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 -
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.