How to write a film production cover letter with a list of cover letter samples to download. This post comes with many examples for job applying and a template you can use to create your own cover letter.Read More
Your film production resume - 10 steps to help you design your Film Resume, This post also comes with a free resume template for filmmakers. Does your film production resume pass these ten steps…Read More
How to make money making creative films. 5 new ideas for the 21st century on how to make money as a filmmaker. This post is a look at how someone could make a living from creative films in this centuryRead More
How to get into the movie industry with Four Tips for working on major feature film productions. If you haven’t already download my FREE detailed E-book How to find work in the Film Industry with case studies.
It is the dream of many not only to work on film sets but to work on major feature film productions the type you can go and see in the cinema once complete. The problem with this is that the majority of films being made never make it to the cinema. The majority of films being made are just not that good!
It is more likely in film that you are going to be working on Indie films or B-movies than on Hollywood feature films. At least that is at first but once you have the credits and contacts working on major films does happen and then it's the snowball effect, work on one and you're more likely to work on another and another.
Download my FREE E-book with advice on how to get into the movie industry with case studies on how others have found work in film -
Before working on major film sets here are four big tips to keep in mind, how to get into the movie industry –
1. You must Ruthlessly Define your job role
Have you defined your job role enough? If you are looking for film work on a major film productions what job would you do? For instance if you are after a job as a camera operator and have no major feature film experience, likely you will have to work as an assistant first, or build up a portfolio of indie films to show that you can do the job and work with the same equipment. The film industry is very competitive so unless you fit the role exactly you will not be hired.
2. Your CV needs to reflect that job role
Second you need to make your CV reflects the job role you are applying for. Handing over a CV that says director & editor and then applying for a runner job role making tea and coffee won't get you the job. If you applying for a runner role your CV has to say runner. So even if you wish to be a director in the future create a runner CV to apply for runner positions
3. You do need to know some people in the industry
Third you need to make film crew contacts. The film industry is run on a who knows who basis. Major film work won't always advertise online. People hire who they know first. So you will have to do what it takes to get known within the film industry for doing what you do.
This doesn’t mean you have to work for free or work for years on indie productions. All it means is that you need to work on a few films to get those initial contacts. Everyone rubs shoulders with each other in film, you need to take those first few steps, work on any feature film production you can and you will start to meet the contacts in the industry.
Click to Tweet: Filmmaker Tip: Highlight the names of well known production companies, producers and actors on your CV in bold
4. It will take time
Forth it will take time, but not forever, think a year or two to make those initial contacts before you start to find work on major feature films. Defining your job role and CV will play a big part in finding paid film work. If this is the career you're after a few years of training and work experience is nothing compared to the may decades of work that may be ahead of you.
How to get into the movie industry?
Start to create a plan of attack. One way to do this is to work backwards. Imagine what your dream job role is and how you will get there. Also remember that any career change takes time. We have the tendency to put targets in our head – married, kids, career all sorted by age 30 is a typical one This is not realistic and things take time to complete.
If you want to work on as part of the crew on major film productions you need to start throwing yourself into the film industry. Before working on major feature films you may find yourself working on B-movie type indie productions at first. For major roles such as Director, DOP, Producer this is going to take much longer, many decades even of toiling it through the industry.
film crew job seeker Checklist
Have you defined your job role (don’t expect to be hired as a director straight away, there are many other jobs within a film crew to start off within)
Make your CV say this is your job role If you applying to be a runner your CV should say runner
Try to get 5 credits onto your filmmaker CV saying this is the job role that you can do and are after, to begin with include student and indie film productions
Apply to jobs ruthlessly (expect only to get 1 out of 10 you apply for) competition is high so it will take time
Keep in contact with the people you work with, network online and off in your industry, make it easy for you to find you online. Follow people you work with on social media platforms like Twitter.
What I would have done differently if I was starting out looking for work in the film industry with the knowledge I have now.
When I first started out looking for work in the film industry, I had no idea what it even meant to be self employed. How frequent jobs would come by, how much I would get paid. I went straight in head first, I signed up to be self employed straight after graduation and searched for film jobs everyday.
It took me 2 months to get my first film job. After that the jobs came trickling in, slowly at first but 1 year later I was getting called up with job offers every month.
I worked full time on film sets for 18 months before deciding that it wasn’t for me. I hated set hopping, meeting new people, the lack of alone time and hardly seeing my bf, film sets was not for me, but I am happy with the experience and knowledge it gave me. If I am going to be a film director this film set experience will set me apart from most people.
5 tips for those starting out looking for work in the film industry.
1. Saved up money
I had no savings when I first became self employed. Perhaps the worry gave me a drive to look for work every day but still I wish I had a safety net of some sort. I went straight to the bottom of my overdraft during the first 2 months of searching for work. Another problem is that an ordinary day job pays you monthly – however sometimes self employment means having to chase money up which may take 2-3 months to show up in your bank account.
