10 ways to get started in film/TV
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
People regularly ask me how to get a job in film/TV.
Jim Gromer - Founder/Director of Photography/Editor
It's easier than you might think. As with so many things in life, it's not what you know, it's who you know. Here are a few simple steps if you're serious about earning a little money in the industry. If you want to make a living, it's a lot more difficult, but anything is possible if you put your mind to it!
Here's CrossTraining Productions best advice for landing your first job in film/television:
1) Be nice to people. I know this sounds funny, but I recently got a job in the Denver Broncos video department from a guy I went to college with. And he called me! I didn't see a posting, I didn't apply, I went in with a resume, had lunch with his staff, and got the job. Be nice to everyone, because you don't know who will get to the promised land first!
2) Don't give up. This is a long process and even the best graduates from the best film schools in the world start as production assistants. They only get to "direct" when they've earned that right.
3) If you don't know anyone already working in film/TV, do your friends know anyone? Chances are someone you know knows someone. See if they will connect you.
4) If you don't know anyone who knows anyone, volunteer at a public television station. This is a great way to get your feet wet and they have no money, so they're always looking for a little help. I walked in to a PBS station in 1994 when they were having a pledge drive, and I was operating a camera five minutes later (not very well, but I was "in"). I got my first job as vacation relief at ABC through a classmate (again, be nice) because I had "more experience" than the other kid. Crazy!
5) Visit local production companies and introduce yourself. Ask them if they're hiring and, if so, what they are looking for in terms of experience, skill sets, and
6) Don't be a loser. If you smoke pot all day long (even if it is legal), you regularly like to get black-out drunk, or you never finished high school, you may have trouble getting a job (any job. Ha!). Yes, there are some people who will hire you, put up with your complete lack of brain power, and many people with tons of experience have earned the right to be morons. I feel sorry for them. Working in this profession requires smart people - quick reactions, smooth under pressure, and actually physically fit. You may have to hold a boom mic over your head for ten hours. Right?
7) Learn the craft. Production is an art and you need to know your stuff. If you don't know how to hook a power-strip to an extension cord, this may not be the right vocation for you. Learn cameras and lighting first. If you can light a room without making the stars face look like the sun itself and without casting huge ugly shadows on every wall, you can get a job.
8) Pick a specialty and don't make it to "direct" right out of the gate. Unless you have your own money, your own cameras, and your own script, you don't get to direct as a rookie. Sorry to burst your bubble. The higher the budget the more specialized you become. A continuity expert only watches clothes, physical gestures of the actors, props in the scene, etc. to make sure a glass of water isn't full in one shot and half empty in the next. Look up production jobs, pick one, and become the smartest person in the room about it.
9) Keep track of every single person you meet in the industry. From the youngest assistant to the producer to the guy who takes out the trash, one of them just might have the determination, the wisdom, and the connections to go big... and you want to go with them. Hopefully, they'll want to ride your coattails to the top, but don't underestimate anyone you meet to beat you there.
10) Take any job you can get (even if it's working for free) to get the required experience to get where you want to go. Local film clubs are ALWAYS looking for free help with their next indie film. You just might be volunteering on the next BLAIR WITCH or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Then (if you're nice or at least knowledgeable), you just might get to make a big budget film that pays the rent (and could even get you a new Honda). The Internet is full of entry level positions, but even these are hard to get.
I hope this helps. I had some fun with it along the way and I really do wish you all the best. Heck, if you make it to the top... don't forget about me! Ha!