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Film Careers Start by Getting a Film Job

Updated on November 27, 2017
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna worked on many productions as PA, Craft Services, Talent Scout, Grip, and Producer. Credits include Bowling for Columbine, Wallace.

District 9
District 9

Make Up Artist and ADR/Foley

Becoming a Make up Artist

Deciding that she wanted to make this her career in films, Laura got in touch with some of the major studios. However, they wouldn't hire her because she wasn't a union member, and she needed to have a job to be in the union – the standard problem for most novices to film careers.

Instead, she contacted several independent movie companies, because those who work on films for independents don't have to be union members. With some persistence, she managed to talk her way into a job as a makeup assistant on a biker movie, helping the makeup artist, do whatever needed to be done.

As these things happened, one thing led to another, and eventually she got a job working on a horror film, helping to create and do the makeup for the monster. Although the work wasn’t easy, she really enjoyed herself.

Today she’s still working for independent movie companies on horror, science fiction, and biking films. She still doesn't have a union card, but she is making a good living at doing what she does best -- creating monsters.

Laura’s advice for those who want to do special effects makeup is to a get a job selling cosmetics. “Once you learn the basics,” she says, “you can offer to do makeup for school and community theaters, or talk to your friends into letting you practice on them. The important thing,” she asserts, “is to practice your craft.”

Sound in Film
Sound in Film

From Chicago to Hollywood

Mike came out to Hollywood from Chicago. He had no definite plans, yet knew he wanted to work in film. So he wandered around working in temporary jobs in the film business going to productions feeling awkward and confused with much hesitation and some embarrassing mistakes. He worked as production assistant until someone offered him a job at camera assistant.

Camera assistant suited Mike well. He was responsible for keeping track of camera shots. He also learned how to set up the ‘road map" for editors and other postproduction people. This experience help land the job he has now, an ADR/Foley sound recordist. He was fortunate to be trained on this position and now it is his permanent job. He is a success story of making it happen in Hollywood.

When Mike started working as an ADR/Foley sound recordist, his company was non-union. Later, the local sound union stepped in to organize the company, and Mike was able to join. This opened many opportunities for many different jobs. But, his love is ADR/Foley because you have to be patient and detailed-oriented.

What does ADR/Foley involve? The hours are very long. Mike sometimes works a 15-hour day. But, he is a union member and gets compensated by being paid overtime. He came a long way from being a confused and awkward production assistant.

Get in the Union

Tom Cruise offers a resourceful site that details how to get into the film industry. The information is so much more than basic but invaluable. The site even asks experts or non-experts feedback and any information they would like to share. I discovered not only information but terms and links to other sites in regard to this profession.

It looks like ADR/Foley sound editors are part of the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild. Being a part of the guild ensures proper wages and health care benefits while someone is watching your back.

To get into the union, you just need to take the job. Sometimes directors are looking for temp work like when they have a huge production coming to town and need someone in the office to sit at the desk and make a thousand calls to pull in five hundred extras for a big shot in a couple of days.

It might not be what you want do be or do in the industry, but it gets your foot in the door.

Learn Hollywood Special Effects

Learning Hollywood special effects is a way for you to work with animation and model building to film, television, and video and computer games. Every medium uses special effects today. Knowing how to learn about Hollywood special effects can open the door to a very magical, artistic career that influences billions of people yearly. Apply the following steps to gain knowledge about Hollywood special effects.

Wonderstruck's Director Working on Location

What Do You Think?

What career would you like to pursue in the film industry?

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Know the Industry

Become familiar with the Hollywood special effects field. Visit bookstores, look over and study the special effects magazines. Even subscribe to a couple of magazines that stands out with vital and informative articles about special effects. Take the time to visit special effects websites. Get to know the industry, so you know where the field is headed in Hollywood.

Locate some special effects vocational schools or colleges where you get hands on training of subjects like Basic Motion Picture Techniques for Animators, Screenwriting Fundamentals, Introduction to Film, Video and Computer Animation, Contemporary Animation, Animation Production, Directed Studies in Animation, Case Studies in National Media and Film and Related Art.

Establish Relationships that Last

Based on what you have learned at your vocational training, establish a relationship with special effects post-production house. Many times students take on internships through their schools and get in the door that way. If you are more of a maverick, you can cold call, offering your knowledge to independent film producers.

The nature of filmmaking tends to create instantly close relationships. You share the drama, the trauma, the madness and the magic of creating images and stories that move people. It isn't hard to keep the relationships up once "that's a wrap," but it does take simple effort. Projects change, companies move, people freelance around. You can quickly get forgotten if you don't keep yourself in touch.

Woody Allen Talks About Working Relationships in Film Production

Game Design

As mentioned before, a Game Design Degree is for students who live for games and desire to make their careers about games. A bachelor degree in Game Design prepares students for the competitive computer and video game industry where they can join game development teams in studios like LucasArts, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, and Sony; even work in the military, architectural and educational fields.

Even though designing games are not making special effects for a movie, they are both very similar and require computer engineering as well as a great imagination. You work in a state-of-the-art hardware and software locations where you are immersed in all aspects of computer and video game design from storyboards to the polished product.

The software game industry growth is not slowing down and revenues are at a steady increase according to DFC Intelligence Studios are constantly looking for talented game designers to join their development teams.

Giganews reported computer and video game industry salaries vary quite a bit. Prominent designers have significantly larger salaries compared to average salaries designers hold that depend on differing job requirements. Research by placement companies suggests the average annual salaries for designers range from $35,000 to $75,000.


Special effects careers are in demand. Just by watching the latest Hollywood movies tells you Hollywood big players are putting a lot of time and money into special effects, which involves movies, Internet and video and computer games.

© 2007 Kenna McHugh


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