Below are some tips to help you get your dream job in our wild and wonderful film industry. An industry not for the faint-hearted! Of course, these may not be for everyone and everyone’s situations are different.. but throughout my winding career from camera assistant to telecine operator and through to colourist I have found these things to be true. I believe in working hard and making your own luck. Being in the “right place at the right time” has more to do with putting yourself in the place in the first place! Also, “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” is completely true in my opinion… so get to know the people, people!
1. Work on your craft.
There is a quote about opportunity meets preparation. If you find yourself with an opportunity to get on board a project (whether that is paid or unpaid) you want to know as much as you can. Don’t expect other people to use their time to teach you everything. Do your own research, start compiling mood boards, sounds, documents that might be useful. Employers and clients want to know you’re confident in your ability.
2. Work on cultivating confidence.
Employers or clients hire you because they believe in you and your talent. Don’t give them a reason to doubt you, keep your insecurities to yourself (everyone has them!) and remember your strengths. I heard a great idea that confidence takes experience, and that experience takes action. The more you do it, the more experience you have. Practice, practise, practise! With that will come more confidence.
3. Identify filmmakers/practitioners that you admire and learn all can about their journey.
Where did they start and what did they do? Learn all you can about them, do you have anything in common with their background? Can you take any inspiration from the path they have taken? Email them and tell them what you admire about them/ their work. You don’t necessarily need to ask for something, you can just start a conversation.
4. Be an active member of your society/guild.
From producers to art department assistants, there is a society or guild for you. They can be national, state-based or even community based. If you want to get a job in a particular department you should start committing some time to getting involved with that community. This is where you meet working professionals, mentors as well as hear about what’s new in your craft and learn from others. You will need to get yourself out of your comfort zone. Everyone would rather be at home on the couch watching Netflix, but that is not going to get you your dream job in this industry! Being an active member means not just paying your yearly fee to be part of the society and never going to meet the other members, but actually being an active participant. Helping out with events, taking on a role within the group, this will expand your network amazingly and get your name out there. It will also show others (and potential employers) in your industry that you’re committed, proactive and a lovely human.
Examples of societies/guilds include:
Producers- Screen Producers Australia, Screen Vixens
Camera Department- ACS
Directors- Australian Director’s Guild, Dame Changer
Editors- Australian Screen Editors
Art Direction/Production Design/Animation- Australian Production Design Guild
5. Be a pleasure to be around.
Be nice, listen really hard, read the vibes- there are times to ask questions and times to be silent. Be positive and up for anything. Think of how you can be useful, pre-empt what might be helpful and do this with a good attitude. Offer to get someone a coffee.
6. Work for free*
*At the beginning and for a little while! You will probably need to fund this period of your career with a proper (casual) job. Work for free on projects which will give you experience and build your craft. It will also help you cultivate confidence in your role and meet people.
7. Get to know a lot of people.
It’s true that it’s who you know, not what you know. So get to know a lot of people! Don’t complain about not knowing anyone- get to know them. See #3, #4 and #6. If you find this a bit difficult then you are going to find getting the job you want in the industry difficult. Filmmaking is collaborative- good people skills are imperative. There are some great Facebook groups at the moment with very active members in emerging and established careers.
8. Be Persistent.
Getting a job in the industry is survival of the keenest. If at first you fail, try again. If no one replies to your email, then a week later follow up with another email or a phone call. The person is probably just busy and it slipped through the net, they might be appreciative you followed up with them! If they don’t reply to your second email then abort.. don’t become a pest. Again, they are probably just busy so try someone else. If someone replies and asks you to get in touch again in a few months, put it in your calendar and follow up with them in 3 months. If your phone call is not answered, this is not a get out of jail free card (!) you need to try again the next day. Don’t leave a voicemail. Just keep trying until you get the actual human person in the flesh talking to you one on one on the phone.
9. Have a good digital footprint.
Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, IMDB and Website. (There are many platforms but these are the ones I use.) Be Professional, positive and honest. Create a website (even if you don’t have much to put on it!) which tells people who you are and what you do. There are some great inexpensive template sites out there these days like Squarespace and WIX. Follow people from #3 and interact with them through comments or sharing their posts/stories if you resonate with them.
10. Find a Mentor or Sponsor.
After completing #3 and/or #4 you might have come across someone who you get on well with, identify with and who you think might be open to continuing a relationship with you. Offer to buy them a coffee or lunch at a place/time that’s convenient for them. DO NOT BE LATE. Listen to what they’re up to and think about anything you could do to help them in return. Don’t expect people to just divulge all of their trade secrets that they have been working on their entire careers! I heard recently that instead of a mentor you could also find a sponsor. The difference is that a mentor will listen and may offer advice, a sponsor will actively put your name out there on behalf of you. If you find someone who believes in you, perhaps you can ask them if there is anyone they know who could use someone like you. You could ask them if they minded sharing your details. Either way, having a mentor or a sponsor is a wonderful way to learn from those who have gone before you. It can happen organically and perhaps they will never even know that you consider them your mentor, or perhaps you want to ask them and it be a more formal. You could email them so they’re not put on the spot and have time to think about it. It is a time commitment for them, after all. Asking someone to be your mentor is another one of those moments that may make you want to curl up on couch and binge Netflix, or crawl into a hole. But just remember, you are never going to get your dream job in the film industry if you’re hiding in a hole !
In conclusion. To get your dream job in the film industry you are going to need to think outside the box, be pro-active and be brave. It is survival of the keenest, and that is why our industry is full of such passionate, smart and resilient women and men. It is a tough, wild and wonderful industry. Good luck!
You can do this!