How to transition from beginner to full time filmmaker

how to full time filmmaker

Your likely at the phase in your life right now where you are trying to transition from one road to the next. This maybe that you are about to graduate or take a new direction in your career.

This transition phrase will be the hardest, a trip to the unknown. You may know what your dream job role is going to be but how you get there is still uncertain. 

I have talked about work routes into film and how it is OK to change direction. Below are some tips on how to go through with that transition stage from beginner to forging a filmmaking career. (Also I have just opened the PRE-SALE of my online course – which you can check out here. This course is designed to help you get through this difficult transition stage with 1-1 support.)

Stage One – Your Job Role

Some of you reading this will know what job role you want in the film industry. For others you know you want to make films but don't have a specific role in mind. It's OK to not have specific job role at the beginning. Gain any entry level job in film and learn about the different positions whilst working and gaining experience. Being humble in this way can be to your advantage, taking on a less competitive position or simple helping out on an independent film set gains you experience, knowledge and contacts in the industry.

Stage Two – Work Experience

You will need work experience before being paid to make films. This experience will differ depending on the role. For example if you want to work within a  below-the-line position aim for at least 5 film credits on your CV within this job role. Five film credits will give you enough experience and contacts for you to begin pursuing a full-time career in this position.

If an above-the-line job role is the goal (Screenwriter. Director. Producer. DOP. Lead Actor) then there is no limit to the experience you need. For example 5 screenwriting credits – be this in independent film, short films, student films might be enough experience to get your first paid gig – but the destination that is professional screenwriter will still be a great distance ahead. In short the more competitive the job role you want the more experience you need but for now aim for 5 credits to begin with.

Stage Three – Make a Plan

Your plans will always change but still a basic plan is better than no plan at all. A plan helps us with achieving our goals, it keeps us on track and lets us know when we are doubting ourselves that we are heading in the right direction.  Don't start with a lengthy five year plan for now try to plan out the year ahead.  This could be - gain those first five film credits, or finish my first screenplay. It could be to start getting paid for filmmaking – perhaps just a side gig for now to work around your full time job.  It is hard to be realistic when your dreams are so big but your plans need to be achievable. When you achieve your small goals you will feel motivated to keep going forwards. What changes will you make this year to work towards your career goals?

Stage Four – The transition stage

This transition stage to being a filmmaker - it’s the stage between being a student and having a career. It’s the stage between working a full time 9-5 to freelancing on film sets. The first few years is going to be hard and you will need to make some life changes. Start saving up money if you can, freelance work is not the same as monthly pay, cut back on your expenses, can you afford to go part time at work? How about dedicating Saturdays to working towards your goals.

You can do it alone or do it with me and others

My Course is designed to help you during that transition stage from beginner to professional filmmaker. I have been there myself and can offer 1-1 support and training on how to find and apply to jobs. The course comes with a private Facebook group in which I will be doing Facebook Live Videos answering questions and teaching more on how to look for work.

Whatever country you are working within, whatever job role you are looking for my course is designed to fit around an international audience. I can provide 1-1 support and help with each individuals needs. Check out the course here which is only open for a limited time every year.

If you are struggling within the transition stage of becoming a filmmaker, let me know below and I will help all I can.

Where to find film jobs – plus a list of places to find work

Where to look for film jobs

We have to let go of the idea that creative work is found in some magical way. Like any other job you need to pursue the work and continuously apply to jobs. Finding work is hard work especially if you go down the freelancer route you have to make a habit out of looking for work and keeping an eye out for future projects.

The best way to find work is through word of mouth – being recommended from someone else for a job almost guarantees you the position. It is better to be recommend for a job than to apply faceless through an online job application like everyone else. However when you first start out you won’t know enough people to recommend you for work. This post will look at some of the techniques to finding work especially at the beginning stage when you have little contacts in the industry.

Download a list of film industry job sites below

Online job sites

This is the easiest way to find work in film. In time you will not need to look online for work as you will begin to build up enough contacts in film to start getting called up with job offers (this takes 1-3 years). I recommend you look for 5 job sites that advertise film work in your chosen location. Seeing as freelance work can be advertised for only a few days at a time you will need to keep a look out on these job sites every week.

Yes it will take a bit of effort but expect to get one out of every ten jobs you apply for. The biggest international film job sites are Mandy (one month free when signing up no card details needed), Stage 32 and Entertainment Careers. Make sure to have a through search online for job sites within your country / local area.

TIP - Find 5 job sites that advertise work in your job role and within your location

Online Communities  

Find out where the filmmakers near you hang out online. Facebook is the easiest way of searching for an online community (I done a Facebook live on how to do this here).

Simply search and find the online groups for filmmakers like you. For example type London Filmmakers into the Facebook search bar. These groups may hold events, meet-ups or even advertise paid work themselves. To be a successful freelance filmmaker you need to meet a lot of people and becoming known within your local film circle is the first step. There is no such thing as having too many film contacts. This also works for other social media such as Twitter and YouTube. Find fellow filmmakers, follow, support and network.

TIP – Find and join your local filmmaker groups on Facebook and introduce yourself

Networking events

Stepping outside and meeting people is not for everyone (I did not enjoy network meetings myself but I know others have had  a lot of fun and success with them). Meeting someone in person other than online is going to make them more likely to want to work with you. Making contacts in film is necessary and it is unlikely people will hire you from watching a show reel alone.

Network meetings for filmmakers do happen. These may be held at local film festivals, cinemas or be organised by unions, government funded art events or production companies. I know a handful of these are held in my small city so likely they will be happening in your area just be sure to search and find them.

TIP – Search for organisations that put on filmmaker networking events near you

Ask your contacts

Sometimes all you need to do is ask. Ask the contacts you have already made in film - this may be a past class mate or co-worker. Is there anyone you follow on social media that you know is working in the film industry? Film sets always need helping hands, people who are willing to do the driving, lifting and cleaning up.

When you are working on set even in independent production ask crew if there are any upcoming projects that you could get involved on (Simple asking people on set what  projects they are working on next has got me paid work a couple of times before).  This is the cycle of film work begin by looking for jobs online and keep putting yourself out there, soon a handful of people will have you in mind for working on their next production.

If you have any advice to share on how to make contacts and find work in film let me and others know below. Also if you know of any good film job sites outside of UK and America it would be great to share them here -

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. I have created an easy to read one page checklist of this post you can download below - 

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 business

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 it 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.