2. Found better Training
My pre- film set training was so basic. I worked a few films for free, mostly student films, read about the basics of script supervision and shadowed a script supervisor for 2 days. Yes I mostly learn how to the do the job from reading a book. This gets you the basics but the hard stuff (like the dreaded 180 degree rule and how to time a film script) I was clueless at first. Some film schools have training for different crew positions. I could have had a weeks training in script supervision at the NFTS film school for only £800. If script supervision was going to be my career goal then this training would have been priceless as well as looked amazing on my film cv.
3. Invested in better gear
It took me months to get up to date digital script supervision gear but when I did it made all the difference, suddenly my job was so much easy, the digital version does all the documentation for you and even sends it over to the editor via email at the end of the day, saving me an hours work every night. I wish I had bought quality waterproof shoes and a warm coat for the outdoor location shoots too.
4. Stayed in touch
When you work on film sets you meet film industry people every month. Perhaps 30-60 new filmmakers every single month who could potentially hire you one day. When you work with someone and get along with them add them to a social media platform of your choice, this is an easy non intrusive way of keeping in touch with people.
5. Raised my daily rate
I never had a daily rate. I just agreed to a rate whenever anyone asked. My rates were all over the place £50 one day, £250 the next. I had no idea what I was worth, I think this is ok for the first year of self employment but eventually you need to say no to low paying work. As a freelancer working in the film industry your rates do change depending on the budget of each project . However during the end of my career I took on some super low budget jobs that cost me higher paid work. At some point you have to be brave and say no.
You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms
What does the Producer do on a film set
The producer of a film is one of the most well known job roles within a film crew, yet the exact job that they do day to day is not so well known. I have been uncertain myself on what exactly a producer does so I have broken down their job roles throughout a film production below.
Think of a producer as the manager of a film set
Being a film producer might be the toughest job on a film set. They are the most responsible person if a film fails to make a profit. They represent the film throughout the entire project from hiring the screenwriter to screening the film. The work they do on projects usual spans the longest out of all crew members (their work on a single project can last multiple years).
Producers also get paid the most on a film set. They average 5% of a film’s budget. On independent films the producer often works alone, on major films they will have a whole team of producers to help them.
Unless a film is being made by a studio, an independent producer will also have to secure financing for the film
What does the producer do?
The first job for a producer would be to find a screenplay to turn into a film. Or hire screenwriters to develop a story idea or adaption. It is the producer’s job to retrieve the film rights for the story. Traditionally Producers also hire the director and help them cast the film.
Producers will hire all of the head of departments of a film crew such as the production designer, the director of photography, additional producers such as co-producers, line producers and production managers.
Every key decision made during the pre production process will go through the producer first. Being as organised as possible during pre-production stage will help the filming go smoother. The pre production process is often the longest phase of making a film. Producers tasks during pre-production -
Finds the screenplay and story to work with
Hires the screenwriters to finish a final draft
Hires the director and helps them cast the film
Hires the main crew members
All major decisions will go through them
During production the producer is in constant communication with the director. Any major changes to the story or film budget will go through them. They will approve locations, help plan filming schedules, and importantly make sure that production stays on time on on budget.
Approves locations, script changes and major decisions
Makes sure the filming stays on schedule and on budget
Visits the set but is often in the production office looking after the business side of the production – making sure that the film gets made despite the many problems that may come to put the project on hold
During the editing, the producer will watch over the edit to check that things are going to plan. They will work with marketing companies and distributors to get the production shown. The producer may organise test screenings. They will also have a big say on how a film is marketed to its audience.
After the films release the producer will watch nervously over the box office stats, whether a film makes money or not may determine when their next project will begin.
Help finalise the cut
Work with marketers and distributors
Watch over the films box office performance
Personally I don’t see the appeal of being a film producer. The long unsocial hours, the stress of having a whole production depend on you. I enjoy organising and I enjoy working with numbers but to have a job that takes you so far away from the creative side of filmmaking does not appeal to me.
Typically a producer would have worked their way up the ladder in film, starting out in the production office or as an assistant director, from line producer to production manager, a long route with no guarantees.
More Independent people might start out as producer straight away developing low budget projects and working there way up. Working for TV might bring more stability compared to film. I could see the world of TV production being more inviting than cinema to an aspiring producer. Either way another appeal is that good producers make good money!
I have got some of my facts from Creative Skillset – a great website with detailed notes on career prospects in the arts industries.
You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms
5 ways to make money in film before you make it
Did you know that only 7% of British films make a profit. I read an article with that fact on a few months ago and it sticks in my mind Just how unpredictable and unreliable filmmaking truely is. If you want to make a lot of money in life don’t be a filmmaker.
As creatives we should be making money from a mix of job roles. That is to say it is best to not have all of our eggs in one basket and have money coming in from many different places.
The smartest thing any aspiring filmmaker could do might just be to get a normal job that pays well. This gives you the security and benefits of a normal job, and the money leftover to make films. However as creative sorts we tend to reject normal lifestyles. We need our work to be creative, meaningful and we still need to make money to pay the bills just like everyone else.
1. Film crew work
A lot of people start out by finding work within a film crew. There is money to be made and jobs out there. Working in film gives you the chance to see how things are run professionally. Even if the sets you find yourself on are not so well run you can learn others mistakes. I found my film crew experience invaluable however the hours of film set work are too long and this gave me no time or money leftover to make my own films.
