Learn about 6 ways a film career plan could benefit you. This post also comes with a free careers in film workbook which you can download. Even a basic plan of what steps you are taking this year to benefit your career can help you feel optimistic about the future.Read More
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.
What is stopping you from working in film, do you have any ideas of what your plan is, let me know below?
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.
It will take time, years even, but it is worth it if this is the long term career you are looking for in life. Have you ever worked on a major feature film production? how did you get the job, any advice for others please share in the comments section below -
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.
I hope the list above helps in some way when you’re starting out looking for work in the film industry. I have built a course called The Film Crew Course. This is an video series explaining how to apply work within a film crew.
I am aim to keep adding to this course throughout next year – you can find out more about it 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.
I created a video on this subject here
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.
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
How did you go about finding the best contacts you know in the film industry? Know of anything else I should add to the list above let me know below
This August I had the month off work and decided to make a short film. However as it turns out trying to shoot a short film in a month was not realistic.
I only finished writing the script at the end of july. I have had other things to sort out this past month and although making a film in a month was possible in my student years – trying to film something now (of quality and with my high expectations) will take time.
I am happy so long as this film gets finished this year. I have atleast got most of pre production down.
Pre production film in 10 steps
I went straight to storyboarding my film after writing the 1st draft. It has been useful to show other people what I have in mind for the visuals. There are also some interesting transitions in the film and planning these out on paper made me realise just how tricky these might be to achieve.
My lead is an actress I have worked with in the past. There is one role I am currently looking for and I have chosen Starnow to advertise from. I have had a lot of people apply for the role so it has been very useful for finding local actors. In the past I have found cast from college drama clubs.
For myself this has not been too difficult. I know a lot of people (or at least my bf does who can help out). Mostly I need extra hands for lifting and setting things up during the shoot. Although now I am thinking perhaps I could get a production coordinator 1st AD on board to help me out with the shoot so I that can focus on the acting. I have had luck finding crew before by advertising on Mandy.
There are four locations in my film. One is on a beach and another a forest luckily i have found these two locations close to each other so these scenes can be taken care of in one day shoot. Another location is a bedroom which needs a lot of set design, I have chosen to use the spare room in the my house so that I can have full control over how it will look.
I feel that props have always been the greatest expense in my low budget short films. I have spent at least £100 so far on props and paint but will be spending £200 altogether on props for my film. I want to make everything look just right, I care very much about the visual style of the film. With my genre floating between fantasy/surrealism I need to take care of my colours, visuals are important.
I only have 2 actors in my film. I have bought some costumes for the lead actress. I may need more than one of the same costume incase it stains, falls apart, gets lost so I bought from a chain shop and kept hold of the receipt. Costume is an easy part of this film, actually I am now having second thoughts on what I bought (maybe it should be a brighter colour…)
7. Set Design
One of the main locations in my film is a bedroom. I have chosen my spare room so that I can decorate it as I wish too (wish means bright pink paint). I find many low budget films to be lazy with set design. Often you see rooms with white walls with no design around the character. I have tried to make my sets look real. I have dedicated a colour to every scene and character.
I have easy access to a canon 5d and lenses but it looks like we might be filming on something a bit better. We also have access to a steadicam and basic lights. Mostly however natural light will do fine – although now I am thinking wouldn’t it be nice to shine a big light through the trees in the forest scene. I have basic access to equipment I have to remember I am low budget but it is tempting to go super cinematic.
9. Special Effects
The hardest part of making my film, this is what I am stuck on. I have 4 unusual transitions in my film and I need to build props/sets to help make these flow together. I need to build a tunnel, stairs and train a rabbit to do tricks. I need help with this , I need some arty people to help me out. I also want to do all effects in camera (no computer after effects help) as I believe it will look more authentic and special. I am making things hard on myself but I very much want this short film to be good.
The final step is to find the days and times when everyone is free to film. With no money to pay people everyone has jobs to go to. I can see this film being shot in stages, I don’t mind so long as it gets done by new year.
It does seem to be taking me a long time to place everything together. But I am doing a lot of this by myself and the lack of money makes everything slow down. I am sure I will be chipping away at this film for the next few months.
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.
It would also be good to hear from real life producers and their experiences working in film, if you have advice/experiences of your own to share please comment below.
Does the role of a producer appeal to you?
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.
How do you intend to make as a living a filmmaker?
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 –