How To Get a Job in Film & TV – Who To Contact + Film School or Not?

5 Feb

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Hello 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 to talk specifically about the key people to approach in the industry and discuss the pros and cons of going to film school, university or Media College to get a qualification vs. just going out there and getting experience. More importantly I’m going to tell you exactly how all this is viewed by professionals inside the industry. So first up…

Targeting The Right Industry People When Looking For Work

filmschool_thumbApproaching the right people and letting them know you are out there, is vital to your success. Below is a list of the main people you should attempt to contact/target. These people hire and fire crew and Production staff; they are the decision makers.

However, if you are fortunate enough to know someone on the ‘inside’ of the industry who doesn’t fall into this category, then by all means approach them; they may well be able to pull a few strings. In fact if you do know someone like this, you shouldn’t even be reading this right now, you should already be working in the industry! For the less fortunate, read on!

The Big 4 – Hit List
The only people who have the authority to hire you, are these guys:

Producers
Directors
Production Managers
Heads of Departments

Let’s look at why these guys are so important to you.

The Producer:

The Producers is one of the major players in the film and TV industry. Although roles and definitions differ from production to production, one area they pay particular attention to is the Production Budget (the money allocated for the production), they control the money and make all the major financial decisions regarding virtually every aspect of the production (this may include hiring you!).

The Director:

The Director is next in command. Directors are responsible for overseeing all creative aspects of a film or TV Production. They basically drive the whole production process from start to finish and are obviously highly influential; because of this, they also have the authority to hire you if they’re impressed by your work or think you’ll be of benefit to a production.

The Production Manager:

Feel free to use this image just link to www.rentvine.com

Photo Credit: Flickr – DaveDugdale

The Production Manager is your best friend! They have many important roles but from your perspective you need to know that they’re ultimately responsible for employing all crew and production staff. Part of their many duties is monitoring the Production Budget and ensuring it stays on track. They negotiate deals and arrange contracts with the talent (actors), members of the crew and the production team. They also have the power to hire and fire and will most likely be your first point of contact.

Heads of Department:

There are many different departments that exist in film and TV production. Each department has a one person in charge, known as the “Head of Department”.

Photo Credit: flickr jaiManssons Photography

Photo Credit: flickr jaiManssons Photography

For example, within the Camera Department, the Director of Photography (DOP) is in charge and is known as the “Head of the Camera Department”. Usually the DOP will hand pick his preferred camera crew and the Production Manager will then arrange any contracts and hire the recommended crew. If you can appeal to a Head of Department it may be very advantageous for you; they have the capability to give you the break you’re looking for by referring you to the Production Manager.

It’s worth a mention here that the Big 4 on the hit list are literally the only people who have the authority to hire you. Other members of the production team or crew don’t have such authority, however making contact with anyone working in the industry is always a good thing as they may be able to put your name forward to the Big 4 for their consideration.

University and Media College Qualifications
VS.
People Who Have Limited Industry Experience

Now let’s take a look at a ‘burning’ question that comes up time and time again.

“Which media college, film school or university should I attend, to have the best chance of ultimately finding work in the film and TV industry?”

It’s a subject of great debate amongst young people with a dream of working in the industry, and with good reason. I mean, if you are going to tie up several years of your life studying media or film production, you’re understandably going to want to go to the best possible place.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, the question is not about which is the best place to study; the real question you should be asking is this:

“How does having a university degree or media qualification stand up against someone who has no qualification but DOES have some limited experience of working in the real industry?”

Ok, here goes: Firstly having a formal education and a qualification is a great thing – it shows potential employers that you are committed and have gone beyond a basic level of education and that can only be a good thing.

Photo Credit: Flickr AMagill

Photo Credit: Flickr AMagill

Second there are certain jobs in the industry that will absolutely need a qualification. If your ambition is to work in the engineering side of the TV industry, for example working  in TV transmission control, satellite uplinks or anything that involves s highly advanced technical/ electronic understanding, then a qualification such as a degree in physics or electronics is a must.

If you’re not looking to forge a career in a highly technical area like that… this is where boundaries get a bit blurred. People ask me all the time ‘Where is the best place to learn about the film and TV industry?’ and the simple answer is; in film and TV!!!

