How To Get a Job in Film & TV – Importance of Specialisation

28 Jan

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What’s all this about?
It’s practical, original, plain speaking advice, on how to stand out from the crowd, get noticed and get into the industry.

What this isn’t…
Some dull careers advice babble, regurgitated and re packaged, old ideas with new jargon; same old, same old, concocted by a so-called ‘expert’ who’s never worked in the business and knows as much about film and TV industry as my cat!


specialisation thumbWith so many people striving to get into the film and TV industry things are getting increasingly difficult for young talent to get a foot in the door. A Sad Fact... Hundreds of thousands of media students graduate worldwide every year and over 40% of those who apply for work, or work experience in the industry, don’t even get replies to their job applications… zilch, nothing, zippo…no feedback whatsoever! Why is this happening? Well I know exactly why, but more on that later.

Every month I, and my industry colleagues, get inundated with floods of people looking for work, people desperately trying find a way in, disheartened students and filmmakers that are dangerously close to just giving up on their dream… I want to make sure they don’t give up!

All these people asking for help has prompted me to write a series of blog posts offering genuine guidance and advice to people across the world who want to work in any area of the film and TV industry.

All the time I hear people say “it’s so difficult to get a break”, “there are not enough jobs around in the industry”, “you need to know someone on the inside”… etc etc etc. OK STOP… enough. Let’s get one thing straight here; breaking into the film and television industry has ALWAYS been difficult, so I can truly understand and relate to what you’re going through. When I was 18 years old, fresh faced, naïve and wet behind the ears, I used to sit outside of the BBC headquarters in my car and dream of working there one day. I learnt the hard way, being knocked back time and time again, but suffering the pain of trial and error, I kept going and made it through, forced my way in, succeeding by shear grit, passion and determination. I did it and I absolutely know you can too!

"Point and look serious!"

“Point and look serious!”

Wind the clock forward 30 years and I’m now an experienced and respected professional working in film and TV (..and modest with it!). But seriously, I hire people on a regular basis, I know exactly what I want in a person when recruiting new talent and more importantly I know exactly what the industry wants too!

Over the coming posts I’m going to be offering you something totally different… a unique perspective from right inside the industry. Lovingly put together by my own fair hand and more than a bit of help from my mates from all corners of the globe, industry professionals who sincerely want to help you guys get started in the industry.

All of us who now work in the industry were once in your shoes so we really do understand how difficult and frustrating it all is for you guys.

I’m going to give you some real inside information here, practical stuff that you can implement immediately. Those of you who are regulars to my blog know me well enough by now to know that I’m not into the hazy, fluffy stuff of vague theory, generalization and guesswork. No, I’m big on practical specifics!

And for those of you who haven’t been to college or don’t have a qualification, take heart, I didn’t have a qualification either, this isn’t rocket science I succeeded and so can you! So let’s cut the waffle and get on with it!

Happy Fact:
The industry needs YOU!

Yes that’s right, it really does need you. Understand this: Young, enthusiastic, creative talent is the life blood of film and TV and a vital aspect to the future success of the industry. In other words you guys are the future of our beloved industry! And we are constantly looking out for the next generation.

So with that in mind, here’s my first key piece of advice, so as Q says in the Bond movies…. “pay attention 007!”

Key Point 1:
The Importance of Specialisation and How to Focus on Your Ideal Career.

Inside Industry Information Fact
The industry looks for, and favours those who want to specialise in one discipline.

SilhouetteKnow exactly what you want to do. In the long term what the industry is looking for are people who are serious about their career and who understand the importance of specialisation… period! If you want to reach the top of the industry tree, steer away from the multi skilling thing at all costs. By multi skilling, I mean someone who professes to be a great director, camera operator, sound recordist, makeup artist, scriptwriter… and wel,l the list goes on. Trust me when I say, hearing this stuff from people desperate to break into the industry drives industry professionals totally crazy!

Now before you jump on your keyboards and start banging on about the likes of Chris Nolan and Quentin Tarantino who write, direct and produce (and goodness knows what else), I know and I agree there are exceptionally talented guys out there who do successfully work in multiple disciplines and skills. I also believe, when you’re first starting out, it’s an advantage to have a broad appreciation of as many aspects of the industry as possible… BUT in most cases what the industry is really looking for, is people who understand the importance of specialisation.

