Every year about this time, I get a slew of emails and phone calls from students looking to get a job in video and film production, which is a big part of how I make my living, and has been for 30 years.
I have to say, the video and film world hasn’t changed much over the year in terms of how you break in — this despite an ever-increasing number of video and film undergrad and graduate programs.
Few of us can afford to hire someone full-time these days, plus we’d be reluctant to hire an untried worker. Once, I hired someone for the summer who ended up falling asleep during an interview. Yes, it was hot; yes, the interview was long.
Then, a cameraman tried his best to get shots of feral cats being trapped in the wee hours of the night. The visual was clear enough but he wasn’t trained, I fear, well enough to be able to wait for the shot, even for a few seconds. We got lots of traps clapping shut, or having been clapped shut moments before. It was maddening.
Another time, I hired a crew through a well-known crew broker (whom I love!), and part-way through the interview realized that there was a buzzing sound in the room. It was the audio guy. Asleep on a very comfortable couch in an air-conditioned suite in Las Vegas. I’m just saying that it’s important to us producers and directors to hire the best of the best. Sir.
There are lots of stories of just not getting the best.
You might get lucky, if you have a friend or relative in the business. But most likely, you’ll start off by volunteering. Or even just watching — until someone says, “Hey, you! We could use an extra set of hands over here.” One day, you’ll be given a chance to assistant produce, or perhaps assist the film or video cameraperson. The opportunity will come out of nowhere and, as is often the case, it comes before you expect it.
But once you’re in, and you prove that you can show up on time as well as give 110% even after midnight, you’re in.
Suddenly, producers are handing your name around. You’re in the credits. Or some such.
The nature of film and video production is that there are many jobs that you can’t possibly train for in school, or at least learn fully. Your full dedication and ambition will keep you on the mark, and you might well find that you find a job that you had never imagined clicking for you. Wardrobe. Script supervisor. Line producer.
How to get a job in film and video production
- Call your local film and video office (or find them online) and review the local directory of video and filmmakers. Attend their meetings. People always welcome newcomers eager to learn.
- Locate a Women in Film and Video chapter in your region for a copy of their directory. In the listings, individuals and companies list either the kind of clients they have, or actual names of clients and productions. Here’s a list of Women in Film and Video chapters worldwide. Attend some meetings.
- Find a statewide of regional directory of video and film services in your geographic area. Oz Publishing makes one for just about every part of the United States.
- Choose some video and film production companies that sound sympatico with your dream jobs.
- Call production companies. There are always names listed next to production companies. Tell them you want to volunteer. If you don’t hear back within a week or two, call again. Like any kind of marketing, persistence pays off.
- If this doesn’t work, or even if it does, call up people and companies who do the kind of work you want to do (camera, lighting, writing) and ask for half an hour of their time so you can interview them about their jobs. You’d be surprised how well this works. People who don’t have “a second” to chat on the phone with job seekers will clear their calendars to help people who genuinely want to know more about the industry.
Media is an exciting industry. The best way for you to get ahead is to be excited as well. I know you need a paycheck, but you’re young, right? Leave a day or two a month to help out on other people’s productions, and you’ll watch the world begin to open up to you.