You want a job in the film industry. You, like so many others around you, moved to LA to find your way in on a feature film or scripted television show. You also want a stable, full time job so you can pay your bills. Did you know that most people who work on the big movies and television shows don’t have stable, long term jobs?
The vast majority of movies and television you watch, are made by an army of (a majority) of freelancers. There are exceptions, which I’ll get to, but for now let this fact sink in. Freelance. There is nothing “secure” or “stable” about the type of work we do here in Hollywood.
If you’re looking for a stable, full time, high paying, long term, permanent job, I’ll tell you right now, you’re probably looking in the wrong place. Not letting that stop you? Ok, read on…
Each production (a movie or television show, etc.) is a job. The making of that production is the duration of the job. Eventually, after maybe a year or two (depends on the production, budget and deadlines, etc.), the show gets finished, and released, hence the job ends. The movie’s release date is your guaranteed Unemployment date.
If you’re working in live action, in production, or post-production, odds are you are a freelancer, in the Union (I’ll cover the Union in another post, but just FYI, the Union is how freelancers get benefits and a fair, live-able rate of pay, etc.).
If you’re working in animation, odds are, you might be full time at the animation company (not always, but it is common). For example, Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney Animation, Lucasfilm Animation, etc., all make their productions from a Full Time Team of permanent Employees. Animation is a different beast than live action, so consider that (it generally doesn’t pay as well as Union rates though). But the live action feature films and television shows, those are basically all freelancers, but they are the real deal (name any famous director, actor, producer, etc.).
There are exceptions to freelance in the bigger live action productions. For example, the visual effects and 3D vendors, who are responsible for making most or all the visual effects and 3D conversion, are made up on full time, permanent employees of various vendors (a vendor is a smaller company, not always located in LA, many times Canada or somewhere else in the world, who is hired by the freelance production team to produce some aspect of the movie for them, whether it’s a bunch of visual effect shots, or even the Title / Credits sequence). You can also be full time at the DI / Online facility that handles the film. In addition, you can be full time on the Studio side, though that’s not really where the “filmmaking” aspect takes place, it’s more of an office environment (full time / permanent work though) where you communicate with the actual freelancer filmmakers who are actually touching the movie, an provide support to the production with various needs, expenses and deadlines.
But, again, the freelancers are the real Creatives behind the success or failure of any production – think the actors, director, producer, writer, editor, etc. If you can line up stable work in freelance and keep that momentum going, good for you! Somehow I’ve been doing it for 6 years now, and I keep telling myself I’ll keep doing it as long as I can. Finding work is an art form in and of itself, which you need to get good at, and that’s a whole another post for anther time.
So, back to the question, of The Dream vs. Stability – you generally can’t have both (a few small exceptions listed above). So take your pick.
Hi. My name is Josh. I Make Movies. And I’ve been working in the Film Industry for the last 5 Years.
My area of expertise is in post-production, specifically Editing. I spent four years studying it in film school before moving to Los Angeles. I chose editing because I knew that’s where the jobs were, and because I was good at it. Sure enough, I found work here, in my area of study (editing), and have been busy ever since.
My goal, and my dream, over the last 5 years has always been the same: Work On Movies. The Big Ones. Star Wars. Star Trek. I could go on, but you get the idea. That is my dream, and my patience was tested. Over the years, I accepted many different types of editing / post-production jobs at many different companies, most notably Reality Television. That’s the secret to how I paid my bills as I continued to search for the jobs I really wanted but could never find. I hated Reality, and I was loosing hope. I was starting to doubt whether I would ever find the job of my dreams. Then, finally, Destiny came knocking in my greatest time of need…
Through a connection from my old film school, I was offered my very first opportunity on a big budget feature film, called The Great Wall, at the major film company, Legendary. If only I had found this job all those years ago when I first moved to LA, but it took me all this time to build the strong network of contacts needed to get here.
The secret to finding these jobs is WHO you know, not WHAT you know. That’s it. It’s that simple. If you don’t KNOW someone who works on these types of movies, you’ll very likely NEVER find a way in. I spent years looking for jobs on online job websites (Entertainment Careers, StaffMeUp, etc.), only to discover I was looking in the wrong places, and going about it completely wrong. What I learned is I needed to reach out to specific PEOPLE, via their direct email addresses, in order to start finding these types of opportunities. Once I started doing that, and changing my approach to how I found work, the opportunities started coming.
I have learned so much on my path to getting here, and I’ll share more of that in many blog posts to come, but for now I’ll leave it at that.
Want to work in the film industry? Making the move to LA? Don’t know anyone? Learn from my 5 years of trial and errors, and save yourself the time: DON’T apply to online job ads (unless you are ok with getting trapped in the never ending circle of Reality Television and / or Trailer House and / or Internet Video jobs), and start REACHING OUT to as many people who work on the types of big Movies and / or TV Shows as you possibly can. How do you find their emails, you might ask? Good question. The answer is IMDB Pro. No, it’s not free, but for $20 per month, it’s worth it, to start opening doors to your career.
Today marks the launch of my new blog site. I am very excited to share some of my thoughts and experiences with the world, as the early years of my professional career unfold. Please join me in my journey as a filmmaker, and come back to visit every now and then for updates!
Though this post is called “A New Beginning”, it is really a new chapter of an older beginning that started just about five years ago, when I graduated film school and moved to LA to join the film industry. Since then I have already come a long way, working in post-production at over a dozen different film and television production companies, meeting awesome people, learning new tricks in my craft, joining the lingo of LA lifestyle, and more. But the journey has only just begun, and the best is yet to come.
Here’s to the future!