How do film industry unions work?

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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

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

5 of the best CV Writing Tips for Filmmakers

CV writing and resume tips for filmmakers

I have worked on a lot of film sets. It even got the point where I would send a CV off for a job and I could pretty much guarantee I would be working on that film.

In time credits build up, people recommend you, finding work in film is not impossible.

I always get compliments from producers on my own CV design.  I have worked in the film industry for many years, from Indies to Major budgets.

If you would like me to create your CV for you I also have a CV service for filmmakers - More Info Here

1. Make it clear what you do and what job you want

At the top of your CV have your name in bold followed by what your job title is. Make this text big. If you’re after a runner job but don’t have runner experience still put the job title 'Runner' at the top of your CV.      

If a producer is looking at 20 CVs your CV needs to stand out so make them remember your name and know what job you are applying for.

A lot of people send CVs off and don’t make it obvious what job they are looking for. This is the biggest mistake you can make on your filmmaker CV. 

2.  Don’t make it wordy. a very short biography is best

Don’t make your CV wordy, the producer needs to be able to scan your CV and get the gist within 10 seconds. I have three sentences at the top of my script supervisor CV that says it all.

My biography says what I have done, what I do and what type of person I am. I wouldn’t include more than a short paragraph about you. If you’re applying for your first film job then say you’re looking for a runner or for an assistant position (even if you don’t have experience yet). Say that you have experience on student films and are passionate and want to learn more. If you are a runner with a car you’ll probably get the job. 

3. Keep everything relevant at the top of your CV

In this business your work at the supermarket is not so relevant. Put you film work at the top of your CV. Put any film experience you have at the top of your CV even student films, keep all other jobs right at the bottom. I have never put any normal jobs on my film CV- after all why would my job as a waitress convince a producer to hire me as a script supervisor. Keep your CV relevant as much as you can.

4. List and bullet point all credits

Keep your CV streamline and clear. Lists and bullet points are great for this. List all the film jobs you have done going down the page with most recent at the top. I have a feature film list, short film list and television list on my CV. If you’re new to film work, then list any relevant jobs at the top. If you’re after a runner job then put any runner jobs you’ve done at the top of the CV (even if it was just that one short film you helped out on in University – include that, put it right at the top). 

I include the title of the film, the date of production, director and producer names, production company and any famous people I have worked with.  Not everyone will put this information down but you need to make yourself look good. I heard that Quentin Tarantino lied about acting roles he got on his early CV to make himself appear more important. Once again you can check out my own CV below.

Name dropping does work (it is show business). The film industry works in circles of contacts, the last job I got worked out because the director noticed on my CV that I worked with a producer a few years back who he met at a networking event. What are the chances, quite likely in an industry where everyone knows one another.

5. Keep your CV 1 page max and keep your education short

A clear to the point one page CV is better than 2 pages of filler. What GCSE’s (high school grades) you got are not that important, credits and experience outweigh education.  I include that I studied film at university right at the bottom of my CV. Don’t include things like I got a B in science A-level. Just Like the rest of your CV keep your education relevant. You might want to say – I’ve studied media since high school and studied production at university.

So to conclude CVs are an important part in getting your film job (especially at first when you have no contacts). Credits and contacts is what it’s all about. Don’t make your CV wordy keep it streamlined and clear. For those starting out once you’ve got those first 3 professional credits you’ll be flying.

I also created the E-book 'Find Work In Film' which goes into detail on how to find and apply to film jobs - More Info Here