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Getting Into the Industry


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#1 Jay Res

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 08:30 PM

Hi,
I am a student, and I have heard a lot about making short films and showing them off, but that doesn't really help me. Would anyone mind taking the time to tell me how they got into the industry, maybe a good path I could take, or ideas about how to break in? I would be interested in hearing both personal stories and advice, and maybe both at once :)
Thanks for your help, Jay
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 11:18 PM

Hi, Jay.

The "best" way to get into the industry depends a lot on what it is you really want to do. Unfortunately, your question is coming about eight months early as the book I've written won't be released until June '08. It will answer that question in regard to most jobs on set in Hollywood.

That said, I'll try to give you a more generic answer for the moment. To create an actual career that will last you a lifetime (like MOST people in the business), it takes time, patience, enthusiasm, and perseverance. Don't expect to make a decent living for months or even a year or more. The business works primarily on networking. In other words, it's all about who you know. You get to know people who may be able to help you in your goals by putting in time, working hard, and being a genuinely pleasant person to work with.

If you want to be a part of the crew (ie, anything other than Director, Actor, Producer, Writer), expect to start at the bottom in whichever department you choose. For instance, if you want to be a Director of Photography, you'll likely start as a 2nd Camera Assistant/Loader on a low-budget or student film. From there, you get your days to qualify for union membership as a Loader. Then you slowly work your way up the ladder until the day long from now when you MIGHT get the chance to DP a movie.

OR, you could learn all you can about motion-picture photography and moviemaking right now and begin shooting short films and/or music videos for other aspiring Directors, Writers, Actors, Filmmakers. Over time, you'll learn your craft (meaning, learning how to light better, light more efficiently, manage your time, manage a crew, work with different personalities, etc) and build a reel that you will use to get more and hopefully better work. After a while, that body of work might be enough to get you an agent who may or may not push you very hard to projects in need. Or maybe you'll just happen to shoot a project that becomes a commercial success, and regardless of how well you actually photographed the movie, you'll be associated with the success and you can parlay that into bigger films.

That's the basic gist for most crew positions.


If you want to be a Director, your best avenue is to be a great Writer. Assuming you'd like to be a professional Director as a career choice for a lifetime, you'll obviously have to direct something to show others that you can do it well. In the beginning, you'll also have to be an effective Producer as you have the most at stake in the projects. Direct your own material or the scripts or music videos of others. You'll be doing a lot of this work for free until you're able to convince someone to pay you for your creative skills. Over time, you'll hopefully build a body of work that impresses others who are in need of someone as wonderful (and potentially profitable) as you.

Now, undoubtedly you've heard the success stories of people like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Know that those are the EXCEPTIONS. What they achieved and how they achieved it is so rare that it would be folly to put your money on hitting the lottery as they did. It's not that the projects they did weren't good or worthy. What's important to know about people like them is that they were also very lucky. They had projects that were good enough at the right time which were seen by the right people. Luck is when opportunity and preparation collide. As you move through the business, you'll meet random people at random times who could help you, but only if YOU are ready to be helped.

It's up to you to have a script or three ready to be read when you happen to meet a Producer who likes you and wants to see what you've got. It's up to you to have a reel ready to be seen when someone gets your name and is interested in hiring you to shoot a movie. You've got to get into the business to meet people, but come in ready to go in preparation for the days when those opportunities arise.


So what you need to do now as a student is to try to figure out exactly what job it is you want in the business. Once you think you've got that figured out, learn EVERYTHING you can about it. How to do it, how to get it, what life is like doing it, pitfalls, perks, who the "important" people in that field are, how they got in.... read books (see my site for a list of other resources, other book information coming soon), visit forums like this, ask questions, experiment on your own, volunteer to work for other people on their films, intern with established professional television crews, industrial/corporate video crews, film crews...any and all type of real production experience will help show you what the reality of a set is like and what life is really like for people in the industry. If you want to be a Director, write something or find a Writer and then find a way to actually make a movie. Aim high but make it good. Watch films that you like and try to emulate and build on what those people achieved. Unless you have a well-connected relative in the business, chances are that nobody will just hand you a career. Work hard, continue learning, meet people, and BE A NICE PERSON TO WORK WITH and you most likely will wind up with the career you hope for.

