The long toiling hours of film set work

Film set work hours.jpg

This is a post looking at the hardest part of filmmaking particularly if you have laboured on a lengthy production like TV or Film. Being over worked is a major issue in the film industry, it was the main reason why I decided to stop working on film sets.

When I worked on feature films 70-90 hour work weeks was typical. Even with so many work hours in the week I have had to skip meals before due to ‘lack of time’ and cut back hours from my sleep. A usual film industry work day in the UK would consist of 12 hours with a one hour break in the middle. However this work day might not have counted in rigging and de-rigging at the start and end of each day and In my jobs case (continuity) I had an hour of paper work after wrap. This left many film crew members working 14+ hours every work day for 6 days a week.

‘One of the problems with the movie industry is that it does seem glamorous a lot of people will say I’ll do anything at least at the beginning of their careers so it is a business where there is a lot of opportunity to rip people off’

Some of you reading this might have the perception if you cant handle the film hours then this industry is not for you. Although this may be partly true (it will never be a normal day job) I feel that the film industry has a way of burning out young workers with the knowledge there are plenty more queuing to take their place if they leave. From the handful people in my university class who tackled film crew work after graduation this is the major reason none of us are working directly in professional film production anymore. We where simple over worked and we where not prepared for it.

You will have to trust me, you can have all the enthusiasm in the world for film but a year of these long work hours will take it toil. Perhaps it was exhaustion itself that put out that spark I had in me at the start of my career. And of course there are those who accept the grind and do make a living working on film sets, some people come to enjoy putting all of their life into their career. You can get used to long work hours but you risk your health and damage relationships. On a film set over time happens daily – you just keep working until they call wrap. 

This wasn’t always the case throughout the 1950s and 60s film work played out the same as any other 8 hour work day. As the decades went by the hours increased. Now it is typical for a 12 hour work day to be planned and over time is expected. Indie film sets are especially prone to long work days as they pay by the day and not by the hour - so they squeeze as much work out of you every day to save money.

How could this be fixed? I have been on sets where it was required to get there early only to for it to be many hours before any work is carried out. There is a definite lack of organisation, there is also an individual attitude of - if your not tired you haven’t been working hard enough. Hard work should not be valued by how exhausted crew are. It seems that if you stick to the call sheet and don’t accept over time then a normal work week can be established. Over time should be rare and not part of the daily expectation.

Just because we have been doing something for a long time doesn’t not mean it is the only way of doing things – we can improve upon film employment just as other industries do. When you are organising your next production keep in mind that film crew need sleep and rest like any other worker. 

Resources - Great documentary on film crew work hours -Watch Here. Interesting article looking at work days on film sets and having a family whilst being a filmmaker - Read Here

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

How do film industry unions work?

how do film industry unions work.jpg

A Union is an organisation that fights for workers rights to ensure that they get paid a fair deal and receive all of their benefits (such as pension and healthcare). This post is here to briefly look at workers unions in the film industry.

First I want to start this post by saying I am based in the UK and unions work differently over here when compared to America. I have carried out external research on how the unions work. If I am incorrect or you wish to add your own union experience feel free to do so in the comment section. It is hard to gather information on unions online and some of my knowledge has come from word of mouth and online forums.

What is The difference between UK and USA Unions?

In the UK we don’t need to sign up to a union to work in film. We may sign up to the biggest union BECTU or a performer might sign up to Equity. However there is no obligation to be part of a union and many film industry professionals can carry out their career in the UK without the need to sign up.

This has it's Pros and Cons - whilst as it is easier to be hired on major films sets in the UK, there is no guarantee that you will be paid fairly or have all the benefits of a Hollywood film set.

The American Union system is stricter. In many ways you can not be allowed onto a major film or TV set without being a union member. These unions can call the shots on who is hired. Being part of a union ensures fair pay and that costs like health care and pensions are fully covered. Crew members in America are more secure in there workplace however becoming a member of a film union is very difficult.

How to join a film union

Getting hold of a union card in America can take years. You don’t simple join a union but there appears to be many hoops you have to jump through first – such as clocking a certain number of hours working without your union card.

This can be difficult if the only jobs around require you to have a union card to work. This seems to be a way of making sure that the film industry in Hollywood is more exclusive but also ensures that only the top qualified professionals are working on the bigger film sets. Keeping the quality high and making sure that dedicated union crew are getting first dibs on jobs.

India’s film industry Bollywood runs on unions similar to America however it can be less difficult for crew to get hold of  a union card (as far as I could research - correct me if I am wrong in the comments section). Worldwide countries differ greatly - whilst you can work in any country on independent films, getting onto major film sets might be made beneficial by being a union member.

When will you need to be part of a film union?

