This post is a detailed guide looking at how to be a Runner on a film set. A film production Runner is the most junior job role on a film set. It likely when you start out in the film industry that this will be your first job.
You will learn about the role of a production runner, how to find production runner jobs and what to expect within this job role.
What is a Runner on a film set?
On any film set, big or small, there will be several people working under the job title of Runner. On a small film set Runners will likely work under the Assistant Director department however on larger sets there will be Runners working for every department.
(e.g. Art Department Runner, Accounting Department Runner)
Interview with a TV Production Runner – Read Here
The title ‘Runner’ as far as research can tell me comes from the term Running Crew and with the nature of the job, there will likely be a lot of running about to get tasks done. Often a Runner does not stay in one place during the shooting day. A Runner will be required to help out with a range tasks and these tasks can change day by day.
Usually these are simple tasks that require little training.
(Examples of Runner tasks are – helping buy food and snacks for the crew, stopping cars going down a road whilst filming is taking place, driving the cast to set from their hotel)
The job role of a Runner requires no previous experience. However seeing as the industry is competitive you will be applying to jobs against people who do have experience already under their belt. On major film sets experience before hand will be needed - as such unpaid work experience might be needed to gain paid work as a Runner.
Job expectations and Salary
The job of a production Runner is not easy. You will be the first person on set and last to leave, which will mean 12+ hour work days. On larger film sets your accommodation might be paid for but often producers will ask for local Runners to save money.
Film and TV Production Runners make minimum wage. Depending on the country you are based in it’s likely you will be paid the standard minimum wage and no more. You can make a single person living from the Runner job role but the work is often not secure and lowly paid. A Runner is the most junior job role on a film set often people work this job role for a few years gaining industry insight, experience and contacts before moving up to another role.
Click To Tweet - Working as a Runner gives you a look at the many different departments in the film industry, you will be able to see how these departments interacted together and perhaps feel drawn towards one #filmmaking
Is this Role right for me?
If you have no work experience on a film set or only student / low budget experience working as a Runner on a professional TV or Film set will open up your eyes to the reality of the film industry. Professional sets are run differently to student productions and this job role could give you insight into those differences. Working as a Runner gives you a look at the many different departments in the film industry, you will be able to see how these departments interacted together and perhaps feel drawn towards one.
Working this job role is not necessary if you know what department you want to work at within film. For example if you know for sure you want to work within the camera department you can work as a Camera Trainee or Camera Runner right form the beginning. However this initial Runner experience might help, first by giving you professional experience to place on your CV and second some contacts within film to get you on that first step of the career ladder.
What you will need to begin
To apply to film jobs you may be asked for a CV (unless you already have contacts in film, for a professional job a producer will always ask for a CV). This CV need only be simple, one page long with the job title ‘Runner’ on the top and a list of experience – be this student experience or regular day job experience. Just make sure your job title is Runner and you explain either by a short personal statement or in the cover letter that you are looking to start a film career.
I have created an E-Book ‘Find Work In Film’ with Film CV and Cover Letter Examples - More Info Here
You will be likely be filming outside so warm / comfy clothes and shoes are needed. If your filming in a cold country I would recommend investing in a warm good quality coat as you may be standing outside all day and night.
Where to find these jobs
There are a few places to find production runner jobs –
Online job sites
Film Council websites
Production company’s career pages
Previously made industry contacts
I have made a list of online job sites here. Search and find film jobs sites that advertise work in your location. Make sure to check these every few days as jobs tend to appear and go fast.
Search for Facebook groups that advertise work locally. For example if you are from Chicago type in Chicago Filmmakers into the Facebook search bar and join all of the groups that are specially for filmmakers in your location. These groups sometimes have paid jobs advertised, at the least you can talk to local filmmakers and ask them directly where are they finding work. Depending on your country / region you might have a film council that has a crew glossary. In the UK we have Creative England. These film councils can contact you if a film crew is hiring in your area. There may be networking meetings for filmmakers in your area, at these you may meet a handful of filmmakers who need help on upcoming productions. I wrote a post on how to find networking meetings here.
Some Production company’s also have their own careers pages. For example Working Title who occasional advertise Internships. To find these jobs you will have to do a search and bookmark film production companies that have career pages (checking weekly for openings). Lastly keep in contact with the filmmakers you work with, the easiest way to do this is through social media.
How to apply to these jobs
You will need to able to apply to Runner jobs in bulk at first. A lot of people apply to this job position as it requires no previous experience. You will find as you become more specialised that finding work will become easier. When you apply to jobs write a short cover letter and attach your CV to the email via a PDF document. I wrote a detailed post on film job cover letters here. I advise to keep applying to jobs even when you are working. This way you won’t miss out on a good project or have a gap of unemployment between jobs.
The Runner job role is the first most junior job role in the film industry. It won’t pay you more than minimum wage, most people if not everyone will step up from his role to another in time. A typical job role to progress to from this role would be a higher paid Production Assistant job role or a Third Assistant Director. If you know what job role you are aiming towards and what department you wish to work within you can begin to work as an assistant to that department.
The good thing about the Runner job is that no direction after this role is a bad move, from this role you can able to any trainee / assistant position in a specific department (be that the AD department, Costume, Grip whatever role you feel is a right move for you). Alternatively you may find that the film industry was not a good fit for you, I would say that more then half of all production Runners do not continue working in the film industry. This industry is tough and not a good fit for everyone. Working within the Runner role allows you to see if film is a good career for yourself, it is a job role requiring no previous experience that can act as a strong first move.
I hope this guide helps you understand how to be a runner on a film set. If you want to chat about this topic you can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms