This article will breakdown how to get a job in the film industry without experience. This is a highly competitive industry, one where people tend to hire who they know first.
If you have been struggling to get your first job in this industry there are a few techniques listed below that perhaps you have yet to try. I also have a video that might help, which lists 6 easy ways to find entry-level jobs - watch here.
This is a catch that applies not just to the film industry but to all jobs. Often ‘these days’ even entry-level jobs require you to have some experience beforehand. After all, why would a company hire you with no experience if they can hire someone who already knows how to do the job.
This has unfortunately always been a problem with careers and work. Unless you know someone to help you get a job you are going to struggle to get your foot the door. To fix this problem many people work for free on independent productions before moving up to paid work. However, you might be opposed to free labour or might not be able to financially work for low pay.
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#1. Your current experience
You might already be more qualified than you are giving yourself credit for. Student film credits can be included on a CV/Resume list these under a section such as ‘Student Experience’ or ‘ Personal Projects’. Having some relevant experience on your CV is better than none. However, make sure not to label yourself your job title as a director if you are applying for a production assistant job position.
For example, if you directed short films and are applying for a job as a PA. You can place those credits onto your CV but be clear on the CV and Cover Letter what job role you are applying for. You can use this experience to show your interest and enthusiasm for filmmaking – just be humble towards the entry-level job you are applying for.
How To Design a film Resume without experience - Read Here
None film-related jobs can also be included. Consider how your skills from these jobs can be transferred over to the film job you are applying for. For example, if you worked in an office your admin skills are easily transferable over to a production office assistant job role.
I also have an E-book with more CV examples and details on how to find and apply to film jobs - Find out more here.
#2. A Humble Approach
New film entrants tend to over evaluate their talents. Perhaps it is the fault of film education or the media's representation of the film industry but this is a common problem.
There are two ways to approach this industry - first is the traditional way of applying to an entry-level job role and working your way up the industry career ladder. Second is to work your desired job role straight away, but this will mean working on independents and for lower pay to begin with.
If you are applying for entry-level work this will mean making tea and coffee for the rest of the crew. If you are new to the industry and especially if you are a recent graduate you are not going to be given any responsibility on a professional production.
The entry-level jobs in film are Runner (in the USA this is called Production Assistant) and Trainee. These jobs typically pay a minimum wage and are uncreative. This is one route into the film industry - start at the bottom of the career ladder and work your way up.
If you don’t want to start at the bottom you can take the second approach. This will mean freelancing for lower pay on independents and low-budget productions for several years before being trusted to work on professional film sets.
For example, a freelance director might start out shooting corporate videos for income whilst creating their own films on the side.
You can also navigate this industry with both approaches but this will mean creating two separate CV’s (don’t send your director CV when applying for a PA job role). When applying to any job read through the job requirements and tailor your CV/Resume and Cover letter to match.
How I found work on 10 feature film sets - Read Here
#3. Low-Budget Volunteering
Most filmmakers start on low budget sets before working there way onto higher budgeted productions. Whether or not filmmakers should work for free (even at the start of their careers) is a debated topic online. If you don’t want to work for free you simply don’t have to. But understand that gaining a few low-budget credits will help.
This volunteer free work could be done whilst still maintaining another job (many filmmakers and creatives have part-time flexible jobs when starting). You should also volunteer to work within the position you aim to be paid for.
For example, if you want to be a paid production assistant then work on local low-budget films as a production assistant. Alternatively, you can work in a higher position on low-budgets but only if you are working within the same department. For example, working as an art director on low-budgets and as an art department assistant on professional productions.
When you have 1-5 work experience credits, place these onto your CV and start applying for paid work. Working on low-budgets is also a great way to meet more people in the film industry. And contacts are what you need to start being recommended for higher productions.
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#4. Alternative Work Routes
If all of your efforts do not pay off consider changing direction entirely. There could be many reasons for this such as your location, too much competition and lack of experience.
Although it is frowned upon to ever do unpaid work, a little experience gained does help when applying to a competitive industry such as film. Make sure that you are financially safe. And this may mean getting a job outside of film to help pay the bills. I have had part-time jobs before to help during this work transition.
“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
There are many routes into film, working entry-level jobs is just one. There are full-time jobs in film advertised on major sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn. You can also freelance within a specific job role, excluding entry-level work altogether and learning how to do a job on the job.
Gaining additional education might also help. Film school is a widely debated topic, you can get into the film industry without a degree. However, some people find that an education at a top-rated film school can open doors (many film schools also have short courses and workshops that are more affordable).
There is no right or wrong way to navigate the film industry. You need to find out what works for you, things will differ per person based on their experience, their location, what type of job they are looking for. All you can do is try and if things don’t go to plan change direction.
Six work routes into the Film Industry - Read Here
Make sure you have a CV/Resume advertising your experience, include all relevant experience
Be realistic with the job role you are applying for
Gain some work experience credits to prove that you can do the job. 1-5 initial credits are recommended
Don’t be afraid to change job and work route, there is a lot about this industry and economical factors that we have no control over. Keep learning and moving forwards.
I hope this post will help filmmakers get out of their current rut. If you have any questions let me know in the comments on contact me via social media - My Facebook Page