November 8, 2019

How to Become a Filmmaker and Ways of Breaking Into the Film Industry

Becoming a Filmmaker
How to start building your career.  

Let’s address the elephant in the room.

Being a filmmaker/starting a career in filmmaking is not for the faint of heart. 

In fact, whatever heart you have when you start, you better be ready to weather a storm of indignities, or be shatterproof, or fitted for a suit of armor or… maybe just be so broken and damaged to start that you’ll barely feel the pain…

Whoa, that got dark. 

Jokes aside, it can be pretty tough out there, and surely by now, plenty of people have issued you this type of warning.

Either way, if you’re serious about this, then you’ve come to the right place. 

No, not because we're going to conduct group therapy in the comment section (though... I'm game if you are...), but because this post is going to break down your film career options.

It's also going to provide 3 tried and true methods for getting started that will cost you little or nothing.

Best of all, we’re also going to share with you a host of other strong resources and knowledge bases you can turn to as you walk this path. There is a lot to cover here, and we;re sharing a ton of resources so use this table of contents to jump to any section your most interested in, or just take it all in at your own pace. 

Table of Contents

"Why should I bother listening to you?"

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the industry, BUT my own experiences would only provide one tiny slice of insight and information about becoming a filmmaker.

The truth is you could ask 10 different people with careers in the film industry how they broke in and you could get 10 different answers. 

So, what do I know that’s actually of value to you?

I've known tons and tons of people who have broken in at various levels, in various areas, with all manners of success and failure along the way. I've seen people build filmmaking careers from nothing. 

Some of them started with great connections, but some of them started far away from Los Angeles or New York and also found their way to sustainably successful filmmaking careers. 

What I’ve learned is that there are certain common traits that seem to help folks get things off the ground, find like-minded collaborators, and build their filmmaking careers brick by brick, day by day, into something significant and sustainable.

It can be done. No matter who you are. 

It also won’t be easy.

Even when things are “going great” they can come crashing down. It happens all the time to people at every level. How you weather that is another story. 

And at the very end of this post, we’ll cover the single key personality trait that can make this work. 

Right now we’re talking about the very first steps. But first some inspiration

Quotes About Filmmaking From The Greatest Directors of All Time

Who better to get you started down this path than a collection of the most celebrated and skilled to ever do it? Check out some choice quotes about the process and career from just a few of the very best. 

Quotes about filmmaking from the greatest directors of all time

How to Get into the Film Industry

How to Get Into Film

This is a personalized journey and so the first thing to really consider and address is YOU. 

The first question you should answer, or at least put forth to yourself is:

"Where do I fit in the film industry?"

There are a lot of jobs in the business that you could fill. The list goes beyond the many film crew positions on a set. That's just one slice of the huge pie. 

There are agents, managers, lawyers, and producers on the business side. There are plenty of people in development, as well as a host of jobs in post-production. Maybe you want to work in a rental house or for a lens manufacturer. There are lots of choices. 

One commonly held belief for those starting out is that being a filmmaker means being a writer/director or an 'auteur.'

Sure. It CAN.

But people who work in PR and Advertising also work in the film industry. It’s a BIG industry with TONS of jobs and opportunities. You can start a lot of ways. None of them will be particularly easy, and all of them will be competitive. Are all these people filmmakers? 

We think so. They are part of the process of creating the 'content' that goes out to audiences on all sorts of mediums and platforms. The definition of a filmmaker should be elastic because guess what? Almost nobody is making anything with film anymore anyway. 

Truly the first question you should ask is "Where do I fit in the film industry?" because that will get you thinking about what you love. Why are you doing this? What is your favorite part? Maybe you love movies and films but being on set isn’t your thing. 

Maybe it is your thing!

There are so many artists and craftspeople involved in the process on so many levels, it is a shame to get tunnel vision and think that there are only one or two jobs (the ones we hear about so often). 

So once you’ve given this idea some thought, you’re ready to start trying things out.

Why? 

Because how can you know where you fit in without having done any of it? 

Which brings us to… 

How to Get into Filmmaking

Starting out in Filmmaking

We can break down this process into 3 steps. These things can all be happening together even if you have a day job.

Even better? 

They will cost you very little money and can help replicate a lot of what you’d be getting from film school. 