Pros – gets you into the film industry, creates contacts and gives you valuable on set experience
Cons – free work seems inevitable before getting paid, very long work hours, unstable pay
2. Film office work
For film office work I count all work within film and TV that does not require you to work within production. Jobs working for TV companies such as the BBC have a lot of office based work. Working for local film council’s, working in post production jobs such as editing for small tv companies . These jobs tend to not be very creative but they work on 9-5 hours that often pay well.
Pro – predictable hours, regular contracted pay and benefits,
Cons – Not always creative work, stuck to a 9-5 routine and in an office
3. Skilled freelancer
A skilled self employed worker who works independently. Examples would be a freelance camera operator, a freelance editor, a freelance motion graphics designer, freelance music composure. Often as a freelancer they specialise in one skill and then make money selling their services doing a whole variety of jobs. For example a camera operator could work for for indie films, music videos, film at corporate events, commercials and create online content all in one months work. The trick would be to get good at one skill and then use that skill to make money doing many different freelance jobs.
Pros – often your own boss, can work your own hours, on your own terms and rates
Cons –takes a while to get those initial contacts and start making money with film, no say where the next job is coming from, having to chase up money as a freelancer
4. Online content creator
I’m going to give this one its own category with the internet as it is right now and I can see more work coming from online. There are many ways to make money through the internet right now for creatives. Web designer, graphic designers, video makers, freelance writers, can make money by selling their skills online. You can carry out meetings on skype. There are people out there making a living from Youtube, creating graphics, shooting videos for company websites, writing articles on every topic imaginable, selling e-books and from teaching skills that they have to others.
Pros – be your own boss, creative work
Cons – Unstable unpredictable pay, can take a long time to started, a lot of competition
5. Production company start up
I know a lot of people who have formed teams with liked minded people and started their own business. If done well starting your own production company can be very profitable but you need to think of it as a business first and an art form later. Some production companies focus on being the best at one type of service, others will film anything that comes along, successful people I know have started companies that deliver music videos, wedding videos and commercials. It can take a while to get the company started, and build a good representation. Make sure you get along well with whoever you start a business with.
Pros – owning your own business, be your own boss,
Cons – might cost money to start up, will take time to build representation and find clients
For everyone I know who makes money as a filmmaker they can fit into one of these categories. There is no saying how much money filmmakers make, some do very well others just scrape by. Even this year now that I have started to take this blog seriously I have already made money by writing articles for others online. All of these routes take time to establish yourself within but it is possible to make a living as a filmmaker.
You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms
It wasn’t until I started reading blogs online about Hollywood filmmaking, such as my blogger friend Hollywood Juicer that I came across the phrase above and below the line in filmmaking. Above and below the line is a term widely used within the film industry. However its exact meaning and its connotations can vary.
The line I am talking about is the imaginary line which separates those who have creative influence over a film and those who don’t. In a film crew people who are considered above the line are – the Director, the Screenwriter, the Producer and the Lead Actors. All other crew members are said to be below the line workers.
Why do we use this phrase in film?
The terms comes from the top sheet of a film budget plan used by production companies to determine how much a film would cost. Production companies would list the crew and cast on paper with how much their wages are. The above the line workers were considered essential to the film, the below the line workers were considered replaceable. Above the line workers wages are fixed costs. e.g. If a scene is cut in a film the screenwriter is still paid the same amount regardless.
An example of a Top sheet of a film’s budget breakdown can be seen here.
Issues with the term
Issues with the term above and below the line in filmmaking. Below the line workers are not paid as much as above the line workers. Often on low budget film sets below the line workers (because they are considered replaceable) are not paid very well or simply not paid at all. Imagine a pyramid – the lead actors, director, producer, screenwriter at the top. Next comes the Director of photography, all other heads of departments, assistants and at the bottom are the production Runners/PAs. Some people argue that the Director of Photography should be considered above the line. Traditionally the DOP is not but this is changing now that the DOPs job is more highly regarded these days and that they have more creative influence over a film.
Filmmaking seems to be all about climbing up a ladder. Working below the line in film is often talked about as being a daily grind. When people in film use the phrase below the line worker they will often be talking about how tough their job is, how long their work hours are, and maybe how they aspire to be working above the line one day.
The Line Producer
This is why a line producer is called a line producer because he sits on the line and supports both sides during the production. They are called Line Producers because they cannot start work until they know what the ‘line’ is between the ‘above-the-line’ costs and the ‘below-the-line’ costs. Line Producers are given the script when it is in development to assess ‘below-the-line’ cost of the production. They break down the screenplay into a timetable for the film shoot that shows how long it will take to shoot each scene.
So It's just an accountancy term right?
Yes, it all has to do with money, not ego, talent, skill, or anything else. The terms above-the-line and below-the-line existed before the film business, and both have different meanings in advertising. However I do feel it has a negative connotation to it, and especially online over the past few years where it has taken on a whole new meaning to express the toughness of working in the film industry.
If you think I am wrong then please let me know. What does the phrase above and below the line mean to you? Has this phrase changed meaning over time or is it just me reading into it too much?