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How To Make A Career In The Film-Making Industry Without Going To Film School

Published: Friday 22nd May 2015

Film frame on a table

If you’d like to pursue a career in filmmaking, the good news is that the digital revolution has opened doors that were previously closed to many people. Equipment costs are a mere fraction of what they once were, and the internet offers would-be filmmakers their very own multiplex cinema that can be accessed by billions of people.  The flip side of the coin is that these very factors mean that more people than ever are making films, so it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. It’s far from impossible, however, provided that you have talent, perseverance and a modicum of business sense.

Many, if not most, people who make a career in filmmaking have studied it (or a related subject) at university or college. However, there are other ways in which to carve out a career for yourself as a filmmaker. And it all starts with a camera. 


What Equipment Will I Need To Get A Job In The Film Industry?

If you’re going to make films then it stands to reason that you’ll need a camera that shoots HD video. However, all cameras are not born equal, so you should do some research before taking the plunge and buying one. We’d suggest that if you’re just starting out then an inexpensive DSLR that offers full manual control of exposure is a good, cost-effective way to learn the basics of moviemaking. The chances are that it won’t suffice as a professional tool, but there’s no point in splashing out a lot of money only to discover that filmmaking isn’t for you.

Having bought a camera, the next thing is to learn how to use it. There are lots of books and online tutorials that explain how to operate a camera and tweak the settings to get the most out of it. 

Some colleges offer evening and weekend courses in digital filmmaking, such as City of Glasgow College or City University London. These courses aren’t free, but they do offer some excellent practical guidance. Even if your camera skills are already good, taking a course can still be of benefit to you. And they’re also an excellent way to start building a network of like-minded people – which will most definitely help you when you start looking for jobs in the film industry.

As your abilities increase, you’ll want to acquire other equipment – such as extra lenses, a portable sound recorder, an external microphone and lights etc. A good tip here is to buy one new piece of equipment at a time and learn how to use it properly before purchasing the next item on your list. 


What Camera Techniques Should I Learn To Get A Job In The Film Industry?

Every film – no matter what type – has a common purpose: to tell a story that will engage the viewer.

The first way to learn camera techniques is to watch films, TV shows and commercials. Watch them closely and study the changes of camera position and angle, the way that the camera moves and how selective focus is used to concentrate the viewer’s attention on a specific person or thing.

Books and online tutorials can help too, by explaining and demystifying some of the rules of composition – it may be an art, but there are some rules to follow, too.  

Ultimately, though, there is no substitute for experience. Take your camera equipment out and experiment with different types of shot. Vary your camera placement and angles and practice working with a moving camera. You’ll make lots of mistakes, but you’ll learn a lot from them. 

And you needn’t learn these skills alone, because there are lots of filmmaking groups out there who are always looking for volunteers. A few minutes spent searching on Google, Facebook and Meetup should be all that’s needed to find out who’s active in your area.


First Steps As A Filmmaker

No matter whether you want to set up in business yourself or you’re thinking of applying for jobs in the film industry, you won’t get far unless you have a portfolio. And that means getting out there and making films. 

Helping out a local filmmaking group might mean having to start out with a less glamorous job, such as a production runner. However, if you have the necessary talent as well as enthusiasm, it shouldn’t be too long before you’re operating a camera or even directing a project. If so, always make sure that you receive an on-screen credit for your role. 

Some local commercial filmmakers, such as wedding videographers, may have openings for someone to work with them as a ‘second shooter’. There’s usually some financial reward for your services on top of the experience that you’ll gain. It’s advisable to make sure that you’re covered by their professional and public indemnity insurance, although you really should take out your own insurance cover just to be sure. Filming promotional videos for local charities or organisations (such as your local community centre) is also an excellent way to build up a portfolio. 

Once you’ve assembled a reasonable portfolio, you should create a show reel using the best of your material. This should be uploaded to your website/blog/social media pages – together with an overview of your experience to date. 


Jobs In The Film Industry

A career as a filmmaker doesn’t necessarily mean working for a large film or TV production company. The reality is that opportunities of that sort are limited however there are plenty of smaller production companies across the UK. 

Production companies such as Mandy.com and Filmandtvpro.com often list jobs on websites and smart job apps like Zoek can help to identify current vacancies in the film and media industry. 

It can be hard to find work at first, you’ll need an aptitude for marketing as well as technical and artistic ability. The rewards – financial and creative – are, however, worth it.

If you are searching for jobs in the film industry or other roles in your local area, why not try Zoek. For faster, smarter recruiting Zoek is the job hunting app that lets the jobs come to you. Available to download for free on iPhone or Android. 

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