience, likely you will have to work as an assistant first, or build up a portfolio of indie films to show that you can do the job and work with the same equipment. The film industry is very competitive so unless you fit the role exactly you will not be hired.

2. Your CV needs to reflect that job role

Second you need to make your CV reflects the job role you are applying for. Handing over a CV that says director & editor and then applying for a runner job role making tea and coffee won't get you the job. If you applying for a runner role your CV has to say runner. So even if you wish to be a director in the future create a runner CV to apply for runner positions

3. You  do need to know some people in the industry

Third you need to make film crew contacts. The film industry is run on a who knows who basis. Major film work won't always advertise online. People hire who they know first. So you will have to do what it takes to get known within the film industry for doing what you do.

This doesn’t mean you have to work for free or work for years on indie productions. All it means is that you need to work on a few films to get those initial contacts. Everyone rubs shoulders with each other in film, you need to take those first few steps, work on any feature film production you can and you will start to meet the contacts in the industry.

Click to Tweet: Filmmaker Tip: Highlight the names of well known production companies, producers and actors on your CV in bold

4. It will take time

Forth it will take time, but not forever, think a year or two to make those initial contacts before you start to find work on major feature films. Defining your job role and CV will play a big part in finding paid film work. If this is the career you're after a few years of training and work experience is nothing compared to the may decades of work that may be ahead of you.

How to get into the movie industry?

Start to create a plan of attack. One way to do this is to work backwards. Imagine what your dream job role is and how you will get there. Also remember that any career change takes time. We have the tendency to put targets in our head – married, kids, career all sorted by age 30 is a typical one This is not realistic and things take time to complete.

If you want to work on as part of the crew on major film productions you need to start throwing yourself into the film industry. Before working on major feature films you may find yourself working on B-movie type indie productions at first. For major roles such as Director, DOP, Producer this is going to take much longer, many decades even of toiling it through the industry. 

 film crew job seeker Checklist

  1. Have you defined your job role (don’t expect to be hired as a director straight away, there are many other jobs within a film crew to start off within)
  2. Make your CV say this is your job role If you applying to be a runner your CV should say runner
  3. Try to get 5 credits onto your filmmaker CV saying this is the job role that you can do and are after, to begin with include student and indie film productions 
  4. Apply to jobs ruthlessly (expect only to get 1 out of 10 you apply for) competition is high so it will take time
  5. Keep in contact with the people you work with, network online and off in your industry, make it easy for you to find you online. Follow people you work with on social media platforms like Twitter. 

It will take time, years even, but it is worth it if this is the long term career you are looking for in life. Have you ever worked on a major feature film production? how did you get the job, any advice for others please share in the comments section below - 

How to write a film production cover letter plus cover letter examples to download

 
How to write a film production cover letter plus cover letter samples to download | filmmaker | filmmaking
 

How to write a film production cover letter with a list of cover letter samples to download. When applying for a ‘normal’ full time job you may focus on writing a lengthy cover letter. For film and freelance work a short straight to the point cover letter is best.

Most resumes are lengthy, detailing every job you have done, a long personal description, a list of tasks you done per job along with reasons for why you left each position. This is because most normal jobs are jobs for life whilst film and creative work, is often temporary and may only last for a few months at a time. 

The process of hiring production staff particular for creative work, TV and feature films is speedy. This is why clear, simple CVs are best and the same applies to cover letters, why take up your employer's time reading over your Cover letter when you can get the point across instantly. 

As with filmmaker resumes your Cover letter should be able to be glanced over by the person hiring you and the facts should stand out straight away.

Click to Tweet: Filmmaker CVs & Cover letters should be short and clear, don’t make it difficult for people to hire you

My Cover Letters

For myself I wrote short unique paragraphs for every cover letter I sent off, explaining why I can do the job, that I was available during production time and a call to action 'Check out my CV attached' , 'Watch my showreel' or 'Would you like to meet up and talk about the project later this week'. My cover letters were similar for every job I applied for and I could slightly alter it for every job application. This is what a typical film production cover letter of mine was like:

Simple Cover letter example:

Hello, My name is Amy Clarke and I am a freelance Script Supervisor from Liverpool. I would love to work on your production, I have experience working on many feature films. I am free all of June, July and August. Please find my CV attached. Thank you, Amy

You can download a list of several different film production cover letter examples below

It's worth mentioning that film jobs are usually passed on through word of mouth in a friendly way. Overly formal cover letters can come across as awkward and naïve.  Forget what you were told to do in school, CVs and cover letters for the film industry are best written short, clear and friendly. Think of your CV as an introduction plus short quick facts saying that you have experience and can do the job. Forget about the expression dear sir or madam, instead use a simple Hi, Hello, or the name of the person you are writing to. Keep it friendly not formal. 

For Film Production crew work

Most of you will be applying for film production work as part of a film crew. For this type of work Short and simple is best, Introduce yourself, explain how you can do the job and finish with a call to action’ find my CV attached’ ‘Check out my showreel’, 'Let's meetup and discuss the project further'. 