You are best starting out in the film industry without a union. Begin working on film sets and getting a feel of what job is right for you. When you are certain that working in the film industry is a good fit , ask people in your department what union they are part of (which can differ depending on industry sector and job role). You may find that freelancing in your country suites you well without union membership.

Entertainment Industry Unions -

American Union List | BECTU UK | Bollywood Artist Cards  

If there is anything you would like to add on your experience with unions in your country.

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

Freelance film work - How to find more work and build a client list

Freelance Film Work

Freelance film work – how to find more work and build a client list. The chances as a filmmaker you are going to be freelancing as opposed to having a full time job. The majority of jobs in film come on a freelance basis , especially the creative on set work. For example on feature films your will be hired anywhere from 1-6 months at a time and for shorts and commercials you may only be hired for one day of work per project.

As such it is safer to build up a client list as a freelance filmmaker. In time the plan is to build up a list of clients you can rely on otherwise you may have large gaps between jobs. When I worked on film sets it took a year of freelancing before I had made enough contacts from freelance film work to start getting called up with job offers.

Judging from the people I know it can take anywhere from one to five years of freelancing to find yourself at a comfortable place where you have enough film contacts. The first year of freelancing is always the hardest and there are several things that you can do during this time to make the most of of the clients you work with.

Steps to Finding more work

1. define your job role

As filmmakers a lot of us use the word filmmaker as a jack of all trades ‘I can write, direct and edit’ collective. For feature film work keep in mind that only one person is hired for every individual job role. If you advertise yourself as an all round filmmaker you will struggle to be hired on film sets.

If you wish to be a videographer you can still find a focus.  Will you be known for corporate, online, wedding, charity, documentary, music videos? Don’t get me wrong you can make  being an all round filmmaker pay the bills – but for film crew work you will need a specific job role.

2. Find your local film groups online

Filmmakers like to hire on a who knows who basis. People don’t like to place there creative projects in the hands of strangers. Which is why being recommend for a job role from word of mouth is the best way to find work in film. To get recommend for jobs enough people need to know you. The easiest way to make initial contacts is to search online for local film clubs, groups and hangouts.

To do this quickly, search on Facebook for groups in your area. Use the Facebook or Twitter search bar as you would Google and search for groups – for example – New York filmmakers , Filmmakers in Leeds. Even a professional who has moved city will have to start making those local connections again. If you find no clubs or groups in your local city likely you are searching incorrectly (Alternatively start your own film group).

3. Apply to jobs in bulk even when you are working

I recommend that you find 5 job sites online that advertise your job role and search for work every week. Especially if you are looking for freelance film work & temporary jobs. As I say after a year or so you wont need to keep applying to jobs constantly – because you’ll have made enough contacts to have a consistent flow of freelance work coming in.

When you first start out in the film industry apply to jobs in bulk. Online jobs do get a lot of applicants - yes you may be perfect for  a job but fail to get noticed because of a large volume of people applied. If you really want a job feel free to send out a reminder follow up email after the application deadline has passed. I applied for work online even when I was working - this helped me find consistent freelance work without there being a gap between jobs.

You can download my list of film job sites here

4.Network in person to meet fellow filmmakers

It will always be easier to make connections with people if you meet them in person. I went to a bunch of networking events when I first started out, I am not someone who thrives in a social setting but this is defiantly a more effective way of making people remember you.

Simply attend an event, introduce yourself and let people know what you do, perhaps hand over a business card. Let the filmmakers you meet know that you would be interested in working with them on any upcoming projects. Where do you find networking events – local film festivals,  through online groups and meet ups. Check to see if your local film council is putting on an event. If your just starting out take a short filmmaking course.

Steps to building up a client list

5.Stay in touch with crew you have worked with

When you work with people follow them on Facebook. Then you can keep in touch with little effort and you never know when they might need you for work. If your not a Facebook fan there is always the less full on Twitter or at the least keep the crew contacts details (full crew contact details found on any call sheet). You never know when you might be low on work and need to email a producer just in case they are hiring. Facebook is defiantly the easiest way to follow people online right now. 

Keep in touch with crew you work with, don’t make it difficult for people to find and hire you online.

6.Develop A positive attitude - it takes time to be trusted

Freelancing in film wont happen over night. That first year freelancing will be the most difficult. It is best not to compare yourself with others online – go at your own pace we are all at different stages in our lives.

A positive hard working attitude will pay off, if you are able to work on film sets happily then you will start to get hired more frequently – the work is hard and most people don’t last too long. Understand that you will need to apply to jobs in bulk at first because most people will hire who they know before a stranger and it will take time to build up that trust in people. 

