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An Overlooked Way To Get Into Show Business

Updated on February 28, 2018
Kenna McHugh profile image

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

Instant Internship

You may have heard about the old irony and difficulties of breaking into the film business.

No film experience? You can't get an interview.

No Interview? You can't get the job.

No Job? You can't get the experience.

Yet, you need the experience to get the experience. Trying to break into the business of film can go on and on -- around and around. Despite all, people do break into the film business, and you can, too.

It takes a simple film business plan.


Film Business Plan

The film production companies will look for people who are willing to work for free because they need the experience. They're called internships, and they are often part of a formal course of study at a four-year college.

Among the colleges and universities that offer such internship programs are UCLA, USC, San Francisco State University, University of Texas, and New York University. If you are interested in pursuing this path to get into the film industry, you should contact the admissions offices of the colleges for more information. Or, you could simply Google "film internships nyc" if you want to go to NYC.

Going after film production internships are considered by some in the business to be a noble action because it suggests that you're committed to the industry. You are so committed, in fact, that you're willing to work for free.

The fact is, though, that many film industry jobs require training and a certain number of years of work experience. That is where the film production internships apply. Most professional industry jobs do not require a college degree, and they require you intern for a period of time to gain the technical, creative, and managerial skills necessary to function effectively in your chosen film career.

If you are thinking about interning in the industry, it would be advisable to give some thought to your specific area or areas of interest so that you can prepare. If for example, you're thinking about interning as an editor, it would be a good idea to take a few editing classes at a film school. Such experience will not only make you more attractive as a candidate but will also make you more valuable once you've begun your training on your internship.

Going to Have to Make It Happen

Sometimes people get lucky in the business of film business and just fall into jobs, but it doesn't happen very often. As a rule, if you want it, it will happen, and you're going to have to make it happen.

One way of making it happen is to arrange for an internship with a production company that is connected to a film school. Or, you can approach other film organizations like marketing, law, digital media, or transport. A film production internship is an unpaid position that will help you build your resume, gain experience, and develop important new contacts.

Make sure you have film business cards as well.

Internships, however, can be extremely hard to find and nearly impossible to land because of the intense competition in the field.

What can one do? Propose your own internship. This technique works because film production companies are certainly amenable to accepting free help during peak "rush" periods. There are those who have gained employment and a kick-start to their career by approaching a production company in a production and asking for work.

Remember: the contacts you may develop during such "unofficial" internships can be extremely valuable in building your career.

Remember: Before you start approaching people in the film business for work, you have to have film business cards with reliable and up to date contact information.

Several Ways to Go About It

There are several ways to go about arranging your own internship. Sometimes, people, simple approach film crews while in production and offer to help. While an offer can be refused, it doesn't hurt to ask. If you're persistent the chances are that eventually they'll give in and let you do some work on the shoot. It may not be exactly the kind of work you had in mind, but once you get on a set with a production company you have the opportunity to meet people who can help you get a "real" job in the film business. And then, pass out your business cards!

Remember: contacts lead to other contacts, and eventually to the job you really want.

Whatever tactic you choose or however you try to get your first job in the film business, make sure you keep at it with the right attitude, odds are you will eventually run into someone who will take you up on your offer.

Once you get an internship, get to know as many people as you can.

Remember: in the film business, it's all about networking, and the more people you get to know the more likely you'll find work in your chosen field.

Visit my site, again, you will find some stories of people, who did it because they asked, searched, persisted, and finally landed a job on the set.

Non Paying Job

In addition to full-time and freelance jobs, there's actually a third way you can work in the film industry -- free. It probably doesn't sound like a very good idea and certainly not something you'd want -- or be able -- to do for too long, but it is a way to get a foot in the door.

There are, in fact, film productions where crews are "hired" for no pay at all. In such instances, the producer may offer the crew shares in the film or some other form of deferred payment -- the chance to make money if and when the film itself makes money. If nothing else, the opportunity to share in the profits of the film should serve as considerable motivation for the crew to do its best and thus help maximize the film's chances for success.

Although this kind of arrangement may appear to be a serious exploitation of crew members, it can actually be mutually beneficial to both producer and crew. How else can a filmmaker with little or no money for a production get a crew? How else can inexperienced crew members get experience? Ultimately -- whether the film is a success or not and to at least some extent -- both sides get what they want: the filmmaker gets his film made, and the new crew members get some valuable experience that they can put on their resumes.

What Do You Think?

Would you work for free to break into the film industry?

See results

© 2007 Kenna McHugh


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      Shari Jane Millangue 6 years ago

      This was satisfying. Good for whatever piqued your curiosity.