How To Get Into the Film Industry (Plus Benefits and Jobs)
Updated December 12, 2022
The film industry offers abundant career opportunities depending on your training, experience, interests and network. Once you've determined which positions in film suit you best, you can begin preparing to enter the film industry. Understanding the steps you need to take to launch your career in film can help distinguish your resume to casting directors and producers and improve the success of your job search.
In this article, we explore the benefits of working in the film industry, the steps you can take to get into the film industry and common film industry jobs.
What are the benefits of getting into the film industry?
Here are a few ways pursuing a career in film can be rewarding:
Interesting lifestyle: For those who appreciate a high-intensity, social lifestyle where no two days are the same, a career in film may be a good fit.
Creatively stimulating work: At its core, film is a cooperative art form. If a creative and collaborative work culture appeals to you, you may be well-suited to working in film.
Nontraditional career path: While going to college can help you gain experience and meet industry contacts, it isn't necessary to get started in the film industry.
Wide variety of opportunities: Many different people in various roles need to work together to create a film, which means you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing which position to pursue in this industry.
How to get into the film industry
Developing relevant skills, gaining experience and connecting with industry professionals can help you enter the film industry and be well-qualified for your target position. Here are nine steps about how to get into the film industry and start your career:
1. Consider getting a bachelor's degree
While not required for most jobs in the film industry, going to college for film, acting, theater or drama can be an excellent way to explore the different aspects of filmmaking and discover which kind of role is right for you.
Professors in film programs are often working professionals you can connect with to begin establishing your professional network. Some universities provide portfolio-building courses, student productions and professional equipment for student use, all of which you can use to boost your film resume.
2. Craft your resume
To ensure you stand out from other candidates, it's important to create a strong resume. Film industry resumes typically include:
An "About Me" section or professional summary
Your qualifications and skills
Your relevant film, theater or other performance credits
Your educational background or training
Read more: How to Write a Film Resume (With Example)
3. Compile your portfolio
A film portfolio often includes:
Your resume: To impress casting directors and hiring managers, consider tailoring your resume to the job you're applying for. For instance, you can adjust your professional summary, applicable skills and relevant film credits based on your target job.
Your reel: Your reel is a collection of film samples that best display the skills you need for the job you're applying for. If you're a multidisciplinary professional applying to different types of film positions, such as an actor-writer, it can be helpful to separate your reels based on the experience you're highlighting.
Additional work samples: Depending on which job you're applying for, you might include samples of writing, photography, graphics, project outlines or costume photos.
Read more: How To Build Your Work Portfolio
4. Maintain a professional website
Having a website is an opportunity to make a positive first impression on hiring managers by providing a consistently updated version of your resume and portfolio. You can also include a blog or connect your website to your relevant social media profiles to document your current activity in the industry. Your website can showcase your personality, display your range and potentially expand your professional network.
5. Search for shoots in your area
To find out what's currently in production, try contacting your local film office. Productions operating with more than a single hand-held camera often need to request a permit to shoot, meaning the film office maintains a record of all upcoming and ongoing filming in the city. While this information is not always open to the public, many film offices host training programs that can connect you to available crew positions.
6. Contact local camera rental shops
If you're interested in working behind the camera, consider contacting the leading equipment rental centers in your area to volunteer your services as an intern or trainee. Productions may require additional crew who know how to operate the cameras and gear they rent, which can be an opportunity for you to expand your resume and widen your professional circle.
7. Get involved in local productions
While searching for work in the film industry, you can maintain your skills, gain experience and meet other professionals by getting involved in:
These credits can provide a valuable boost to your film resume, which can help you stand out to casting directors and producers.
8. Consider searching for work in a film production hub
In the United States, there are three cities that many people consider to be central film hubs: Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta. Since they're likely to have lots of ongoing shoots that may have open positions, it can be helpful to relocate or take frequent trips to one of these three cities. This can ensure you're nearby and ready to begin work once you're hired.
9. Research virtual opportunities
If you don’t plan to relocate to one of the cities where most in-person film shoots occur, focus on looking for film jobs that you can perform remotely. As telework has become more common, many film companies now allow some professionals to complete their responsibilities virtually rather than in person.
Video editing professionals, for example, can often conduct their jobs remotely as long as they possess high-tech software. Other film job categories that you might be able to find remote opportunities for include visual effects, screenwriting, production art and audio engineering.
10. Grow your film industry network
In the film industry, your network is one of your most important assets. This is because film is collaborative at its core—creating a single film often takes the combined effort of hundreds of people. While you might begin with a small group of industry newcomers, as your relationships multiply, they can contact you about positions well-suited to your interests, introduce you to high-level contacts and support you if you need advice.
Here are a few ways you can expand your network:
Join an association or union. Associations and unions are excellent for meeting new people in the industry and ensuring you are earning at your full potential. While there are many associations and unions to choose from, considering your target position can help you choose the right one for you. For example, one of the most popular unions for on-screen professionals is the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA).
Follow industry professionals on social media. Consider interacting with professionals in your target field by asking questions or responding to their posts to build friendly rapport and potential connections.
Attend events and conventions. Many industry events offer workshops led by professionals where you can grow your skills and meet new colleagues at the same time. After the event, you might consider following up with the workshop leader via social media.
Go to film festivals. Many cities hold annual film festivals that filmmakers, actors and crew members attend. If you're the type of person who prefers casual, social chats over networking-focused events, meeting fellow professionals at a film festival may be the right approach for you. The person you sit next to and chat with might end up being a valuable connection.
Maintain old contacts. Keep in contact with old teachers, colleagues and fellow students. As your relationships mature, your old contacts may introduce you to new people and offer you opportunities based on their knowledge of your experience and personality.
Find online communities: Join online groups related to film-making, such as those for others who want to enter the film industry or shooting opportunities in your local area. These online groups might also be a good way to find collaborators for aspiring filmmakers developing their own independent films.
Jobs in the film industry
Understanding which specific job you want to pursue can make it easier for you to determine how to get into the film industry. Here's a list of job opportunities you might consider if you're interested in working in film:
Actor: Actors depict narrative and background characters in film. To ensure they're the right fit, actors typically have to audition for roles.
Production assistant: Production assistants take care of the administrative needs of the team working on a film, including making phone calls, performing data entry, handling catering arrangements and managing travel plans.
Audio engineer: Audio engineers are responsible for all sound in the film, including vocal audio, background noise, music and sound effects. They may work on set or work with sound design during post-production to record, mix, reproduce and reinforce audio.
Producer: Producers are responsible for the business side of filmmaking, including financial planning, sourcing and purchasing scripts and project planning. They also hire film directors and cinematographers.
Video editor: These film industry professionals focus on post-production. They're in charge of transforming raw footage into a final, cohesive product, which they do by selecting the best takes, balancing lighting and adding audio files. They may also create trailers to promote the film.
Cinematographer: Cinematographers, also called directors of photography, choose where to place cameras, lights and props to best capture the target atmosphere, tone and characterization in a scene.
Costume designer: Costume designers craft or choose the outfits actors wear during filming to suit the character and plot, and they also monitor clothing for continuity. Depending on the type of production, costume designers may be historical experts.
Casting director: Also called casting managers, these film professionals source talent and select actors for productions.
Director: The director is responsible for leading the entire film process. They collaborate with other managing film professionals to conceptualize the script, select the lead cast, give actors instructions on set and work with video editors during post-production to create the final film.
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