I made the great mistake of believing there was only one way into the film industry.
When I first started out I thought of only one route in – what I call the ladder route. This is the traditional route into film work climbing up the crew ladder from trainee, assistant to head of department.
As with all routes into the film industry the traditional route in has its Cons. It can be very competitive to find professional on set training. In England assistant roles for my job position for example (script supervisor) are rare to come by and so I was left working my job role on independent productions at the beginning of my career.
I have found six routes into film and you can download my one page list below. How you create your career is up to you. And you can change route along the way and mix it up by trying out various strategy’s. Personally I am heading in an online direction with my film work. How about you what direction do you see yourself going down? What work routes have you tried?
The Six Work Routes
1. The ladder route.
The traditional route into film. This would mean starting out at the bottom in any film department and working your way up. Ideally this route will give you professional training and you will be taught the industry’s highest standards of working. The best thing about this route is that you are trained how to do the job on the job by professionals.
The hardest part with this route – the big con I'm afraid is that these paid for entry level jobs and training are very hard to come by, it will be easier if you already have contacts in the industry. However don’t lose hope apprenticeships and paid for internships at major companies do exist. Make sure you have a search online and take advantage of any entry level programs in your country. I know there are a several in England, be sure to have a search and apply – regardless of high applications you might still be chosen for professional training.
2. The Indie Route.
This will Likely be the route you will find yourself in if you can not find professional entry level jobs. From working on Independent films you can start out straight away in your desired job role (working your way up from low to higher budget productions). For example you could start out as a freelance Director from the get go, learning on the job and avoiding the assistant roles altogether.
However this route does have its own troubles. There is no guarantee you will find enough paid work and the lack of training can lead to bad habits. Becoming an assistant and working for others has it's benefits - which is why many people start out as assistants on independent productions and work there way up to assistants on more professional films. However you personally choose to play the indie route is up to you.
3. The Company Route.
The company route guarantees that you are paid monthly, and this can be the easiest way to go from full time work to film work. The majority of jobs in film are freelance (self employed) and the transition from a full time job to self employed can take many years. There are full time contracted jobs in film however the majority of these are in development, pre-production and post production.
The more creative jobs ‘on set’ usually hire freelancers only. Most contracted jobs are office based admin work – yet still there are some contracted production crew jobs for recurring broadcast like TV, Soaps and News. To find out if there are company film jobs in your location be sure to search online before you commit to being self employed you never know there might be local jobs in film and TV being advertised on a contracted basis.
4. The Freelancer Route.
A freelancer is more likely to be a jack of all trades. These jobs may be outside of the film industry with most freelance work coming from the corporate, business and events sector. I know many filmmakers who make very good income from general freelancing but it does take you away from the creative work.
Being a freelancer for more than one job role can also make you less hire able when it comes to film set work like that on TV or features. As with all routes into film each one has its Pros and Cons. Being an all round freelancer taking on any job that comes by can be a great way of starting out but sooner or later you will need to focus your job role if film set work is the goal.
5. The Online Route.
The internet has opened up an abundance of new job roles. YouTube is the biggest online distribution platform that I feel filmmakers have not yet to taken full advantage of. The main difference between making films for a company Vs YouTube– the instant satisfaction of making a film and placing it up for an audience to watch straight away. Many businesses are now placing video into their marketing plans leaving lots of new jobs for videographers in sectors such as business, sales and journalism.
It does take time to build up a client base to freelance online alone. YouTube has no guarantee of finding a large enough audience to make a living from its revenue. I can foresee that many new jobs for filmmakers will be showing up online over the next 5 years so don’t dismiss the internet as a route into the film industry. For all we know the filmmakers we will be talking about in the future might have their beginnings on YouTube.
6. The Start-Up Route.
Starting up your own production company and creating films under your own company name. This is great route in if you are business minded. Decide on what type of content your company will be known for instead of ‘making everything’. I know people who have made this work for corporate films, weddings, events filming, music videos and commercials. Likely you will be spending 80% of your time operating business tasks as opposed to the actual creative work.
Just make sure that whomever you start up business with you get along well with – I have known companies to fail due to partners falling out. Treat your start up as a professional business with contracts and an office if you can afford it. Likely this route in will need some investment to set up.
I hope this has been of some help letting you know the different work routes you can take as a filmmaker. I can’t stress this enough you can change direction at anytime and I have depressed myself before by considering only on route into filmmaking.
What route do you plan on taking into film? let me know in the comment section below.