Getting Started In The Film Industry… What I Learned In My First Year

film industry tips for beginners
| How-To > Alternative Jobs

The film industry needs more women – behind and in front of the camera, on and off set. Claire shares her insights from a year in the business.

Early this year, I decided to finally dip my toe into the film industry as a costume designer. My plan was to expand to become a budding screenwriter, composer and producer someday (there’s nothing wrong with ambition). Over the past year, I’ve been very lucky to work with wonderful people on some interesting and creative projects. I’d love to see more women build a career in this unempathetic but exhilarating industry. The film industry can never have too many women. Here are some insights I picked up on the way…

Experience Over Education

You know what? Film directors and producers prefer someone with a long list of experience to someone with a degree and a long list of student debts.

Some education would certainly be useful for certain roles, such as acting lessons, design/art courses for art department roles, or cinematography classes for directors and videographers. Business and project management courses couldn’t hurt either.

Overall, don’t feel as if you need to gain a film degree from the highest rating university to have a career in film. You can certainly get started without one.

Getting off Your Ass is Key

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In this case, roles and gigs start with the first one you book.

Start small to build your confidence and find your feet instead of sitting around wishing that a job will fall into your lap. Take a deep breath and take the plunge. With every job, you build connections and gain experience, meaning you can take more inclusive jobs in a more professional surrounding. All you have to do is take a step forward.

I personally use StarNow.com to search for small roles whilst I study, but there are many other websites that are decided to the collaboration of filmmakers.

Sexism and the Film Industry

Of course, I don’t have to tell you sexism exists in the film industry, given the current situation with devil Harvey Weinstein (may he rot in hell).

My advice: be assertive, and know  that – regardless of your industry status – you are entitled to respect.

The intensely uneven ratio of female directors/writers/producers is also no secret, with women barely making up 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016 (source: Variety). Fortunately, I haven’t seen much sexism in my time on and off set with only a few unwelcome hands on my shoulder or arm (thankfully, no one’s called me ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’ yet). I have however, heard stories from colleagues of women being disregarded. I’m also well aware that just because I haven’t personally experienced something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

This is probably the reason why I am so determined to succeed in this industry, other than my creative spirit. I want to help even out the ratio and encourage women to do the same, whether it be in film or in their respective industries.

Pull up anyone who is making you uncomfortable in a firm but polite way and if they continue, speak up. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, we’ll end up with thousands more unfairly-successful and powerful Harvey Weinsteins in every industry, taking advantage of others who are simply trying to achieve their goals.

Take the Initiative

The film industry revolves around networking.

If you’ve got a reputation for being talented in your craft, hardworking and a pleasure to be around, it will certainly help you score more gigs.

Put in as much as you can (without quitting your day job… wait until you become an Oscar winner) and it will pay off.

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