Breaking into the film industry

 24 September 2012

In the film industry, the problem for most young people is getting their foot in the door and getting noticed. First Light offers 7 pieces of advice for young people starting out.

With perseverance, a career within the film industry can be very rewarding.
With perseverance, a career within the film industry can be very rewarding.

It’s a notoriously hard industry to break into, but with hard work and perseverance, a career within the film industry can be very rewarding.

First Light is a UK-wide organisation that uses film and media production to develop skills in young people aged up to 25. They offer 7 tips for new entrants:

1. Be positive

Have a positive and enthusiastic attitude, no matter how menial a task may seem.

Many graduates think that being a runner and making the tea is beneath them, but this is the best way to get your foot in the door. Look at the positives:

  • As a runner, you have the opportunity to understand the wide range of roles out there, and how they fit together. This is a skill that will be useful when you are higher up the ranks.
  • Use it as an opportunity to network and make contacts in the industry. If you make a good impression, they might remember you the next time they need a pair of hands
  • Use your initiative.  See what needs doing without being asked first, and you’re more likely to work your way up the ladder faster.

2. Make films!

Have a brief and compelling pitch which could generate interest in your idea.

Want to be a script writer? Write scripts! Want to be a director? Get a group together and direct a short film!

Industry bods are more likely to take you seriously if you can actually show that you’re passionate rather than just talking the talk.

3. Know yourself

When you’re networking or in an interview situation, you need to be able to explain, succinctly, what you’re about.

Do you eventually want to work in the camera department, be a director, or write scripts? Are you passionate about documentaries, or dramas? What skills do you possess that would make you a valuable part of a team?

Have you heard of the 'Elevator Pitch'? A scenario where you end up in a lift with an executive or studio head and have two minutes to pitch your idea to them?

Whilst it’s very unlikely that this will happen (and lifts don’t often take a whole two minutes!), the point is that you could bump into someone important at any given time. Rather than bumbling away at them, have a brief and compelling pitch which could generate interest in your idea.

4. Work on your CV and covering letter

First impressions count, and often somebody’s first impression of you will be on a piece of paper sat on their desk.

If you are going to undertake unpaid work, make sure that your employer doesn’t exploit you.

Your CV needs to be easy to read, clean and simple, well-written (with no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors!) and include only information relevant to the role at hand.

Your covering letter is then a chance to expand upon some of the relevant points and spell out how you fit the person specification (if there is one) or what you think they are looking for.

There are lots more tips about writing CVs and covering letters, along with interview techniques, on the First Light website.

5. Beware of exploitation

There is a lot of unpaid work around. Whilst it may be a beneficial way of getting your foot in the door, many young people simply can’t afford it.

If you are going to undertake unpaid work, make sure your employer doesn’t exploit you.

We recommend that:

  • Unpaid work should last no longer than 4 weeks. After this the employer should pay you at least minimum wage.
  • The employer should provide travel expenses.
  • You should expect to receive training, dedicated supervision and flexible hours.

Arts Council England and Creative and Cultural Skills have published a guide to arts internships, highlighting the legal obligations for employers.

6. Network

It’s not as hard as you might think. Grab a drink and introduce yourself to someone. Make sure you ask questions about them, too.

Network and make contacts in the industry. If you make a good impression they might remember you.

If you come away with a useful business card, then do follow it up and make contact, even if it’s just a note to say it was nice to meet them and to bear you in mind if any opportunities arise.

Be careful not to pester people though, it might put them off!

7. Use social media

It’s more important now than ever before to interact online in order to find opportunities and jobs, engage with prospective employers, and generally keep up-to-date with the industry.

Last-minute runner jobs are often posted on Twitter – so get involved!

You can keep in touch with First Light on Twitter @firstlightfund and on Facebook /firstlightmovies.

 

First Light provides opportunities for young people interested in filmmaking and creative media production. For weekly tips, job opportunities and advice, sign up to our free members club The Light Lounge.


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