How to Get a Mentor in the Film Industry
With patience, talent and some pluck you may be able to get a mentor in the film industry without a film degree. Even with the established contacts film students often have, breaking into film making can be extremely difficult. Living in Los Angeles, the center of American movie-making or New York City would be helpful for networking with possible mentors.
Apply for menial jobs in places like production studios that will give you access to film insiders. Bill Coplin of Syracuse University's Public Affairs department recounts how one young filmmaker got a job to walk a famous director's dogs. Though you will need to keep a professional relationship with the person you work for, it may lead to relationships with other film industry connections.
Create a sample of your work to show prospective mentors. Whether it's a screenplay or a short film, having a well-produced sample may secure you a job as an intern or as a production assistant. Keep a copy of your sample on hand, in case you find the right situation to pass it on to a possible mentor.
Find filmmakers outside the mainstream who produce television-movies or independent films. Roger Corman, a B-movie film producer, mentored Martin Scorsese, John Sayles and Jonathan Demme. Working with Corman helped each of them to develop their own unique vision, while also learning how to manage a film budget.
Apply to study at the American Film Institute or at one of the studio's talent development programs. The AFI Conservatory is a prestigious organization that has given Terrence Malick, a former philosophy graduate student, the opportunity to develop mentor relationships with established film producers.