10 tips for starting a career in the Film and TV industry
James, Videographer at People’s Postcode Lottery shares his insights.
Here are some quick tips if you’re thinking about a career in the Film and TV industry.
1. Jacks/ Jills of all trades
- When you’re starting out in the Film and TV industry, it’s great to have a broad range of skills to bring to the table – camera, editing, sound, lighting, graphics. For videographer jobs, you need to be able to do all these competently.
- In the early days of your career, if an employer sees from your CV or showreel that you are great with lighting or editing or sound as well as camera, but the other applicants don’t have those skills, you may be in with a better chance of getting the job.
2. YouTube/ Vimeo portfolio
- You need to have somewhere online where employers can see your skills or portfolio of work easily, and these two platforms are great because they’re free to set up an account with and are generally so well used by everyone that it’s easy to share links to your work.
- YouTube has a massive volume of site traffic and with that can come the wrong kind of people watching your videos and leaving comments, so it’s important to take them with a pinch of salt.
- Vimeo has a reputation for being a more inclusive and compassionate community. It’s a great place to meet other like-minded and supportive filmmakers.
- Think of these platforms as sketchbooks too, you can upload rough videos that show your progression with camera techniques or editing skills and make playlists to chart these developments, or you can just upload videos to share what you are interested in making at that time in your life.
- Both platforms also have an option to make videos private, so you don’t need to release everything you have in your digital sketchbook to everyone, just to those you send the links to.
- It’s who you know that gets your foot in the door. So many jobs in the Film and TV industry are filled by word of mouth. Some people find it easier than others to swan about a film or TV event and talk to people, but I can say from my experience that the rewards of networking are too great to pass up.
- Good places to meet other people in Film and TV are:
- Film festivals – these happen all over the UK and they always recruit volunteers and to thank them for their time and work they receive a free pass to (generally) all the films and events, so it’s a really good way of seeing a lot of new films and making friends.
- Screenings – one-off film screenings happen across the UK too, and these could be followed by a Q&A and a networking event.
- BBC Writersroom events – geared more towards writers, but a great place to meet others in the industry as well.
- Online – a great asset of the internet is that everyone is quite findable and contactable. If there is a filmmaker that you like, send them a message, and see what happens. I’ve spoken with many people on Vimeo about their videos and it has been a great way to expand my circle of filmmaker friends. You never know what opportunities may present themselves if you just take the time to make a connection.
4. Listen to the advice of those you admire
- It’s great to have people to look to when you need to feel inspired. Maybe they have a book or a blog you can read, watch interviews with them online, maybe there’s even a documentary made about them.
- Don’t see challenges and hurdles as a sign to give up, see them as a test where you can learn and grow. For example:
- You don’t need a fancy camera to tell your story. If you’ve got a smartphone or a tablet with a camera, you’ve got a way of capturing visual and sound.
- The director Steven Soderberg made an entire feature film using an iPhone, which was then released globally in cinemas. And more films since have been released using technology that was once deemed ‘uncinematic’.
- Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to tell your story.
- The pandemic resulted in most Film and TV operations coming to a halt because most of the industry involves physically being somewhere in the world with a large crew of people. So, we had to adapt. We got to grips with Zoom and screen recording, which seemed so strange, but we soon realised that it was just another tool to use to capture stories.
- If you want to interview a rugby player in South Africa, a surfer in Hawaii or a mountaineer in Patagonia, you can do so from the comfort of your sofa!
6. Keep up to date with the industry
- It’s worth taking the time to read up on what the new streaming services are and what content they look for, what the new camera is that productions are favouring, where in the world things are being shot, where the new film studios are opening, etc. This knowledge will give you a better sense of where opportunities are, what new skills you need to learn to stay employable, or who to get in contact with for work.
7. Watch films and TV
- What better way of staying in the know with your industry than watching the latest releases.
- You should know what’s being made, what new techniques are being used to tell stories – technically and creatively, what stories are being told and more importantly what stories aren’t being told, so you can pitch ideas of how to fill in these gaps.
- Also, when you’re at any film or TV event, people will talk about the latest releases and it’s good to have an opinion on them so you can be part of the conversation.
8. Carve your own path
- Going to college or Uni to study film and TV production is a fine way of getting into the industry, they have a decent lesson plan that gives a good overview of everything and it’s great to meet people that are at a similar stage as yourself.
- However, there are also so many YouTube videos and filmmaking websites that have free tutorials on how to use equipment and software that you can give yourself a pretty solid foundation (and more if you find the right resources) of film and TV skills and knowledge.
9. Wisdom Wanders
- You never know when a moment of inspiration is going to strike. They always appear like bolts of lightning, which isn’t ideal because you never can tell when they will hit you, but there are ways of trying to lure out inspiration.
- You could be at a gig and allow your mind to float off during a tune, you could be out for a hike in the middle of the woods or at the top of a hill, you could be at an art gallery, at the gym or people-watching out of a café window.
- Whenever I need to be inspired for a project or when I’ve hit a wall with creativity I go for a stroll, or as I like to call it a ‘wisdom wander’, and the moment my head is clear the solution always presents itself without fail!
- Think about when and where you feel most inspired and keep these in mind for when you get stuck!
10. Find your voice
- By this I mean, find your style, identify what topics you’re passionate about, what genre you like to work, question why you like watching certain films and shows over others. Ultimately, there are so many elements that make up who you are and with film and TV you need to find a way of harnessing them in order to share your unique view of the world.
Screenskills – Job profiles for roles in the Film and TV, Visual Effects, Animation, Games industries.
DaVinci Resolve – Free editing software
Performance is dependent on the spec of your computer. You can pay to upgrade for more features, but if you’re starting out, the free version is ideal, it will teach you so much about the editing process. iMovie is also a free bit of software if you’re on a Mac. YouTube also has some simple editing features now.
BBC Writersroom – sign up to their newsletter/ Facebook/ Twitter to get notifications of events happening across the UK, they’re a great place to meet other film and TV folk.
Cinecom.net – great free filmmaking tutorials for camera, editing, lighting, graphics, effects. They offer paid courses too.
No Film School – a great site that has tutorials on technical aspects of filmmaking, e.g. camera, editing. They also post articles that are good for keeping up with industry developments.
National Film and Television School (NFTS) – they put on various in-person and online courses that aim to help develop various film and TV skills.
A huge thanks to People’s Postcode Lottery who deliver insight workshops on Career in TV.