If you're asking “I want to be a filmmaker… where do I start?” the best first answer is... 

Start on set. 

The good news? 

There are tons of people shooting tons of things all of the time now. This was not the case 30 years ago, or 50 years ago. 

How do you get on set? 

1. VOLUNTEER 

Doing any kind of labor for free sucks, BUT there is another way to look at it. 

You’re investing time in learning, and right now this is less a job than a passionate investigation/internship/mentorship. 

Should people be paid for all work? Yes. 

But a good way to get to know some people doing this is to find ways to get close to them, and helping out free of charge in your spare time is one way to do it.

Find some folks shooting something and offer your services in a department that interests you just to learn. 

The more people you get to know that are shooting things, the more you’ll find these opportunities. Pretty soon you’ll likely be turning things down, and only wanting gigs that pay because you’ll know what you’re doing and you’ll be worth it.

Next up?

2. MAKE STUFF

You’ve no doubt heard this one before. Get a camera and start shooting. This also doesn't require that you spend a lot of money. 

Your phone might have a decent camera on it. You can download DaVinci Resolve for free. You can start shooting and cutting things immediately. Don’t worry about quality or showing it anywhere at first. Worry about getting your repetitions in. 

Finally:

3. STUDY 

Quentin Tarantino has said before, “I didn’t go to film school, I went to films”

You've been going to films, right? 

But have you done it intentionally?

Have you watched a film, read all the interviews with the team that worked on it? Gotten your hands on some old DVD commentary tracks and special features? Read books that breakdown the entire process behind some of your favorites?

Read books that cover the process of filmmaking!

Read about movies and filmmakers on No Film School? (Shameless plug alert) 

You can watch films and move on, or you can watch films and break them down. Get critical...yes, from a film theory standpoint but also from a “what did I think was missing” angle. What did I love? What do I wish they’d done differently? How would I have cast it? Or rewritten it? Or shot that scene? 

Get specific. Think in terms of every element. Try and notice the sound design and art direction. Try and think about how a movie was advertised and if it worked. 

Now you’re thinking analytically LIKE a filmmaker. 

There are TONS of tutorials out there to watch and read. 

This post on Reddit lists one user's favorite filmmaking resources. There are so many great things listed here, offering both great ways to start learning and a place you can start to cut your teeth with the tools of the trade.

Here is an abridged version of his list (go to the above link for the FULL version):

FILMMAKING EDUCATION RESOURCES

Learn Filmmaking

Vincent Laforet: “I’m a filmmaker, photographer, producer, teacher, advisor, innovator and very, very proud father of two. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to witness extraordinary news events, the evolution of story-telling technologies and work alongside many people who have inspired me.”

Video Business Guides: "Whether you’re just starting out in video production, or if you already have a video production company, these guides will help put you on the path to running a successful and profitable video production business."

Ultimate Filmmaking & Video Production Training: "Huge online filmmaking training that will take you through all stages – beginner to intermediate to advanced. Also includes videos on video production, music videos, corporate videos, etc."

F-Stop Academy: “Den has worked in the industry for over 20 years and in every major TV genre conceivable, including Music, Documentary, Travel, Sport, Factual & Entertainment. His site features filmmaking education of all kinds.”

No Film School: “No Film School is the leading worldwide community of filmmakers, video producers, and independent creatives. No Film School is where filmmakers learn from each other — “no film school” required.”

creativeLIVE: “CreativeLive empowers you to unleash your potential by bringing the world’s greatest experts directly to you, live. Featuring workshops in photography, video, design, business, etc.”

The Black and Blue: “Tips and tricks for camera assistants and filmmakers who want to know what really happens on set”

YOUTUBE TUTORIAL CHANNELS

Film Riot: “Film Riot is a how-to trip through filmmaking from the hyper-active mind of Ryan Connolly. From how to make great effects to following Triune Films through production, Film Riot explores the art of filmmaking in a way you’ve never seen.”

Indy Mogul YouTube Channel: “Fun, cheap, filmmaking. Indy Mogul is the webby-award winning filmmaking network, circa 2007. Home of “Backyard FX,” “Reel Good Show” and more.”

Every Frame a Painting: “I like movies. I don’t take requests. Every Frame a Painting is dedicated to the analysis of film form. Pictures and sound all the way, baby.”

