This article will look at the work requirements you need to work internationally as a filmmaker.
If you are interested in working film jobs abroad – or have been California dreaming then this article is for you.
As much as I would like to write an inspiring ‘ you can do it’ article, the reality is that finding permission to work in another country is not always possible.
Working film jobs abroad like any other job requires you to have a full working visa. Unless you are making travel videos for YouTube or working cash in hand – working professionally as a filmmaker will require permission.
Below are some steps you can follow before moving abroad followed by work visa advice.
Step 1- Choose A Location
There are many reasons why you might want to seek film work abroad. Perhaps there is not enough work in your own country, maybe you want a new experience or simply want to work in Hollywood.
Firstly you need to decide what country and city are best for you and your work. Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Mumbai, Paris and London all have large film industries. However smaller cities will have film work and be less expensive and less competitive.
Research what productions are being filmed in the location you wish to relocate too. Join Facebook groups and forums talk to filmmakers who are currently working in that location.
You will also need to speak the local language. At least to a conversational standard.
Step 2 - Visit Your Passport Office
Visa working rules differ per country, per citizenship, per year. The rules are constantly changing, if someone you know was able to get a visa in the past this doesn’t mean the same rules apply to you. You can find out exactly what you need to work in a foreign country just by asking at your local passport office. Your government might also have online advice.
Depending on your current citizenship, the immigration rules and requirements will differ. For example, if you’re an EU resident you can currently live and work in any EU country (this might change in later 2020 so be sure to double-check).
Members of commonwealth countries might also find it easier to re-locate. If you are an extremely highly educated person (doctorates or Ph.D. holders) or have a lot of money in your account these rules can also be more lenient.
Step 3 - Take A Research Trip
If your goal is to live in a location for a number of years visit the location before moving. You will be able to do this on a standard holiday visa (which can range from 3-6 months).
Of course, a research trip will be expensive but you can’t be certain if you will like a location unless you go there. As mentioned it will be helpful to understand the local language. Perhaps take a language class whilst visiting and you could also attend any networking events, festivals or help out on a local independent or student film.
How to Get a Work Visa
1- International Companies
Large international companies (BBC, NBC, Netflix) might be able to transfer their staff to other offices around the world. These jobs, however, will not be film production jobs. If you look at large company websites you will be able to see what type of careers they offer (admin, marketing, broadcast engineer and managerial work).
Film production jobs are freelance so locally based filmmakers will be hired for work. However, if you are looking for a full-time film or TV job then a company transfer might be an option.
2 - Sponsorship’s
If the country you plan to work within has strict immigration rules (USA) you might need an official sponsorship to work there. Large companies can sponsor individuals and help them get work visas.
However, in order for a company to become your sponsor, you will need to be a very desirable employee. In other words, the job has to be a perfect match that no one else applying locally can do. This rules out all entry-level work and the majority of below-the-line crew jobs. It’s unlikely that a company will sponsor you unless you are exceptional and how a proven history of doing the job.
3 - Agencies
If you are a freelancer then agencies might be the best option. Film crew agencies represent talented filmmakers in a range of job roles. Some agencies work internationally and will recommend crew for film production jobs abroad. This is especially true for stage and event crew staff. To join an agency you will need to have proven professional experience within your job role. This is how many actors, screenwriters and directors work abroad.
4 - Study Abroad
If you study abroad you won’t be able to work professionally. However, you will be able to live abroad, learn the local language and perhaps make contacts. There is no guarantee that you will be able to find work in the country you studied within. This might be an option for a young, entry-level filmmaker.
If you are not fussed about what job you work abroad there are student camps (Camp America) and summer jobs that you can apply for without a work visa. If you are studying abroad full time you might need the advice of an immigration lawyer. Unfortunately, many international film internships require you to have a work visa before applying.
5- Establish Yourself Elsewhere
This is how most filmmakers work abroad, they establish themselves in their own country first before making the move. This how famous international actors, directors and producers work in LA and around the world.
You might dream of working in Hollywood, but LA is expensive and ultra-competitive, it can take 10 years to get a union card. In other words, the grass is not always greener. Building up your talent and career in another location might be the best option. The country you establish yourself in does not be your current location either.
Resources – Working abroad as a screenwriter – BBC Writer Room Advice | What actors should know before moving to Hollywood – BBC America |How to get a green card in the US – Balance Careers |Working abroad summer camps - BUNAC
I hope this article has been helpful. Are you a filmmaker ex-pat, please share your advice below -