This may sound blindingly obvious but outside of the industry, everyone seems to think that you need to study at film school, have a degree in media or have some piece of paper to wave at producers that says, ‘Hey look I’m qualified!’, but that’s not always the case. I want to make it abundantly clear to those people who may not have obtained some kind of media related qualification that you can still absolutely get into the industry.

Even Mr. Spielberg, someone who I think you’ll agree has done alright for himself, was rejected from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film & Television! Call me flippant if you like, but I’m here to tell you that my industry colleagues and I would always put someone who has some kind of industry work experience miles ahead of someone educated in the artistic virtues of film noir!

lecture learning

Photo Credit: Flickr – vancouverfilmschool

Before I get flooded with angry emails from media colleges and universities, I’m not saying that education is pointless – of course not, it has great value. I’m not demeaning Universities or Media Colleges at all; education will improve your skills in all sorts of areas like communication, rapport and discipline, it will give you a good insight into the technical aspects of the industry and much more. As I mentioned earlier there are areas where qualifications will be essential.

The key point I’m trying to make here is that for certain areas of film and TV, especially basic entry level work..

‘You do not a degree in media! The best qualification you can have is experience.’

If you’ve been to University or Media College, you’ll have already learned about the theory of working in the industry and you’ll have some practical experience of working with basic equipment. Great. This is obviously an advantage, however for those of you who have not had the benefit of this type of education, don’t worry. In this industry, a lot of the time, you learn as you go; the most important thing is to get your foot in the door. Many, many people, including myself, who are currently working in the industry, do not have a media qualification of any sort.

Inside Industry Information Fact
Professionals working in the industry almost always favour people with some form of industry experience over those who have a qualification, even though that level of experience may be very limited.

Photo Credit: Flickr - vancouverfilmschool

Photo Credit: Flickr – vancouverfilmschool

The reasons… well if you have some experience we know you understand a little about how the industry really works, we recognise you must have initiative and determination to have got that experience in the first place, you are aware of the etiquette when working alongside industry professionals, and we also know it’s very much a practical hands on industry where you learn on the job. To all those currently studying film/media at a uni or college, please, please, PLEASE don’t assume it will be a golden ticket into the industry; you’ll have to work as hard as everyone else to get your break – too often I talk to students who believe that they’ll walk straight out of education, straight into a highly skilled job and it’s not always the case.

So to all those who are worried because they can’t afford film school or haven’t got in, fear not – there are other routes… but alas… here endeth the lesson. I hope you’ve found this information interesting and practical and if you want to know more about how break into the film and TV industry, I’d suggest checking out my new eBook (yes very cheeky):

Big Screen Dreams: Secrets on Getting Your Dream Job in Film & TV

cover smallThe book is available to buy on Amazon is packed with EFFECTIVE, must have knowledge straight from INSIDE THE INDUSTRY. I decided to put the book together because I get flooded with emails asking for advice on breaking in, I remember how it was when I was starting out… but I did it and so can you 🙂 (I also run this blog for free so would greatly appreciate your support if you feel I’ve helped in any way).

To even have a fighting chance of breaking into the industry you need to be different and far better than your competition, you need to craft an extremely powerful and persuasive message to get in front of those who have the power to hire you and this book will teach you a quickly learned, yet affective skill, a process you can follow once you possess it, a key to competitive advantage, a “lever” to get you through the industry door…

Most people haphazardly stab away trying to find work, all on the same treadmill, all making the same phone calls, all sending the same emails, all sending CV’s, all doing the same old, same old, day after day after day. ‘Big Screen Dreams’ offers you an easy to follow step-by-step plan of action to realise your dream and work in the film and TV industry.

It clearly sets out the type of person the industry is looking for when recruiting new talent and how you can use this information and adapt an identity that resonates with those key industry personnel that have the power to hire and recruit.

It includes everything from the basics of how to contact and quickly impress production managers and other key industry professionals to how to get to the top of your game once you’re in the industry. Also included is an extensive list of industry resources and agents, as well as a voucher for a discount off one of my training courses.

For a full breakdown of the book, CLICK HERE.

So if you’re serious about a career in film and TV check out Big Screen Dreams… out now!

As always thanks for your support and best of luck with all your filmmaking endeavors!

Have fun,

Chris

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