FILM FUNDING

Think Outside the Box Office: “Considered one of the best film funding resources out there.”

Sherri Candler: Marketing and Publishing: “Sheri Candler is an inbound marketing strategist who helps independent filmmakers build identities for themselves and their films.”

Film Freeway: “Enter the world's best film festivals and screenplay contests. FilmFreeway makes it easy to discover, submit and get tickets to thousands of events.”

FILM / VIDEO JOBS

Mandy: "We have a detailed directory of 100,000+ production companies, film makers, production crews and equipment."

Creative Cow Career: "List of available jobs and also the ability to post your resume and go job hunting!"

Film & TV Pro: "The #1 networking and jobs resource for film and TV professionals."

ProductionHUB: "ProductionHUB connects you with professional content creators. Find & hire local film and production crews for video, digital media & live events."

Shooting People: "A vibrant community of independent filmmakers. We connect and collaborate to get films made and seen."

GEAR & EQUIPMENT

Adorama: "Shop the best photography equipment, digital cameras, lenses, pro audio & video, professional gear & musical instruments from top brands - Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc"

STOCK VIDEO

Pond5: “Search the world's largest video collection plus millions of music tracks, sound effects, motion graphics and images. Over 20000 new videos added daily.”

VideoHive: “At VideoHive you can buy and sell royalty-free footage and motion graphics as well as After Effects Project files starting at just a few dollars.”

AudioJungle: “At AudioJungle you can buy and sell royalty-free music and sound effects that are completely Podsafe for just a few dollars, which includes a Buyer Fee. The site is home to a bustling community of audio composers and producers.”

VideoBlocks: “With a Storyblocks Video subscription, you can download unlimited stock HD & 4K video. Browse our extensive library of clips and sign up to start downloading.”

STOCK AUDIO

Premium Beat - "Unlimited perpetual license, so for between $40 - $60 you can get music and use it in as many projects as you want.

AudioJungle: “At AudioJungle you can buy and sell royalty-free music and sound effects that are completely Podsafe for just a few dollars, which includes a Buyer Fee. The site is home to a bustling community of audio composers and producers.”

PHOTOS, IMAGES & GRAPHICS

iStockPhoto: “Royalty free stock photos, vector art illustrations, stock footage and audio for print and use on websites and presentations.”

GraphicRiver: “At GraphicRiver you can buy and sell royalty-free, layered Photoshop files, vectors, icon packs, Adobe add-ons and design templates for just a few dollars.”

Unsplash: “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution stock photos. Download 10 new free stock photos every 10 days.”

Pixabay: "Finding free images of high quality is a tedious task - due to copyright issues, attribution requirements, or simply the lack of quality. This inspired us to create Pixabay - a repository for stunning public domain pictures."

CINEMATOGRAPHY TOOLS

CameraSim: "Online DSLR camera sim that allows you to test focal length, lighting, etc."

RED Cinephotography Tools: "Use this tool to preview how a given focal length will appear depending on resolution setting and sensor type."

VIDEO EDITING PLUGINS, ETC

Red Giant: "Red Giant delivers Production-proven special effects tools for digital video & film professionals. Plug-ins built for Adobe After Effects, Premiere & more."

Pixel Film Studios: "Pixel Film Studios presents Final Cut Pro X Plugins, Effects, Transitions, Themes and Motion 5 Special Effects. Specifically designed for FCPX."

Motion VFX"FCPX Plugins, Motion Templates, Final Cut Pro X Plugins, Motion 5 Templates, mFlare, mObject, etc."

FCP Effects"Our FCPX plugins & effects are incredibly powerful & easy-to-use. Download today & see why so many editors choose FCPeffects.com!"

PRESENT CLIENT WORK

Vimeo Business: "Join the web's most supportive community of creators and get high-quality tools for hosting, sharing, and streaming videos in gorgeous HD and 4K with no ads."

Mediazilla: "Present professional videos with online interactive menus created in minutes. Easily export projects to DVD, Blu-ray and USB/offline formats.”"

BUSINESS DOCUMENTS / CONTRACTS / LEGAL

Docstoc: “Docstoc provides the best quality and largest library of documents, videos, and resources to start and grow small businesses.”

