It’s hard to take the first step, just how do you get a job in the film industry with no experience. You will most likely have to do some freebies at first to gain experience and credits for your CV but once you have those first handful of credits you should be able to start finding paid work.
1. Decide what job you want
It might seem obvious, but you need to know what road you are going down. Read anywhere and you will be told that being a runner is the place to start and the entry level job to learn how film sets work. This is true, it might be a good idea to be a runner on one or two film sets at first. This is how I started out, you probably won’t be paid, and will be making tea and coffee for everyone. It also helps tons if you can drive and have a car if you are looking for runner work.
You will learn how film sets work by being a runner. However there is a lot of competition for for entry level jobs so you might want to consider the many other departments on offer. A camera trainee maybe? An art department assistant? Maybe on set costume assistant. Editing assistant? DIT? There are lots of entry level jobs out there, being runner is not the only option
To find work try looking on the popular film job site Mandy.com. Also see if there are film clubs or networking events in your area (try a search on facebook and twitter as well). Most universities these days have film production students, ask to help out on a student production. It is OK to put student films on your CV as work experience.
2. Make your CV say what job you want
I have written a detailed article on CV writing for filmmakers here. Handing in a CV with your part time supermarket job on the top of it isn’t going to work. Put all of your film related experience at the top of your CV. At the top of your CV put the job title you are after at the very top. If you are looking for a camera trainee position you could put – was a camera operator on a student film last year, knowledge of changing lenses (try to keep your CV relevant to the job you are after).
The idea is that when a producer is looking through 50 odd CVs yours will stand out and say you want that job and can be trusted. I also have a 1-1 Filmmaker CV service you can read more on here.
3. Apply, apply, apply
Expect to get one job out of every ten jobs you apply for. This will change when you get more experience. Apply for jobs every day. You may want to approach production companies directly. It is often the line producer that hires people for jobs not the producer.
Also if you want to be a camera trainee it will be the DOP that will hire you – so contact local DOPs asking to help out on their next project, even better find a film in pre-production, find out who the DOP is on that production and ask to work on it as a trainee. Same with any department often it will be the head of that department who would hire you. Another good place to find work is Shooting People.
4. Be willing to travel
If you live in London, New York, LA or Toronto you might be able to find frequent work staying in your city, if not you probably will need to travel for work. I
For entry level jobs producers will want crew to be local to where ever the production is taking place (purely to save money). Options if you don’t live in London – 1. You make friends with filmmakers you can stay with in major cities 2. You only apply for jobs that provide accommodation 3. You be savvy.
Being savvy is me saying to a company, I have a friend I can stay with (looks up cheap hotels and sees if I can afford it on the wage), last minute – actually I’ll need a place to stay after all. A film with a budget will be able to provide accommodation (or at least a couch to sleep on). Sometimes you need to push for a job if it’s the only option.
5. Take the risk
To work on a feature film you will be expected to work 12 hours a day for a month or two straight. So having a part time job won’t work. Take the risk and go freelance. When that dream entry level job comes up be prepared to quit your job, pack a suitcase and go for it.
Once you have say 5 credits of working in one position on even a bunch of low budget productions you can start to work your way up the film set ladder. I started off by working on student productions and I ended working on film sets with million pound budgets. I will tell you film work is not for everyone but if you want to work within the film industry the experience you get is invaluable.
Links to lovely useful websites with advice for first time film job seekers on how to get your first job in film – My list 20 places to find work in film, My First Job in film (UK) Creative Tool Kit (UK) Creative SkillSet (UK) Creative England (UK). Good places to search for work online (WorldWide), Shooting People, Talent Circle,