How To work in film when you have a full time job

how to work in film

Most of us filmmakers dream about turning our passion into our full time job. This post will look at the steps you can take to start taking your ambitions in film seriously.

Although I do come with a heed of warning, when you turn something you love into a job it becomes just that – a job. All work comes with its highs and lows, sometimes it is best to enjoy doing something as a hobby. Filmmaking for profit will not always be fun. Turning filmmaking into a career will mean getting up every day and working on your goal.

This post has been especially written for those who have day jobs. Some of you may be in a lucky position to not have to make money in film right now and you can spend longer practicing and gaining work experience. I have written a 10 step cheat sheet along with this post, a list of questions to keep in mind if you are turning making a turning filmmaking into your job – The take the leap cheat sheet

Step #1 Become Focused

Make sure you fully understand what job you want in film. You can stick to your full time job for now if you have not worked this one out yet. There are hundreds of jobs in film, not just the popular ones, analyse your skills, what job would be a good fit for you. Research your job position, understand the work requirements for each role, do you need to begin at an entry level position, how much do people get paid for this position? Do your research.

I wrote a detailed post on finding your niche here.

Step #2 Become Educated

So you have an idea of what job you want in the film industry. You have reached this job role and its requirements. Are you feeling confident enough to apply for this job? If not don’t worry, keep your day job for now and educate yourself in your spare time. Education can begin by reading articles online, books and YouTube Videos. Do what you can for free, then consider training. Some Film schools do short online courses, there may also be apprenticeships within your desired job role that are paid.

Find out what the best film school is near you here

Step #3 Get Experienced

Try to place 5 credits onto your CV within the same job role. Student films can count for this too when it comes to entry level positions. If you find you lack real life experience within your job role consider working on low budget films or making your own productions for practice.

No doubt that this step will take time and be hard to navigate through a full time job. I shot a short film when I worked full time last year, this was hard work and I don’t wish to do this again (If I did I would book a week or two off work). Have a search online to see what type of local productions are happening and gain some experience within your focused job role.

Step #4 Find your route

Decide upon a work route in film. There are plenty to choose from, and you can change your mind and mix jobs up as you go along. Do you need a full time job, or will you be working freelance and be self employed. Will you climb the ladder in film or will you start your own company. Set yourself a realistic goal ‘I want to become self employed in 2 years time’ ‘I want a full time job in film by new year’. It has taken me 18 months to leave my full time job and blog full time as I had no knowledge or experience, I started from scratch.

Step #5 What’s stopping you

Understand what it is exactly that is stopping you from taking the leap. Is it money, location, family pressure. Work out exactly how much money you need to bring in every month (can you get out of debt, will you need a location change). A few years ago I was struggling with money, as well as having no idea what to do with my career. I feel a lot more confident with a plan, a route a goal in mind. Working on this goal every day made me feel less depressed and more in control with my life. It is better to have a plan and change it than to have no plan at all.

Career Planning examples: 

  • Camera Assistant – Apply for paid apprenticeships, gain 5 credits of experience on local low budget film sets, take part in a camera masterclass, Create a freelancing CV, Save up 3 months of bills before leaving job, Plan to be working freelance in 1 years time.

  • Film Director – Carry on with independent film research, gain 3 credits work experience as an assistant director, take part in a short directing course, complete own short film, Create a director's show reel, Meet local producers, Attend networking meetings, Plan to have a feature film project going in 2 years time.

  • Assistant Producer – Create an AP CV, Gain 3 credits working on low budget productions, create business cards, take part in 2 television networking events, Get out of debt, Save up for location move, apply for full time jobs in new chosen location.

Film work is a cycle of experience, education and analysing your current skills. I don’t believe any job is out of reach for anyone, of course you have to be realistic based on your current needs to plan out that next step. I feel that if you are doing something, moving forwards in some way, you are not doing anything wrong.

How to get into the movie industry with tips on How to find work on major film sets.

how to get into the movie industry

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

  1. 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)

  2. Make your CV say this is your job role If you applying to be a runner your CV should say runner

  3. 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

  4. Apply to jobs ruthlessly (expect only to get 1 out of 10 you apply for) competition is high so it will take time

  5. 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.

5 ways to find contacts as a filmmaker

This is an old blog post. I created an updated post on how to network in the film industry with a list of places - Find Here

Contacts mean a lot in life, or so I am told.

The film industry is over saturated, competitive and art is conceptual – as such talent is only part of success. We all need to know the right people to get to where we want to be in life.  In film this means if you are not from a famous Hollywood family getting noticed in the film industry will take a lot of time and effort. Here are some ways you can begin to find contacts/network with people in the film industry.