For Full time agency work

Your cover letter might be longer when you are applying for more formal positions, if it is a full time permanent job it is likely the employer will spend more time making the decision on who to hire. For full time jobs there may be several interviews and a longer hiring process. A more formal cover letter would be good here, explain in more detail why you are fit for the job.

A note on Interviews

Likely the interview for a production job (if given an interview at all) will be short and friendly, dress as you would for the job position, there is no need for a spark to wear a full suit to an interview. For permanent jobs and office work smart casual is a good idea, ie. it's OK to put colour into a film job outfit, think how you would dress for that job role itself. How you dress would be different if applying for a position on children's tv than with a news programme. 

I have had one Skype interview before, yes it was awkward and luckily for me the director interviewing wasn't too sure how to do this himself, I just smiled, dressed nicely and explained who I was. Although 1-1 will always be easier, online interviews can happen sometimes these days.  

Writing Your own Cover Letter

The cover letter examples I have given can be copied and edited for your own use. You could also write your own film production cover letter and use the same template again and again. Cover Letter template help -

  • Introduction - Explain who you are and what job you are applying for. Short sentences are best. 
  • Reason - Explain why you are fit for the job. What experience and skills you have to get the work done.
  • Double Reason - Not necessary but an extra push to show you are the best. I own this camera, I have worked on shows like this before, I am free all of next month.
  • Call to Action - End the cover letter with a next step for the person reading it. 'See my CV attached' 'Check out my showreel' 'Let's meetup to discuss the project further'. 

How do you write your Cover letters? Do you use short or long copy when applying to film production jobs, feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below.

An updated list of film production job sites & advice on how to get jobs in the entertainment industry

 
Production jobs , jobs in the entertainment industry | filmmaking
 

Jobs in the Entertainment Industry, A list of up to date job sites (last updated Spring 2017) and advice on how to apply for film production jobs online. Download the updated list below.

My experience applying to film jobs 

It was 2008 when I first started to look for work in the film industry. The great recession had just sprang and normal jobs were hard to come by. The film industry however was booming, more films were made between 2008-2012 than at any other time in history and it may stay the highest point of film production for a long time. Filmmakers of this world where going through the Digital revolution, the DSLR craze and jumping onto the Crowdfunding bandwagon. It felt that everyone back then was making a film.

Online Film job sites and forums were being widely used to promote film work, for the first time finding production work online became the answer. The majority of the job sites back then were free to use. The majority of work however was low paid, unprofessional, gung-ho cowboy shoots. First time producers thought it would be easy to make films, the anyone can do it attitude, digital cameras knocked the production cost in half. Naive young directors carried with them copies of Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew - all you need is a camera and a story mindset. Make the film and it will sell, long live Sundance dreams. 

I worked on a lot of these shoots whilst at university, I was encouraged to stay in education during the recession. I didn't care much for study my thought being experiance would triumph over formal education (there is some truth there). 

You might like my post – The top film schools in the world and how to pick a film education course

The low budget films back then all failed to make it big. There was more competition, it didn’t matter if you made an OK film, there was still only the same number of slots left at the top. It was harder to get your film noticed, don't take it personally if your film didn't get noticed back then, those years weren't the easiest for standing out. 

A lesson learnt from the start of this century, more media doesn’t mean a better world. Hopefully if you are starting out now the film productions you work on will be carried out with a more professional practice. A lot of film job sites are not free anymore but there is less competition. 



Use social media to your advantage. Get good with Google search – bookmark careers sections on production company websites and check back every month, search specifically for job roles, Make it easy for people to find you and see your showreel online. Keep in touch with crew you work with.

How to find film production jobs online

You must be persistent. Expect to get 1 out of every 10 jobs you apply for when you are first starting out. I have created a free email course How to find work in the Film Industry with more detailed advice on how to find film work. 

Make sure your CV is in the correct format, ideally have some experience credits already listed (you can place student films onto your CV). Find at least 5 websites that advertise jobs in your location, find production companies that you would like to work with, follow them on social media, bookmark their career pages. Set yourself a goal, such as apply for 4 jobs a week.  

The main reasons people struggle to find film work

  • They have not defined there job role. You are not a one man film crew, what is your job going to be on set, head towards where your skills lie.
  • They do not have any relevant experience. Try to list 5 credits onto your CV within that one specific job role. If you can not you may need to do some free/student work
  • They are not prepared to travel. Any major cities in the world will have film work. Being open for travel will bring you more work in the long run. 
  • They are not applying to enough jobs. You're going to have to search and apply every week for work at first, until you have made contacts in this industry you need to keep putting yourself out there.

It won't be easy to land your first few production jobs, but work comes easy after that. Get yourself into the habit of applying every week, every day and in time your work will be consistent.

I hope this has been helpful. Are there any film production job sites that you would recommend? How do you find film jobs yourself feel free to share below.