Yumpu: "Yumpu offers a digital platform for publishing your magazines, brochures or catalogs. Communicate your message and grab the attention of new readers."

DocuSign"Why settle for less? Get the security, mobility, reliability, and ease-of-use you need to digitally transform your business with DocuSign eSignature solutions."

VIDEO HOSTING PLATFORMS

Vimeo: "Join the web's most supportive community of creators and get high-quality tools for hosting, sharing, and streaming videos in gorgeous HD and 4K with no ads."

Wistia: "Wistia's brand affinity marketing software turns passive viewers into loyal customers. Join 500K other businesses using Wistia to grow their brands with video."

YouTube"Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube."

GRAPHIC DESIGN – ONLINE

Canva: "Create beautiful designs with your team. Use Canva's drag-and-drop feature and layouts to design, share and print business cards, logos, presentations, etc."

Pixlr X: "Discover free and premium online photo editor! Effects, filters, overlays, simple to expert tools. You'll find a Pixlr image editor just for you!"

Pixelmator Pro"Professional image editing tools that anyone can use."

VIDEO EDITING TRAINING

Larry Jordan: "Larry Jordan is an Apple-Certified Trainer in Digital Media, specializing in DVD Studio Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Motion."

Ripple Training: "Professionally produced, highly focused online video training that will teach and inspire. Ripple Training plugins help you animate, add effects, and accomplish."

LEARN SOUND DESIGN / POST ENGINEERING

JWSound Group: “Best in the biz in there. Yeah, they’re cranky, but they know their stuff.”

Gearslutz Post Production Forum: “Many top-shelf post pros still talk about stuff in there.”

Designing Sound: “The de-facto front page of the sound design community.”

WRITING & NOTE TAKING

Evernote: “From short lists to lengthy research, no matter what form your writing takes, Evernote keeps you focused on moving those ideas from inspiration to completion.”

Scrivener: “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.”

DISCUSS / COLLAB WITH YOUR TEAM

Skype: “Skype (stylized as skype) is an application that provides video chat and voice call services. Users may exchange such digital documents as images, text, video, etc.”

Slack: “Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams..”

FILMMAKER / CREATIVES NETWORKING

Stage 32: “Stage 32 is the world’s largest social network and educational hub for film, television & theater creatives.”

Meetup: “Find Meetups so you can do more of what matters to you. Or create your own group and meet people near you who share your interests.”

SCREENWRITING

Final Draft: “Final Draft is a screenwriting software for writing and formatting a screenplay to meet the screenplay submission standards set by theater, television and film industries.”

Celtx: “Combines full-feature scriptwriting with pre-production support and also enables online collaboration.”

TIME MANAGEMENT

Pomodoro Technique: “The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it.”

My Life Organized: “Create new tasks and checklists easily. An elegant To-Do list view will help you to focus on the most important items and act immediately.Clean and simple drag-and-drop interface allows you to rearrange tasks within a plain list or organise them into a tree.”

Remember The Milk: “Managing tasks is generally not a fun way to spend your time. We created Remember The Milk so that you no longer have to write your to-do lists on sticky notes, whiteboards, random scraps of paper, or the back of your hand. Over 5 million awesome people now use our apps to stay organised!”

ClockSpot: “Clockspot’s online time clock makes timesheets and payroll painless. No more paper, messy spreadsheets, or manual calculations.”

TIME TRACKING

RescueTime: “With so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered. RescueTime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.”

Toggl: “Toggl’s time tracker is built for speed and ease of use. Time keeping with Toggl is so simple that you’ll actually use it. Toggl drives a stake in the heart of timesheets.”

Harvest: “Whether it’s from the web, your smartphone or another application, it’s never been so easy to track time. With a simple, intuitive interface, getting you and your team on board is fast and easy.”

ONLINE ADVERTISING

Yell: “We are in the business of helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) be found by consumers.”

Google Adwords: “Be seen by customers at the very moment that they’re searching on Google for the things you offer. And only pay when they click to visit your website or call.”

OUTSOURCING WORK

Fiverr: “Fiverr is a global online marketplace offering tasks and services, beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed, from which it gets its name. The site is primarily used by freelancers who use Fiverr to offer a variety of different services to customers worldwide.”

Freelancer: “Post any project you need done and receive bids from our talented freelancers within minutes. Compare their proposals and price, then select the best freelancer to complete your project. Easy!”