1. Film Education

If you are just starting out meeting people with the same interests as yourself might be the easiest way. Study media at school, film at university or attend a local filmmaking club. Meet people with similar interests as yourself and make low budget short films. Some people get lucky and make lasting friendships and partnerships from these early stages of filmmaking. If you are good enough you could always attend a prestigious film school and meet more serious film students. Attending a good film school can help you get a foot-in-the-door to the film industry.

2. Film Sets

Working on film sets lets you meet a large group of filmmakers all at once. Of course you won’t get along with everyone (or maybe you will), but you can easily keep in touch with film crew members and actors through social media. Often directors and producers will work with the same people time and again.

3. Film Crew meetups 

Depending on where you live (region/state)  there may be local film crew met ups. These are usually run by local film councils and advertised online. I have been to two before in the UK which were run by IdeasTap and another by Shooting People (which run shooters in the pub meet ups for filmmakers all over the UK) sometimes there is even free drink and nibbles at these events too ,)  It can be good but I doubt I will be attending any again soon, I found it to be a room full of people self praising and less than a place to make useful contacts.  Worth a go once or twice to see if there is a filmmakers community near you.

4. Film Festivals

Be it a huge film festival or small local film festivals. I know people who have formed long standing friendships and even started companies together who first met whilst competing at a local 48 hr film competition. I am going to be making an effort with film festivals from next year, even if I don’t get my own film into any it would be good for me to attend some festivals. Some film festivals have filmmaker labs, workshops and networking events.

5. Online

Since blogging I have talked to many filmmakers this year from all around the world. There are forums, online video competitions to enter, community’s such as Vimeo, twitter chats, skype met ups, all happening online. Whatever the future of filmmaking if going to be, whatever the next arts movement is I strongly believe that it will materialize from online. So make sure you are part of it, make social media profiles, write who you are clearly in the description, make it easy for people to find you online.

Just starting out ideas – Search for film clubs, groups and local meetups. Enter local film festivals, attend film festivals and such events to meet like minded people. Study film at a college/university level. Work on local film sets and keep in contact with people you met by following them online.

Later on in your career ideas– Enter and attend more well known film festivals, create business cards which link to a show reel website, Attend a top film school, hire more professional crew and actors to work with on your films, perhaps, write articles and  appear in the press, get yourself known for what you doing online and be a speaker at events.

Links to meetups happening in 2016 

Shooters in the pub (UK)  , Find/organise groups via Meetup , BVE (Media/tech convention UK) , #scriptchat  , 48hr Film competitions , try FB groups,

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

Storyboarding my short film

how to storyboard a short film storyboarding a student film

How to storyboard a short film.

I have started to storyboard my short film. I need to get a move on, I hope to start filming in as a little as a month. The more prep I do the easier the shoot with be, the more smoothly it will go and the less chance I have of messing up.

Storyboards are used in filmmaking, animations and theatre to help visualise a scene taking place. Storyboards are like the comic book version of the film, using them can help you see any problems that may occur during filming.

Storyboards show various camera angles that would be used on screen – close ups, mid shots, establishing shots etc. A white  arrow is used to show a camera movement – zoom, pan, dolly etc. A black arrow is used to show an on screen movement such as a character walking off screen.

  • White arrows – camera movement

  • Black arrows – on screen/character movement

A lot of new filmmakers  worry about their drawing skills.

It can look impressive to have well drawn storyboards (if only to show off with) but for practical purposes it doesn’t matter how good your drawings look. Stickmen still do the job.

When I made student films I storyboarded every single shot in the film. I was not great with communicating what I wanted with the cast and crew so I relied on storyboards.  In the past I was mostly a one man crew, I felt a lack of experimentation during filming, I was afraid to mess up since I only had one chance.

These days I still have one chance but I am more confident. I am going to try and step away from storyboarding, be more relaxed, open to changes and spend more time with my actors.

I am only storyboarding special effects and complex transitions for my short film. I have also done a few location and character sketches since I will likely be art designer too. You don’t have to storyboard every scene in your film.

Some directors choose not to storyboard at all, they believe it stifles creativity during filming. Werner Herzog and David Cronenberg refuse to storyboard. Directors such as the Coen brothers and Ben wheatley storyboard all of their films by the shot.

  • Not every film is storyboarded

  • Special effects and stunts are more likely to be storyboarded

I have made a video explaining how to storyboard a short film that can be watched on Vimeo. L

How to storyboard a short film video

I also created the E-book ‘Find Work In Film’ which explains step-by-step how to find and apply to film industry jobs.

It took some time to create the short film storyboard templates. So I have made them downloadable so you can use them too. Next time you are storyboarding you can download the templates here –