How to: Get a job in the film industry

how to get in the film industry

There’s no business like show business (etc.)…

Mid 1940s musical songs aside, for some people there really is no greater career goal than breaking into the film industry. Luckily, here at we know a few things about movies, and with our annual Short Film Awards just days away, we thought it would be a good time to talk about careers on the silver screen.

So, what happens if you want to work in the film industry, but have no idea where to find your big break? Don’t panic. Here are a few tips on how to get a job in the film industry… Lights, camera…

Groundhog Day… Groundhog Day… Groundhog Day…

First thing’s first: you’ll actually need to like watching films. Whether it’s some classic Kurosawa, or the latest work from Wes Anderson, being a student of the industry is absolutely vital to turn this into a viable career path. If your interest in film begins and ends with Howard the Duck, this is probably not the career path for you.

Try and watch as many directors and genres as possible to help you learn your craft. Quentin Tarantino is famously said to have watched thousands of films as an employee of a video rental store in California before he got his big break. Just imagine if he had Netflix…

Master and Commander

The film industry is extremely competitive. And whether you want to become an actor, director or even set designer, the best way to show what you can do is, well, by showing what you can do.

Want to make short films? Make short films. Want to write and develop screenplays? Write and develop screenplays. More interested in building and maintaining the equipment that supports cameras, including tripods, dollies, tracks and jibs? You get the picture…

Remember: If you build it, they will come (and other applicable movie quotes).

The Graduate

If you’re really interested in film theory and learning new techniques, higher education might be for you. This could mean pursuing your interest through a university/film school or taking a vocational course to help you learn the vital skills necessary for your chosen profession.

Not only are qualifications a good way to expand your skillset, they will also generally result in some high quality work to add to your show reel.

At the very least, see higher education as the opportunity to build your contacts in the industry. You never know, you may just be sitting beside the next Scorsese. 

Live Free or Die Hard (but mainly the first bit)

No matter what path you’re looking to pursue, there are a whole host of free programs out there to help you polish your inner De Palma.

A few of our favourites include Celtx (a free scriptwriting tool which will help format your scripts), Audacity (to help your produce a royalty-free soundtrack) and Lightworks (a free editing program used to create everything from 28 Days Later to Pulp Fiction and Mission Impossible).

So no matter what your budget, there’s no excuse not to get started.

The Social Network(er)

This is useful for any jobseeker, but especially so when it comes to this particular industry. Film fans tend to be quite a vocal group, especially when it comes to social media, and making the right connections could be crucial for your success.  

If you don’t currently know anyone else who enjoys taking in seminal works of Italian neorealism, don’t panic. There are a range of events, such as Q&A sessions and independent screenings, which are available to visit to help starting building your networks.

Just make sure you don’t go there by bicycle*.

The Blog Lebowski

Another tried and tested way to build your network is by blogging. It’s as simple as choosing a subject or aspect of film you’re passionate about, and sharing your thoughts.

The more you blog, the more you can grow your online presence, and the more you have to back up your CV and show reel with. 

And all of those interested in debating films (for ‘debating’, see ‘ripping apart’) take note. Many current film critics began writing in a similar fashion. So it could just be time to put all those arguments about Ben Affleck to good use.

Look Who’s Talking Too

Once you’ve started writing a few scripts or acted in a few shorts, see what opportunities are available to you.

There are a number of local schemes, competitions and initiatives which accept submissions and help provide funding for films in the UK. The BBC website, BAFTA and other prominent film bodies are good places to start searching for information.

Finally, have you ever considered entering your work, or a work you’ve been involved with, into a film festival? No? We may have the opportunity for you… 


Rookie of the Year

Finally, in the film industry as much as any other, experience counts. With this is mind, be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up if you want to break into the business. In the film industry, working at the bottom often means becoming a Runner.

The most junior member of a production team, it is a Runner’s job to carry out a number of tasks from making cups of tea for the crew through to picking up tapes or dropping off props, or even helping the actors rehearse their lines.  

Not only will you be able to start building some valuable relationships, you’ll also witness how a film set or crew works first hand.

Here’s a video to help you find out more**:

The Runner from Michael O'Kelly on Vimeo.

*N.B. This is Italian Neorealist humour. For the best method of transport in reality, please consult event and/or someone who can use a map.

** would like to point out that this is the winning short film from the Short Film Competition 2013, and not an accurate portrayal of life as a runner. Also, real runners almost never get hot beverages thrown over them.   

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