Good luck!
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#3 Greg Johnson

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 01:35 AM

Excellent Post,.. makes me want to buy your book!

- Greg
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#4 Spiros Andreou

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 08:59 AM

Building on Brian's excellent post, I have a few tips to offer:

? Start on cast/crew calling websites, such as Craig's List (and here in the UK we have mandy.com and Talent Circle). Volunteer for no-budget films, as a runner, and decide where you want to be (do you want to be a gaffer/spark, cameraman, sound recordist, DoP etc).

? Consider a course tailored to your chosen path. I'm not saying a degree, just something to teach you the basics of camera theory. These courses can be expensive, but they do pay off in the long term, as they give you the skills that make you attractive to certain companies.

? Another option is to approach your local film dry-hire company, and volunteer to spend some hours working with them. You'll probably not get payed, and do rubbish jobs, but you'll learn a great deal about the equipment, and they may even send you out on shoots as a CA (camera assistant) once you've learned the basics. Look out for hire companies advertising for Camera Assistant/Technician jobs.

? 'It's not what you know, it's who you know.' BUT once you're in, it's not who you know - but what you know!
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#5 Jay Res

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:21 PM

thanks everyone, thats some really interesting advice
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#6 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 11:18 PM

? 'It's not what you know, it's who you know.' BUT once you're in, it's not who you know - but what you know!


It's not so much who you know, but "who knows you" ;)
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#7 Vanessa Ward

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 11:41 AM

It's not so much who you know, but "who knows you" ;)

And, of course, "who knows you know what you know" ;)
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 03:58 PM

"Unfortunately, your question is coming about eight months early as the book I've written won't be released until June '08."

You should stop writing such long posts in a free forum, you're giving your book away! :D

R,
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#9 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 06:45 PM

"Unfortunately, your question is coming about eight months early as the book I've written won't be released until June '08."

You should stop writing such long posts in a free forum, you're giving your book away! :D

R,


:) I'm a giver.
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#10 DAVID GUIVANT

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 05:30 AM

I suppose the same advice applies to other areas of the filmbiz as well, I would like to get in as production artist? :lol:
Someone also told me about the Union, the network and making shortfilms to get noticed even if my area is only in pre-production so that I can understand more about the craft of filmmaking and I will be able to respond to the director's needs.
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#11 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 10:55 AM

Off the top of my head, I would add, start talking to other people who work in the industry (like on this forum), start looking around your school for opportunities to work with other film students to get experience, and maybe see what's around in your neighborhood outside of the school (I'm not sure where you're located), just to have a starting point and a general idea of what's out there. I wouldn't worry about trying to specialize in anything if you're still kinda figuring it out in your classes, but you never know where that will lead you...I didn't even major in film at my school but I was really interested in the cameras, so I started working at their equipment checkout. It was a good position to be in because not only were they then paying ME to learn their stuff, but all the students who came in, would ask me to work on their projects. So it was a good way to start out. But anyway, take it slow for sure...and good luck!
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#12 DAVID GUIVANT

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 02:40 AM

Thanks for the advice, I am located in New Caledonia, South Pacific Island.
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 12:05 PM

Thanks for the advice, I am located in New Caledonia, South Pacific Island.


I'd love to switch places with you! :D Can't be a bad place to be "trapped."

Check out filmschools in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines (www.whatireallywanttodo.com then "filmschools" and "resources"). If you can't get over there anytime soon, you're in a beautiful place so consider creating a "travelogue" movie to use the scenery around you. Or a documentary. Or National Geographic and The Travel Channel have avenues for amateurs to submit travel related projects (links to those on my site under "resources" as well).
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#14 Kirsty Stark

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 09:07 PM

If you're interested in stories of how people actually got into the film industry, try the book "Film: It's a Contact Sport" by Sarah Darmody. I don't know if it's still in print, so it may be hard to get your hands on a copy, but it has interviews with Australian filmmakers from all departments specifically about how they got to where they are.

Robert Rodriguez's '15 minute Filmschool' in the back of "Rebel Without a Crew" is also a good read (as is the whole book!).

Actually... it looks like there is a "10 Minute Film School" video version on YouTube as well:

Part 1:

Part 2:

and the additonal "5 Minute Film School":

Good luck!
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