How To work in film when you have a full time job

how to work in film

Most of us filmmakers dream about turning our passion into our full time job. This post will look at the steps you can take to start taking your ambitions in film seriously.

Although I do come with a heed of warning, when you turn something you love into a job it becomes just that – a job. All work comes with its highs and lows, sometimes it is best to enjoy doing something as a hobby. Filmmaking for profit will not always be fun. Turning filmmaking into a career will mean getting up every day and working on your goal.

This post has been especially written for those who have day jobs. Some of you may be in a lucky position to not have to make money in film right now and you can spend longer practicing and gaining work experience. I have written a 10 step cheat sheet along with this post, a list of questions to keep in mind if you are turning making a turning filmmaking into your job – The take the leap cheat sheet

Step #1 Become Focused

Make sure you fully understand what job you want in film. You can stick to your full time job for now if you have not worked this one out yet. There are hundreds of jobs in film, not just the popular ones, analyse your skills, what job would be a good fit for you. Research your job position, understand the work requirements for each role, do you need to begin at an entry level position, how much do people get paid for this position? Do your research.

I wrote a detailed post on finding your niche here.

Step #2 Become Educated

So you have an idea of what job you want in the film industry. You have reached this job role and its requirements. Are you feeling confident enough to apply for this job? If not don’t worry, keep your day job for now and educate yourself in your spare time. Education can begin by reading articles online, books and YouTube Videos. Do what you can for free, then consider training. Some Film schools do short online courses, there may also be apprenticeships within your desired job role that are paid.

Find out what the best film school is near you here

Step #3 Get Experienced

Try to place 5 credits onto your CV within the same job role. Student films can count for this too when it comes to entry level positions. If you find you lack real life experience within your job role consider working on low budget films or making your own productions for practice.

No doubt that this step will take time and be hard to navigate through a full time job. I shot a short film when I worked full time last year, this was hard work and I don’t wish to do this again (If I did I would book a week or two off work). Have a search online to see what type of local productions are happening and gain some experience within your focused job role.

Step #4 Find your route

Decide upon a work route in film. There are plenty to choose from, and you can change your mind and mix jobs up as you go along. Do you need a full time job, or will you be working freelance and be self employed. Will you climb the ladder in film or will you start your own company. Set yourself a realistic goal ‘I want to become self employed in 2 years time’ ‘I want a full time job in film by new year’. It has taken me 18 months to leave my full time job and blog full time as I had no knowledge or experience, I started from scratch.

Step #5 What’s stopping you

Understand what it is exactly that is stopping you from taking the leap. Is it money, location, family pressure. Work out exactly how much money you need to bring in every month (can you get out of debt, will you need a location change). A few years ago I was struggling with money, as well as having no idea what to do with my career. I feel a lot more confident with a plan, a route a goal in mind. Working on this goal every day made me feel less depressed and more in control with my life. It is better to have a plan and change it than to have no plan at all.

Career Planning examples: 

  • Camera Assistant – Apply for paid apprenticeships, gain 5 credits of experience on local low budget film sets, take part in a camera masterclass, Create a freelancing CV, Save up 3 months of bills before leaving job, Plan to be working freelance in 1 years time.

  • Film Director – Carry on with independent film research, gain 3 credits work experience as an assistant director, take part in a short directing course, complete own short film, Create a director's show reel, Meet local producers, Attend networking meetings, Plan to have a feature film project going in 2 years time.

  • Assistant Producer – Create an AP CV, Gain 3 credits working on low budget productions, create business cards, take part in 2 television networking events, Get out of debt, Save up for location move, apply for full time jobs in new chosen location.

Film work is a cycle of experience, education and analysing your current skills. I don’t believe any job is out of reach for anyone, of course you have to be realistic based on your current needs to plan out that next step. I feel that if you are doing something, moving forwards in some way, you are not doing anything wrong.