Breaking Into the Film Business
The movie business frequently feels like one of those ‘members-only’ clubs – you can’t get in the door without knowing someone on the inside. So the best way to break into the business is: get to know someone who makes movies! Easy enough to say that, but the big question is: how?
First there are lots of entertainment industry job sites on the web, like mandy.com and entertainmentcareers.net. If you scan those daily, you’ll see that there are lots of entertainment jobs offered. Most require some level of experience, but some don’t. However you usually don’t get paid much for those entry-level positions. And, just to scare you, for every job online, there are probably five hundred to a thousand people applying for it. Seems daunting. Go ahead and try – you might get lucky.
In the meantime, ask all your friends and family if they know anyone in the business, even if it’s the craft service person on a commercial or the assistant editor on a reality show. Any ‘in’ is worthwhile. They shoot movies and television shows and commercials all over the country, so odds are, wherever you are, you know someone who has a friend in the filmmaking business. If you do finally get to someone who’s on the inside, be nice, not too pushy, but just ask if you can come and watch for a day. Just to observe. Say you’re not going to bother anybody, you just want to learn. And if you get that big opportunity to observe, make friends, make contacts and slowly compile that list of people on the inside. Keep hitting them up for work, tell them you’ll do it for free at first. That’s a good way to get your foot in the door.
You could also spend tens of thousands of dollars on film school. There you’ll learn a lot of the technical aspects of making movies. But you still won’t have any contacts when you graduate, after your and your parents’ bank accounts have been drained. You’ll always need that ‘members-only’ card, that way to get to the inside.
The very best way is to find a mentor. If you can attach yourself to someone who’s already in the filmmaking business and just shadow them, learn what they know, find out who their contacts are, then you’re on the inside track. The Film Connection Film Institute does just that mentor-extern program: they hook you up with someone in the business and let you learn from them. Most of the major studios and networks also have internship programs, but you’ll be competing against thousands for those spots. Once again, go ahead and try, you might get lucky.
But if you don’t want to just rely on luck, you’ve got to hit up everyone you know to get that invitation onto a set. Once you’ve got a mentor and some contacts on the inside, the doors will be open to you.