Of course this isn’t just restricted to the film and TV industry, specialisation applies to all lines of work; take the medical profession for instance. I mean, would you have a surgeon operate on your heart that also does a bit of ophthalmic surgery, dabbles in neuro-surgery and occasionally turns their hand to orthopaedic surgery? Mmmm, well I reckon I know the answer to that one!


Doctors specialise… so why wouldn’t you?!
Photo Credit: Army Medicine

Obviously, it’s not a matter of life or death in the film and TV industry, but I hope you get my drift! Guys take it from me specialisation is soooooo important! I can tell you here and now that people who work at the ‘multi skill’ level are never going to be as good as someone who has devoted the time and commitment to learn just one skill and perfecting it. Pretty obvious really isn’t it?!

More importantly from your perspective, consider this question: Are people who multi skill going to work as key personnel on big budget, high-status productions? The answer is absolutely, definitely – No! At the top of the industry specialisation is paramount. Budgets are huge and as a result specialists like directors, directors of photography, makeup artists, editors, dubbing mixers, music composers and so on, are all called upon because of their particular skill. This is the main reason is why having a long term professional goal is essential. People who specialise master their craft and become experts in their chosen field, command the highest rates and are always in demand.

So the number one essential element the industry looks for when recruiting people to work in the industry, are those people who demonstrate they have a clear idea of what they want to do in the long term and are devoted and committed to specializing in that particular discipline. That’s a value we all look for when recruiting new talent into the industry. So think about your career very carefully, specifically think about where you want to be in 10, 20 or even 30 years from now. The choice is yours! Choose wisely!

For those of you who know exactly what you want to do in your career, part one ends here! But if you’re still not sure about your career, I’ve put together a very quick and easy exercise to help you determine your “Dream Job” in the industry. Head here to give it a go!

I hope all this has made sense. Remember:

At the top of the game Specialisation is KING.
Find what you want to do and master it.
(Doing this will greatly increase your chances of success when approaching potential employers).

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos (Flickr)

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos (Flickr)

I hope this has been useful, in my next blog I’ll talk about what values employers are looking for that you should cultivate and how to dream BIG and create a compelling future: “How’s that going to help?!” I hear you cry. It’s a proven fact that seeing your future with absolute clarity will help you get there – this isn’t some ‘hocus pocus’ nonsense, top sportsmen and woman don’t just practice in their arena, they spend time picturing the outcome they desire to help motivate and condition themselves to succeed: you aren’t making a wish – but what you are doing, is starting to get into the mindset of someone who will achieve their goals, it will open your eyes to the possibilities around you and will get you thinking about how you can make the most of what you’ve already got available to get you on your way… plus it’s great fun.

If you’ve enjoyed this, please please share it with you friends on facebook or twitter or leave a comment below – it means a huge amount 🙂

By the way… I run a course on Lighting & Cinematography, so click the link or get in touch if you’re interested in coming and learning in person!

Hope this helps!

Free Spirit Film & TV
Film, TV & Online Video Production.

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Lighting for Film & TV:
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Lighting for Film & TV Part 2:
3 Point Lighting

3 Simple Tips for Filming Without Lights (Interior)

3 Simple Rules for Filming Without Lights (Exterior)

4 Responses to “How To Get a Job in Film & TV – Importance of Specialisation”

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  1. How to Get a Job in Film & TV: Discover Your Dream Job « Through The Lens Film School - January 28, 2013

    […] there, in Part One I pointed out that specialisation is CRUCIAL. You have to know what you want to do and then pour […]

  2. How To Get a Job in Film & TV – Get Focused, Dream Big! « Through The Lens Film School - February 3, 2013

    […] this is the second part in a series of posts about breaking into the film and TV industry. In my first blog I talked about the number one element that the industry looks for when recruiting new talent […]

  3. How To Get a Job in Film & TV – Who To Contact + Film School or Not? « Through The Lens Film School - February 5, 2013

    […] and welcome back, in the last two blog posts I talked about the Importance of Specialisation, and How to Create a Compelling Future that will drive you and keep you focused. Today I’m going […]

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