7.Make a portfolio or show reel

Depending on your job role, consider how having a show reel or portfolio of work can help you stand out. For visual jobs having not only a CV with a list of credits but example of previous work will help. An art department assistant might have photographs from the sets they have worked on and examples of their drawing and craft skills. For freelance film work a director may have a show reel on their website as well as links to full projects. For any job role consider how an online portfolio, with a link to your CV for download and examples of previous projects could help persuade someone to hire you.

Steps Breakdown 

  • Make sure your job role is not ‘I can do everything’

  • Find local like minded filmmakers through online groups

  • Find job sites that advertise work in your area

  • Consider networking face to face

  • Stay in touch with the crew and cast you work with

  • Consider making a portfolio or show reel

Are you struggling with finding more work as a filmmaker? Let me know what the problem is below and I will answer all I can

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

How to work Internationally as a filmmaker

Working Internationally As A Filmmaker.

In this century a lot of us dream of working whilst travelling. We don’t wish to be restricted to working in one country, we never signed up to have a typical career and surely by now there is a way to work and travel across countries legally.  I have tried my best to do the research into how to freelance creatively abroad. This post will be looking at how this applies to filmmakers.

A small disclaimer – boarder / passport rules change every year. What you need to travel from one country to another varies so always ask your passport office what paper work you need before you travel abroad.

Internet based freelancing

The majority of people who travel and work make their money online. Bloggers, writers, photographers, online business owners. The work can be carried out in different countries. When you are paid through PayPal or via an invoice tax may be taken out either from the online transaction or from the client you worked for. You also pay tax to your home country as you would from being self employed.

To travel freely all you need is a passport and health insurance. You can get travel Visas for most countries that last anywhere from 3-9 months per country.

How can this apply to filmmakers: You can not work for a company whilst travelling on a basic travel Visa. The only way you could work on film sets is for free, or on Indie productions. If you set up your own company online you could travel and freelance - this of course is easier for a graphic designer than for a filmmaker. You could freelance travel as a filmmaker if you are clever and work remotely. 

A Freelance Visa

If you wish to freelance abroad - working for a company that is based in that country you will need a Visa and likely a sponsor. This means that a company based in the country you wish to work within sponsors you. 

This is difficult, countries are becoming more strict with there freelancing rules. You can apply for jobs online and conduct interviews via Skype. It is likely a company would only go through the efforts of sponsoring you if are applying for a full time position or if your skills are in high demand. 

For example it would be pointless for a company to hire a freelance camera operator from abroad as many local people could do that job. However if that camera operator had special skills (underwater photography for example) a company might go to the efforts to hire them.

How can this apply to filmmakers: If you wish to work for a company abroad, or several companies as a freelancer - it is likely these days you will need a sponsor. This makes the dream of working as a freelancer for multiple production companies very difficult. If you are an actor, model or crew member who is being brought in to work on a project the company hiring you will become your sponsor. 

Example - To work in the UK you will need a Tier 5 creative Visa. You will be required to have a sponsor before applying.

Example - To work in the USA you will need a Temporary Work Visa and you will need a sponsor before applying.

Other countries are less strict. For instance it will be easier a UK citizen to get a visa in Germany as opposed to the USA. How strict a Visa you need will vary greatly country to country.


Work for an international company. A huge company like Netflix for example has offices all over the world. Gain employment with them at your home country and in time ask for a transfer. 

Hope you get hired abroad. I have worked in the UAE before on a film set. A Dubai company sorted out the Visas and brought the British crew over. It is likely as a filmmaker you will be hired to work abroad for some projects.

Become a student. Students are able to study abroad and there may be chance to sort out work Visas whilst studying. You can find out a little more info on this here. Unfortunately this does not apply to the USA.

Have exceptional skill. Famous people, PHD holders, Licensed medical professionals and those with a lot of money in their bank accounts will find obtaining Visas easier. ;)

Resources. Transferwise . CreativeBoom | Freelancing . USembassy . 10 jobs to work remotely

Remember the rules per country change regularly. If you wish to work abroad talk to your passport office and ask what requirements you need to gain for a Visa.  If you have family living in that country it will be easier for you to work there, you may also need to bring health records from your doctor with you as you travel. Unfortunately work and travel for a filmmaker is not very flexible - alternatively consider how you can turn your job role into an online remote business. 

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

Filmmaking for beginners. How to start out in the film industry

Filmmaking for beginners

Filmmaking for beginners just how do you start out in the film industry. When I first started out in film it was all about the filmmaking. There was no thought about making money or forging a career. It was like many of us start out - innocent and in it just for the fun. It would be good to get that fun back again, have little care what camera I am using or if the story even makes sense, just head out make a short film and edit it together within a week.

