The Film Business

Eleven Tips for Finding a Job in the Film Industry

How to find jobs in Film

Photo by Vancouver Film School

Following are some pointers to help you find employment. Employers expect you to know what they do and look for strong signs that you would fit well into their environment. This depends on how specific your knowledge of their operation is, whether you have relevant experience, and how committed you are to the kind of work they do.

Resumé. A good resumé is vital. Print it on good paper, lay it out professionally (get a book on resumé writing) and present what you have done logically and in the best light. Show evidence of pertinent employment, dependability, good character, and self-motivation. A range of different employment is good, and you should have letters of recommendation available from past employers ready for inspection. Include any work you did for good causes because selfless commitment to a community is always a good character reference. Be able to explain any employment gaps.

Awards. Nothing, they say, succeeds like success, and people with judgmental responsibilities often seem most impressed by prizes and honors. Make sure you get yours.

Your reel. With your resumé enclose a professionally laid out DVD.  Some people put a different DVD together depending on the type of job or company they are approaching.

Knowledge of your potential employer’s business. Use your research skills to learn everything possible about the business or organization. Write to the appropriate individual by name in the company or group. With your resumé send a brief, carefully composed, individual cover letter that shows realistically how your work goals will contribute to what the company does.

Follow-up call. Follow up with a phone call a week after the application arrived. You will probably be told the company has no positions open. Ask if you might stop by for a brief chat with someone in case a position opens up in the future. Person to person contact is vital if you are to be remembered.

Interview. If you are granted an interview, dress conservatively, be punctual, and have all relevant information at hand. How professionally you conduct yourself is the key to whether the interviewer decides to take matters further.

Let the interviewer ask the questions and when you reply be brief and to the point. Be modest, realistic, and optimistic. Enthusiasm, realism, and a great desire to learn are attractive qualities. Then,

  • Take up no more time than you sense is appropriate.
  • Be ready to open up if invited to do so.
  • Say concisely what skills and qualities you have to offer. Don’t try to hoodwink or manipulate the interviewer.
  • Say what you want to do, and show you are willing to do (almost) any kind of work to get there.
  • Use the interview to demonstrate your knowledge of (and therefore commitment to) the interviewer’s business.

Ask if the interviewer can recommend other contacts or avenues of inquiry. If he or she says yes, ask if you can use his or her name.

Be ready to work gratis. If necessary volunteer to work without pay for a set period. It will give you experience, a reference, and possibly a paying job after you’ve proved yourself.

Have questions ready. Interviewers often finish by asking if you have any questions, so have two or three good ones ready. This is an opportunity to engage your interviewer in discussion about the company’s work. Most in a position to hire are proud of what their company does, and through conversation you may learn something useful.

Extend the contact. When the interview is over, ask politely if you can keep in touch in case something turns up. Polite persistence over time often makes the deepest impression because it marks you as someone who really wants to join them.

Leave your resumé and reel. Bring further copies of your résumé and DVD reel, in case the interviewer offers to pass your materials on.

People accustomed to dealing with a volume of job seekers rapidly distinguish the determined realist from the hopeful naïf adrift in alien seas. The judgment is made not on who you are, but on how you present yourself—on paper, on the screen, and in person. You’ll do this best by doing your homework, resourceful reading, and networking. You don’t know the right people? Write this on your cuff: Anyone can get to anyone else in the world through five or fewer contacts (phone calls or emails). This means that anyone can find out a whole lot prior to any important meeting.

[Excerpted from Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, fourth edition. Copyright ©2008, Michael Rabiger. Published by Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.]

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4 Comments
   David Whitney said on March 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm

This article sounds like it was written before the internet. Certainly there are digital tools beyond the DVD and the telephone that can help readers market themselves in this new era of technology.

   11 Tips for Finding a Job in the Industry said on April 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm

[…] Looking for work in the industry? Michael Rabiger offers 11 tips for landing your next gig: …Following are some pointers to help you find employment. Employers expect you to know what th… […]

   vashi alexander said on April 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Some very good basic points but one stood out as being very dangerous professionally. “Be ready to work gratis” and then watch as you are taken of advantage of from that point forward. Every professional has done this at some point against with best intentions and every time you will get screwed. What other profession offers free service from the get-go with no promise of future work? None I can think of. If you don’t value your skills and your profession then do you honestly think the non-paying client will? They will grind you into the ground and promise paying work then repeat the same process with the next sucker. If you are just starting out, any experience for your reel is good but if you are established/experienced/trained and this is your, then job proceed at your own risk.

   Bill Kirkwood said on April 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Michael Rabiger’s tips stand the test of time. As the technology changes, take advantage of whatever new methods come along, but don’t forget the new ones. Emails can be deleted, website links ignored but a business card, resume and DVD are tangible physical objects that the recipient has to decide to file or bin.

Try not to be exploited. Probably the only way to get initial experience is to work without pay, but you have to be realistic and judge the benefits for you. If you are asked back, ask for expenses and if you are starting to be established ask for pay.

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