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Hollywood Jobs: Entry Level Jobs

Updated on May 20, 2019
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna wrote and directed several plays, taught acting for kids. She is a former talent scout, and at times directs or performs.

Source

How Hollywood Works

How do you get the first job that gets your foot inside the magical Hollywood door?

You want a career in the movie business, but you need the experience to your first break in the film industry. You have the options of internships or volunteering.

In other words, you demonstrate the ability to do whatever is needed and do it well with no or low pay. Therefore, once you are in and do a professional job, the proverbial door is always open.

Most important to the process, however, is that you are willing -- in the beginning, at least -- to work on the cheap or even free. The idea is to accumulate a list of credits -- that is, a portfolio, a reputation.

Production Assistant

Here is an example of what not to do - this actually happened:

Production Manager: "The job is a six-day shoot. We need a couple of PAs to do everything."

Applicant: "Okay."

PM: "Saturday is an early call - 3 AM."

Applicant: "Wow! That is early."

PM: "Do you know how to build IKEA furniture?"

Applicant: "I don't build IKEA furniture. I tried that, and I am not good at it."

PM: "Well, send me your resume..."

The applicant doesn't get the job because of his response to the early call and "I don't build IKEA..."

Here is an example of what to do:

Production Manager: "The job is a six-day shoot. We need a couple of PAs to do everything."

Applicant: "I am willing to do whatever you need."

PM: "Saturday is an early call - 3 AM."

Applicant: "No problem. I will be there."

PM: "Do you know how to build IKEA furniture?"

Applicant: "Sure. I've done that before."

PM: "Good! What is the best way to reach you..."

The applicant got the job because his response was positive and willing to do whatever is needed. Even if he failed at IKEA furniture before doesn't mean he will again. The point is he will try. He is willing. Production managers need a crew that is positive and doesn't create problems on the set with "I can't do that."

Local Film Jobs

Hollywood is big on reputation along with perseverance. Knowing who you know is another way to get your foot in the door.

Building a portfolio can only be done by being willing to take on whatever work is being offered by the production at whatever pay they offer, even if that's zilch.

An entry-level job, like a production assistant, makes on the average a flat rate of $125 - $250 a day, including meals. The best rate I experienced as a production assistant is $250/12 hours, including overtime.

Nevertheless, don't get too excited because if you offer your services free, you may still find it hard to attract any takers, as even an unpaid crew member needs to be covered by insurance, shown the ropes, fed - you get the idea.

Your best opportunity to build your portfolio is to work on smaller independent shoots where the production, most likely, can't afford to pay you or feed you well. On the upside, track these shoots down and volunteer! Once your resume begins to show the depth of your experience, you can start to aim for bigger crews on larger shoots and better pay.

It is best to start making contacts in your local area. You can contact your local film commission and see if they have a hotline number or a web site. Most big-city film commissions do. Check with your film commission once a week to find out if a production company is coming to town. Even take the time to visit the film commission office and make yourself known, hang around a bit, and help the office. Sometimes the production companies will leave a contact number with the film commission.

Some cities or regions create a film production directory for film production companies to utilize when they come to the area. Some directories charge and some are free to list your services.

For local work, google "film production directories [enter state] and see what comes up. For California, the California Film Commission office lists quite a few.


Source

Film Work

The film industry is a creative business, so be creative and think of unique ways to find work. As you call these contacts, make sure you find out about other productions coming up and their contact numbers - in other words - network. If they are too busy to talk, tell them you'll call back. Be courteous.

Here are some general numbers and Web sites to contact for information on film work in the area. In my book, Breaking Into Film provides a comprehensive listing of film work resources.

  • California Film Commission -- 800-858-4749
  • San Francisco Film Commission Hotline -- (415) 554-6244
  • New York Film Commission -- 212-803-2330
  • New York City Film Commission -- 212-489-6710
  • Texas Film Commission -- 512-463-9200
  • Chicago Film Office -- 312-744-6415
  • Illinois Film Office - 312-814-3600
  • New Mexico Film Office - 800-545-9871
  • City of Seattle Film Office - 206-684-0903

Hollywood Careers

Like any career, building your credits in a competitive industry means you are a professional. Act like a professional, people see you as a professional. The film careers that last a long time are because those individuals are professionals. Never do half of what your true potential is capable of doing. Learn, be alert, work hard, and be friendly and helpful. Hollywood needs people like you.

© 2007 Kenna McHugh

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    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      2 weeks ago from Northern California

      Robert,

      That is interesting. I am sure there are more CGI houses than there were then. Memory data alone has advanced tremendously. I am FB friends with the gentleman who was in charge of "The Lion King" CGI. I might ask him about the costs and how much memory or data storage they used.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 weeks ago

      I spoke with Philip Cook about his movie "Despiser". He mentioned how there was a great deal of inexpensive CGI software. This was 16 years ago. Technical advances may allow more sophisticated low budget movies.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      2 weeks ago from Northern California

      Yes. Now with, movies like "The Lion King," we are going to see even more strictly CGI movies.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 weeks ago

      It is an interesting trend to watch. Though it has been used on some level before, Rogue One seems to open up more possibilities with CGI.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      3 weeks ago from Northern California

      Yes. But, there are still a few movies like The Last Samurai that used real actors.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      18 months ago

      I wonder if the trend will be to replace extras with CGI for cost savings. In the olden days for epic battles and such they'd hire 1,000+ extras, now they use CGI. It might be practical at some point to do it on a smaller scale.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      18 months ago from Northern California

      You are probably right. I am not familiar with their incentives.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      18 months ago

      .NYC & SF good for extras and actors but rough for film making on a budget.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      18 months ago from Northern California

      DC might be good. NYC is a strong union town, which means perks and bonuses are enforced. One time, I was an extra on a movie being filmed in SF. The extras reached the golden hour (on set for 21 hours), which meant full day's wage each hour from then until sent home. It also meant we sat around a lot. My paycheck was nice!!!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      18 months ago

      Yes, they do a lot of TV and movie work there. DC probably isn't a bad place for extra work. Since it's the capital there is always a certain number of movies being filmed there.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      18 months ago from Northern California

      NYC is a good city for extra work. It pays well.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      18 months ago

      New York City.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      18 months ago from Northern California

      Where does your brother live or go to school?

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      18 months ago

      No, my brother does extra work as a hobby. I also had a roommate years ago who wanted to break into acting. He and another man from the dormitory were extras in the Jackie Chan movie The Big Brawl. We saw my roommate in the movie 5 times. I don't know how far he got in his acting career.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      18 months ago from Northern California

      Thank you for visiting my article. Working as an extra is easier to break into the business because the task is not very hard or doesn't take much knowledge - just patience. Extras spend hours waiting and sometimes never get called to set. Large cities like San Francisco, Austin, Houston, Seattle have casting agencies that deal with herding extras on a movie set. Are you thinking of being an extra?

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      18 months ago

      Many good tips for getting in the film making door. What about working as an "extra"?

    • profile image

      Kenna 

      11 years ago

      You need to take a look at the article again and see if there is something in the article you don't understand -- like a word or words. Look those up in a dictionary and then re-read the article.

      You will find the beef and the jobs then. Good luck. Let me know how you do.

    • profile image

      f.g 

      11 years ago

      wheres the beef? the jobs?????????

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