If you are just starting out you may be overwhelmed by the amount of choices and advice out there  on how to begin as a filmmaker. Here is some basic advice for those starting out, if you have any advice to share feel free leave some in the comment box below.

New to filmmaking? Look at these following statements on filmmaking for beginners and see if one of them matches your situation -

I have no experience at all

If you have zero filmmaking experience pick up a camera, any camera and make a film. What camera you use to shoot on doesn’t matter, likely you first few films will not be very good and that is OK. You will learn the basics of filmmaking simply from practice. When you feel confident shoot a short film, music video, documentary – anything that tells a story. Make a script, create a plan, shoot and edit it – now you’re a filmmaker. From making your own no budget films you learn the very basics of filmmaking.  

I have never worked on a film set before

If you want to work in film, despite the job role you want it would be useful to get some first hand on set experience. Every city in the world will have a film production happening right now and your best bet is to search online job sites and see if any productions are advertising for help. If you have zero experience you can fix that by being a helping hand on a low budget film set.

It is unlikely you will get paid for your first few gigs but this experience will allow you to find out if you like film work, lets you see how a film set operates as well as making you a handful of contacts in the industry. If you get along with anyone on set be sure to swap numbers or follow each other on social media – you never know who you will met in film and how they will help you within your future career.

I have no idea what job I want to do in film

That’s fine, there are a lot of choose from – and notjust the obvious jobs of Producer, Director, and Cinematographer. First find work experience on a film set (or even an office job in film any job will do) and try out a mix of job roles. I wrote a post with a checklist download on how to find your job niche here. Likely if you keep working in film you will find that you gravitate towards one department.  I never did want to be a Script supervisor it was just the job I found myself being hired to do indie films sets. Often the job chooses you.

I have just finished education

Perhaps you have just finished college, university or film school and you are wondering just what to do with your life. If it is definitely a career in film you are looking for and you know what job you want then you need to figure out a plan of attack on how you will get that job. 

Yes, it wont be easy or obvious for some roles on how to get the job you want. You best move Is to find work in any job role to begin with be that entry level Production Assistant or something else. There is no right or wrong way to begin. Make sure you get lots of work experience and explore all job opportunities in film. It is going to take a few years to feel secure with this type of work. 

I hope these answers above help with some of the most asked questions for film making for beginners.

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

What to do if no one supports your dream?

what if no one supports your dream

OK so you have a great idea, a dream, something that you really want to do ...

You decide to tell someone about that dream - be that a parent, a friend, a stranger ...

And this what is likely to happen

They passively put you down, they let you know that the dream you have is going to be too difficult to achieve. They let you know that dreams cost money and that competition is too high. That you are not rich enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough to make that dream happen.

Why do people quickly choose not to support your dream?

I feel that the most common reason is not out of spite , but that people just don’t understand what it is you are trying to do. They don’t understand how a dream can be placed into reality. If you tell people that you want to be a film director at some point someone will tell you that you can’t.  

They can only see the struggle

Why can't you do it = You don’t have money, It will be hard, you are not talented enough

Why you can do it = You can make money, you have time, you can learn and you will get better

It is the fear of the unknown, people try to project their own life onto you – they could not do it so how could you. My life would have gone a lot smoother had I chosen a more routine job a 9-5. Yet still I am glad I choose to pursue my dream because if I had not , then I would deeply regret not trying.

Hey, if in 10 years time I decide that filmmaking is not for me , then so be it, I can change course in my life and I would have no regrets and that is fine – it's fine to change your mind, I give you permission to do that.

But regret could eat away at you for ever.

People simple do not understand how you can make your dream happen. How your dream can make money, likely they are not trying to put you down but trying to help. Because they want you to have a good life, and to them a good life means stability within a traditionally respectful job.

Most people do not have wild dreams or passions, it is a shame but count yourself lucky if you do, it givespurpose to your life, it gives you a drive. If it wasn’t for my dream I would not have met so many different people or travelled as much as I have. As difficult as it can be - high ambition can give back too.

Every now and then I get an email from a student asking me for the permission to go follow theirdreams. I feel that if you really want to do something, nothing can stop you anyway, do what makes you happy, don’t regret and if you change you mind along the way you can change course.

Then there are those few who put you down through jealousy. People get jealous when they hear you are doing something that they believe they can't do (yet secretly wish they could).

You tell anyone in the world you plan on becoming a rock star you will be told it’s too hard or impossible - but still there are rock stars out there and they all began with a dream.

In all do what makes you happy, surround yourself with positive people and don’t regret.  

Resources -

Video –  Derek Halpern  Social Triggers Video – Casey Neistat Videos - Do what you can't and Follow your dreams

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms