Hello Film Doctor friends.
Are you ready to face another busy, productive week? We hope our Monday Prescription will ease your way into it.
This week the Film Doctor team go “back to our roots” and dedicate this post to people just embarking on their film journey – looking for your very first gig.
This is for anyone who is trying to find employment – as crew, production office or any “office-based” career in the film industry, e.g. marketing/distribution/publicity/festivals, etc. It can also hold true for those launching their own projects.
1. Not casting your net wide enough – Looking for work is not merely sending out emails and hoping for the best. You need to go out, meet people. The film industry is very much a “people’s industry.” Half of the time, your ‘gigs’ will come from personal references and recommendations, so it is about who you know (or who knows you). Attending networking events is a great way to get your foot in the door. Once people get to know you, remember you and what you do, chances are they might call you when a gig comes up. If you’re looking for something very entry level, like a runner’s position, it might be worthwhile actually dropping by the offices of companies you’re interested in – be friendly with the receptionist and there’s a chance s/he’ll remember your smiley face and pass on your CV to the relevant person. Networking and contacts – two key ingredients for your film industry career.
2. CV issues – Not having enough to show off doesn’t mean you cannot have a presentable CV. Sounds like a paradox? Well not quite. Even with 1 credit to your name, you can still make your CV stand out, by drawing attention to all the skills that you have. Even just the design and layout of your CV can help cover up the lack of experience – use bold formatting to emphasise your skills, professional and personal, talk about your education and any achievements you might have, that are related to the particular film industry area you’d like to build your career in.
3. Don’t wait for it, get it – No one is going to just find you and hand you your next ‘gig’. Sounds obvious, but quite a few emerging filmmakers fall for the “waiting game”. Thing is, the people you might aim to connect with – prospective employers, distributors, agents, etc. – are not likely to notice you or your work unless you make them. Sending out a CV and simply waiting to hear back isn’t going to do the trick. You need to make sure that once your CV/project lands on someone’s lap, there’s enough buzz around it to make it stand out. For example, make sure your project – if it’s not completed yet – is searchable online: there’s a marketing campaign for it on all the key social media, there’s some supporting materials circulating; like artwork, attached names, crowdfunding campaign, etc. Something searchable, something an employer can find online when typing the name of your project/your name.
Be proactive, promote yourself and build some pre-awareness for your name/project.
“Most new filmmakers try to get their movie seen. Big mistake. Smart new filmmakers try to get their movie heard of.” (Sondra Lowell)
4. Spreading yourself too thin – Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. Just because you’re starting out, doesn’t mean you should work on any project – know your own worth, as well as the worth of the work that you’re doing. Some things are just not worth the time (or the money), especially if you have a lot of things going on. The danger is that at some point your CV will be full of mediocre stuff which, although filling up the pages, won’t do justice to your potential. Also, you will want to be extremely professional and reliable at all times – and having too much stuff to handle, will, inevitably, jeopardise the quality of one or two things that you do. So better to stick to a handful of projects/tasks and do them perfectly.
5. Not staying focused / Not doing your ‘homework’ – If applying to anything and everything, this will leave you with an aimless round of submissions – firing out applications with no particular target, just hoping that someone might actually respond. There is also a chance you will be sending out very generic emails, not actually addressed to anyone – which is a sure bet that your message will remain ignored. What you want is to grab the attention of the person who can give you the job you’re after. Therefore, you must be specific. Show that you’ve done enough research about the company and their projects, show that you care. Say, you’re interested in a job on the film festivals circuit – make a list of the festivals you’re interested in and bother to find out the names of their respective directors/managers/coordinators. Then send your email directly to that person, showing that you care enough about their organisation and that particular festival that you want to work for.
Fair enough, you might want to try out several jobs before you “find yourself” – in this case, better to do several internships, in different fields that interest you before you take the plunge and bounce around in every direction!