Like any misrepresentation, the myth that filmmakers are lucky folks who have risen to the top out of a very small pool in a tiny industry is baseless. Even the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t see it that way. According to its latest statistics, filmmaking is a rapidly growing sector, with the job outlook primed to increase by 9 percent through 2024.
Indeed, the potential to land a good-paying job isn’t finite. Like any career opportunity, getting into the film-making industry is a matter of hard work, attaining requisite skills and a little well-placed luck. Here are a few career opportunities to consider in this field.
You simply don’t get to demand your own job in this industry. But as you develop your portfolio, you may very well have the ability to try out various film-making roles. As a beginning filmmaker, you won’t have the budget to hire everyone under the sun, so you will have to make do with the employees you have or potentially wear several hats to get the job done. Your skills may coincide more so behind the camera, but if you have cash and ideas, you may find yourself in the role of producer. If you’re just starting out in the industry and have a car, chances are you’ll fall into the role of production assistant and may, from time to time, be tasked with picking up the donuts. No matter your on-set role, do whatever you need to do to get the job done.
History and time-honored traditions say you must start at the bottom and work your way up to find success. While this is generally true, you don’t need to be at the bottom of the bottom if you can help it. Use your knowledge and portfolio to get the best possible on-set job. Let your potential boss know you are more than happy to sweep up the floors, but that your specialty is lighting. Lay it out there for them right away and let your employer place you into a job that offers the highest pay and greatest on-set education.
Many people like to point out some of today’s most brilliant and esteemed directors never attended or graduated from film school. While that may be the case, it’s not often the rule. In fact, big Hollywood elites, including Scorsese, Lucas and Zemeckis, are just a few who attended film school to further their film-making knowledge and prowess. Of course, this also plays into the myth that everyone wants to be a director. There are thousands of jobs in the film industry, and most need specialized knowledge and training to do them right.
Not only do you need a portfolio, but you’ll need it handy at any given moment. You never know when you will meet that individual who knows someone else with whom you are trying to get in touch. Buy a bunch of flash drives and load your portfolio on them. Keep one in your car, another in your gym bag and a third in your wallet. Be ready to pass them out whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Producer and Raindance Film Festival founder Elliot Grove has long detailed how he got his footing in the film-making industry, which boiled down to his ability to hang wallpaper, something he did with his mom. Every skill can be a job-making activity. Think about driving, for example. The need to transport materials and fellow colleagues involved with a film is commonplace and essential, so it’s best to have your driver’s license and vehicle at the ready.
If you don’t have your license or come from a city where you relied on public transportation, it’s a good idea to get acclimated with different California driving laws and ways to obtain your driver’s license. Resources like those available on driving-tests.org can help you get the ball rolling. Likewise, if you’re working as a server to make ends meet, take note of everything that will make someone in the restaurant industry successful. It may be the difference between landing a job in the competitive film industry or working in the service industry long term.
Whether they went to school or not, most filmmakers have the same opinion about getting into the industry: You need to constantly make films. Kubrick, Cameron and Tarentino all say the same thing, so pick up a camera and try to make film magic.