SETTING UP AN LLC

LegalZoom: “Our founding vision was for an easy-to-use, online service that helped people create their own legal documents.”

INVOICING

Freshbooks: “FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting software service designed for owners of the types of small client-service businesses that send invoices to clients and get paid for their time and expertise.”

Wave: "More than a million small business owners have trusted Wave to track $60+ billion in income and spending, for free."

SYNCHRONIZING / SHARING FILES

Dropbox: “The Dropbox client enables users to drop any file into a designated folder. The file is then automatically uploaded to Dropbox’s cloud-based service and made available to any other of the user’s computers and devices that also have the Dropbox client installed.”

Google Drive: “Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more with Google Drive.”

CONTACT MANAGEMENT / CALL SHEETS

Highrise: “Highrise is a flexible contact management tool that helps you stay organized. It’s easy to import your contacts from any email system and get started with Highrise right away.”

Think Crew – Casper: “Casper is an Excel workbook that contains a Call Sheet, Production Report, Exhibit G and Hot Cost Report.”

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Asana: “Easily organize and plan workflows, projects, and more, so you can keep your team's work on schedule. Start using Asana as your work management tool today.”

Basecamp: “For over 10 years, millions have relied on Basecamp to help them get their projects done on time, on budget, and on point.”

Trello: “Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. Great mobile apps. It's free. Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.”

WEBSITE DOMAINS & HOSTING

SIteground: “SiteGround is a web hosting company founded in 2004 in Sofia, Bulgaria. In most recent data, it reports servicing more than 1,800,000 domains worldwide. It provides shared hosting, cloud hosting and dedicated servers as well as email hosting and domain registration..”

Namecheap: “We make registering, hosting, and managing domains for yourself or others easy and affordable, because the internet needs people.”

Hostgator: “Whether you are a seasoned Internet pro, or just starting out with your first website, our professional staff is here to assist you every step of the way.”

Godaddy: “Life online starts with a domain name. That’s where domain name registrars like GoDaddy come in. Over 12 million people trust us to make them look like rock stars on the web, starting with fast, efficient domain name registration. Then we load them up with everything they need to build and manage an online business. Everything.”

Weebly: “Weebly gives millions of people a surprisingly easy and affordable way to create a site that is as unique as they are. With a Weebly site, people can start their own business, communicate with their clients, showcase their achievements, and be an authority on personal and professional interests.”

WEBSITE CREATION

WordPress.org: “WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.”

ThemeForest: “The #1 marketplace for premium website templates, including themes for WordPress, Magento, Drupal, Joomla, and more. Create a website, fast.”

Squarespace: “Squarespace is the all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website. Domains, eCommerce, hosting, galleries, analytics, and 24/7 support.”

Clickfunnels: “ClickFunnels Gives You EVERYTHING You Need To Market, Sell, and Deliver Your Products and Services Online! Without having to hire or rely on a tech team!”

BUSINESS CARDS

Vistaprint: “Vistaprint is an online supplier of printed and promotional material and marketing services to micro businesses and consumers, specializing in print on demand products.”

Moo: “We love great design and believe it can work wonders for every business. That’s why we make it simple to create beautiful, expertly crafted business stationery and promotional materials that’ll help you start conversations, open doors and strengthen relationships.”

LOGOS

99Designs: “99designs pioneered the design contest, where designers submit competing designs in response to a customer’s design brief—and the winner receives a cash payment for their work.”

Crowdspring: “Effective, easy, and affordable. Name your price, watch dozens of talented participants submit their ideas and choose your favorite.”

BOOKKEEPING

Quickbooks: “QuickBooks is Intuit Inc’s set of software solutions designed to manage payroll, inventory, sales and other needs of a small business. The software’s features include marketing tools, merchant services, product and supplies, training solutions.”

PRESENTATIONS

Prezi: “Prezi is a cloud-based (SaaS) presentation software and storytelling tool for presenting ideas on a virtual canvas.”

SCREEN CAPTURE

Camtasia: “Camtasia gives you the tools you need to record on-screen activity, edit and enhance your content, and share in high-quality to viewers anywhere.”

ScreenFlow: “With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your entire monitor while also capturing your video camera, iOS device, microphone and your computer audio.”

