In this post I will be looking at how to get a job in the film industry with no experience.
How to apply to film crew and entry level work even when you have no paid film credits or a film degree.
This advice comes from my own experience of working in and around the film industry for 10 years. I hope this post helps generate direction for struggling filmmakers.
The Catch 22
This is a catch that applies not just to the film industry but to all jobs. Often ‘these day’s 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 with experience already.
This is 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 through that first door.
Your current experience
You might already have more experience than you are giving yourself credit for. Student film credits can be included on a CV list these under a section title such as ‘Student Experience’. Consider any low budget work you may have done already, all of this can be included on your CV.
For example: If you directed short films and are applying for a job as a Runner. 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 past experience to show your interest and enthusiasm for film - just be humble towards the entry level job you are applying for.
I also wrote an E-book with more CV examples and details on how to find and apply to film jobs - Find out more here
Previous work can also be included on your CV too. Full-time and Part-time jobs can be included as experience ( consider how your skills can be transferred over to a film job).
a Humble approach
If you are applying for entry level work this will mean making coffee for the rest of the crew. If you are new to the industry and especially if you are a recent graduate you are likely going to be given the jobs no one else wants to do.
The entry level jobs in film are Runner, Production Assistant and Trainee. These jobs often 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.
When applying to any job read through the job requirements and tailor you CV and Cover letter to match
Another approach to the film industry is to freelance within your preferred job role from the get go. Even with this route you won’t be getting the most creative jobs right away. e.g. a freelance cameraman might be shooting conferences or doing night club photography at first. A freelance director might be shooting corporate videos or working with student filmmakers.
You might like - How I found work on 10 feature film sets
Most filmmakers start out on low budget sets before working there way onto higher budgeted productions. This is a debated issue online, just how much ‘free’ experience do you need to gain paid film work. For entry level work such as Runner just one credit is enough - place this onto your CV and start to apply to paid runner jobs (I wouldn’t recommend anyone works more than 1-2 jobs for free in this role as it is uncreative but it will give you a basic idea of how a set works).
For head of department jobs you will likely do a handful or more of free work before anyone pays you. To gain paid work you will need to create a portfolio of work before people will be willing to hire you. It will also take many years before you build up enough contacts to find consistent work.
Often filmmakers do a mix of professional work and freelancing within there desired job role. How you approach the film industry is up to you but it can easily take 10 years to establish a career in film.
For Example: An aspiring Art Director might do paid work as a art department assistant but take on unpaid art directing jobs to build up their own portfolio of work.
Be sure to Network
You will need to build up a large network of fellow filmmakers and potential clients. Networking can be as simple as joining your local Film making Facebook groups and assisting on local projects. Following crew members you work with on social media is an easy non intrusive way of keeping in touch. Filmmakers tend to lack confidence in self marketing. Doing the legwork such as creating a business website, business cards and attending networking events can put you ahead of most filmmakers.
The trick to finding film work is having focus. You will not get hired as a filmmaker - this is too general. You will however get hired if you choose a department or specific job role. Tailor your CV, Work experience and job application around this specific job role.
For Example if you want to find work as a Production Assistant avoid labelling your self as a Director / Writer / Editor on your CV - keep everything relevant.
You might like - A List of places to find Film Networking Events
If nothing works
If all of your efforts do not pay off consider changing direction entirely. There could be many reasons that you are struggling to gain an entry level job in film. This could be from being based in a bad location, not focusing your job role, 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.
You might like - Six work routes into the Film Industry
Gaining higher 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.
There is no right of wrong way to navigated 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 to try and if things don’t go to plan change direction.
I hope this post will help filmmakers get out of their current rut. If you have any questions or ideas to add leave a comment in the section below.