DOCUMENT COLLABORATION

PBWorks: ““Millions use PBworks each month for partner/client collaboration, new business development, project management, social intranets, and knowledge management. “

Google Docs: “Google Docs brings your documents to life with smart editing and styling tools to help you easily format text and paragraphs. Choose from thousands of fonts, add links, images, drawings, and tables. All for free.”

ONLINE STORAGE / BACKUPS

Dropbox: “The Dropbox client enables users to drop any file into a designated folder. The file is then automatically uploaded to Dropbox’s cloud-based service and made available to any other of the user’s computers and devices that also have the Dropbox client installed.”

Google Drive: “Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service developed by Google.”

ONLINE PAYMENT / COLLECTION

PayPal: “Discover PayPal, the safer way to pay, receive payments for your goods or services and transfer money to friends and family online.”

Stripe: “Stripe is the best software platform for running an internet business. We handle billions of dollars every year for forward-thinking businesses around the world.”

SURVEYS / ONLINE FORMS

Survey Monkey: “SurveyMonkey is the world’s most popular online survey software. We make it easier than ever to create polls and survey questionnaires for learning about anything from customer satisfaction to employee engagement.”

Wufoo: “Wufoo’s HTML form builder helps you create online web forms. Use our web form creator to power your contact forms, online surveys, and event registrations.”

OPT-IN FORMS

OptinMonster: “OptinMonster is the best lead-generation plugin for WordPress that allows you to create attention grabbing optin forms that convert.”

Leadpages: “Generate leads and increase revenue using the industry-leading landing page creator with accompanying suite of lead generation and opt-in tools.”

PHONE & WEB CONFERENCING

Skype: “Stay in touch with your family and friends for free on Skype. Download Skype today to chat and call on desktop and mobile.”

GotoMeeting: “Work can happen anytime, anywhere. GoToMeeting’s HD video conferencing software is a simple yet powerful way to collaborate in real time.”

REMOTE COMPUTER ACCESS

GotoMyPC: “Web-based remote-access service that lets you access and control your computer from any web browser.”

LogMeIn: “It’s time to take control of your schedule, reclaim your free time and work the way you want. With remote access from LogMeIn, all your computers are just a click away.”

TeamViewer: “PC remote control/remote access software, free for personal use.”

FAXING

EFax.com: “eFax, fax to email, Internet fax service, email fax, electronic fax, Internet faxing, fax software, paperless, virtual, toll free. Using email to fax has never been easier and more cost efficient than with eFax’s online fax service.”

MAILING

Stamps.com: “Stamps.com’s online postage service enables small businesses, enterprises and online retailers to print U.S. Postal Service-approved postage with just a computer, printer and Internet connection, right from their home or office.”

WEBINARS

EverWebinar: “The world's most powerful automated webinar platform.”

Zoom Webinar: “Broaden your reach with Zoom's reliable and scalable webinar solution. Webinar capabilities that help you reach more people and grow your business.”

Stamps.com: “Stamps.com’s online postage service enables small businesses, enterprises and online retailers to print U.S. Postal Service-approved postage with just a computer, printer and Internet connection, right from their home or office.”

Breaking into the Film Industry

Becoming a Filmmaker

Ok, I know what you might be thinking now; 

“I’m doing these things. I want to know how to have a career... HOW TO BREAK IN... in the sense of getting paid.”

To answer this, we still need to go back to the initial question of where you fit in the film industry. If you’re thinking about how to get into film production, then you want to be on set. 

Entry-level jobs on set are mostly PA (production assistant) jobs

But maybe not just a “set PA” because that path will lead you to be in the AD department (traditionally). 

If you like the art department, be an Art PA. If you’re more interested in being a producer, be an office PA. 

PA jobs aren’t super easy to come by, and they are super demanding. Meeting people and working on projects is more likely to lead to paying gigs. 

I volunteered to help out on various shoots for free, and it led to odd jobs on other sets in departments I had never imagined I’d work in.

Another route to a career is to be a personal assistant (check out our Personal Assistant Survival Guide).

This is another really tough job that a lot of people are vying for, but if you land these opportunities, you will see and learn a lot of things few others ever do. 

If TV is your thing, you can apply to be a writer’s PA. This is how you get into a Writers's room.

When you’re considering how to get a job in the film industry, you need to think first about the entry-level positions. It could mean reading scripts (learn how to write script coverage here), or taking out the trash and picking up someone's laundry. 

It likely will mean taking some verbal abuse you don’t deserve. 

Manning a desk is a great way to start to get to know how things work and meet other assistants and other people at your level. The longer you stick around, the more you and the others you know will rise and build a network and hand one another opportunities. 

Another thing to keep in mind though is that knowing other people who are succeeding before you do is a good thing! Because... 

There's Plenty to Go Around

Work in Film

There is a misconception that there is only so much success to be had, and the success of others eliminates your chances for success.

This is an oversimplified view of things. 

In many ways, your BEST chance at success will be if people you know have success. While there are a lot of people scrambling to build a movie career out there, if you know people who are making headway, your chances just went way up. 

It’s much harder to make it on your own than it is to make it because someone else made it, and they believe in you, hire you, champion you, etc. etc. 

There are countless examples of this, but the more people you know who are working at it and doing well, the more chances you will have to break in. 

Make friends, keep friends, be a good friend, and stay connected. 

Loyalty, kindness, and supportiveness come back to help. The opposite… comes back to haunt. 

How to Get a Good Job in Film Out of College

How to Get a Job in Film

CONNECTIONS

Answering this question, you need to look around at your relationships. Professors, instructors, friends, relatives… chances to get any inside information right off the bat will help. But you may not have those. 

You should seek out anyone with a film career and ask their advice, and segue into asking if they know of or have any opportunities. 

Careers in film and TV vary, but anyone in the industry can likely point you in a direction that might offer a starting point. 

INTERNSHIPS

Also, taking internships offered at your college is another great way to make those vital connections and gain important experience. You also have the unique opportunity of working with a film company without the incredible pressure of losing your livelihood...because you're (often) an unpaid intern.

Work hard, prove your worth, make yourself an essential and memorable part of the team, and who knows, you may get offered a (PAID!) job at that company.

If you're in film school right now, find out which internships are available at your college or university, as well as the requirements for each one. And get yourself some nice duds and practice your interpersonal skills, so you nail that interview.

How to Make a Career Out of Film 

How to Keep Working in Film

If you’re not able to start working as a PA or assistant somewhere in Hollywood, you can start by finding the local opportunities to be paid to create video content. Shoot weddings. Shoot music videos. Shoot bar mitzvahs or sweet sixteens. Videography careers are out there, and you can self start that way. You can build a business and a career this way. 

But this, like our many other examples, ideas, and advice on this front, brings us back to the really big question. The one we all have to consider and ask, but we’ve been putting off until the end….

Is Filmmaking a Good Career?

Should I Get into Filmmaking

A lot of people are likely to answer "no" to this one. 

It’s hard to sustain even for the people with the most success. It’s unpredictable, the hours can be odd, the stakes can be very high, and the goalposts are always moving. 

If you’re wondering “Should I pursue a career in film,” or “Should I go into film,” the best way to answer is to think about what you want from it. 

Because merely giving it a try likely won’t yield desired results. It’s very uncommon to create one or even just a few projects and skyrocket to success. 

And the people who do that usually come down pretty hard anyway... 

Just think of how many people have enjoyed great success and suddenly struggled mightily, fading, and having to deal with inner demons. 

Here is a question to ask:

What defines success for you? What kind of life do you want to have? 

But the real question you need to ask yourself is... 

Do you enjoy the process? 

You might be able to enjoy what you think the best day as a filmmaker might be, but could you enjoy the worst days? The long hours on set on a project you might not think is great just so you can better learn the craft or collect a paycheck...

Be honest with yourself about the day-to-day. The early call times — the night shoots — the tough collaborations. 

But it isn’t just hard at the bottom. It’s hard at the top. Filmmakers see their projects see the light of day and are often stunned at the negative reactions you’ll find in comments sections, message boards, Twitter... audiences can be harsh. 

The truth is for many of us this isn’t a choice so much as a calling. You can’t quit even if you really want to. You know no other way. You want to create movies or be around movies and TV.

So, we'll go to the old cliché on this one... if you love what you do you never have to work a day in your life. 

It's "process before perfection", and if the filmmaking process works for you, then yes, it'll be a good career.      

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