photo credit: TheMuuj
So you’re feeling stuck, huh?
And you’re thinking, “you know, this town is getting a little old. The work isn’t there. But, hey, in [dream city] there’s tons of gigs! I should pack my bags and just do it — just take the plunge and move.”
Whoa there! Not so fast, my friend.
Before you hop on the train to Tinseltown, you should make sure it makes sense for your situation, your job, and your life because — spoiler alert! — it’s not always the right answer.
May the Forces of Job Markets Be With You
There are two forces at work in any market in which you’re trying to get a job — and this is true for any career path:
1. Competition - the number of people also in your area who want the same jobs you do
2. Demand - the number of opportunities offered by employers who have a need for your skills
Further, these two forces are correlated to each other — that is, as demand for crew members rises, the number of crew in the area generally rises as well.
Why? Because people hear about a hot-spot town and migrate there to cash in on it.
There is sometimes a short-period of time where competition and demand aren’t correlated — where demand is larger than competition — but they eventually catch up to each other.
(Just like when a market dries up, for some period of time there are more crew than jobs until they move on to other areas.)
So you have to think about the fact that even though you can go to a larger market, there are also going to be more people there competing against you. Simlarly, even though your current area may not offer as many jobs, you have a greater chance of landing them since you’re one of few.
Each area also has its own standards for skill-level, experience, etc. You may be above-average in terms of skill and experience in your small, rural town, but how would you stack up against a crew from the big city?
I’m not saying you can’t be talented in a small market and go toe-to-toe with larger crews, I just want you to be aware of the whole big fish in a small pond scenario: you may be the go-to guy in your small cut of the country, but if you get thrown into a much bigger market, you likely won’t have that same experience at first.
A 3-foot fish in a 30-foot pond is big, but a 3-foot fish in the Atlantic ocean is nothing at all.
Moving Your Film Career Internationally
At least once a month I hear from someone — whether by email or social media — who wants to move to the United States to work in the film industry. Sometimes they want me to hire them, sometimes they simply want an “in,” but in every case I have to deliver the same bad news:
It’s really hard to move to an international market.
The thing is, you have to consider how many people are already here looking for work. Right now, producers can cherry-pick who they want. Very few in the film industry are desparate for crew because there are so many people willing to step up to the plate.
It’s harsh, but Americans are likely going to be given priority over international crew members for a variety of reasons:
- A language barrier may exist
- The American system of filmmaking may be not something you are familiar with
- Little to no networking
I’m not saying it’s impossible to move to the United States and work in Hollywood, I’m just saying that it’s not the answer for anybody, and really only for a very few.
To truly move from another country and make it in the film industry, you have to be ready to start again from square one — working as hard as everyone else — or be extremely established in your country and have worked on American productions that shot on location.
This is because without any networking to plug you into the system, you’re going to have to get by on your merits, experience, and skills or start establishing those anew once you arrive.
And that’s after you deal with immigration, work visas, and a bunch of other political and governmental bureaucracy that I am not familiar with.
So, what about moving within my country?
In many ways, the same rules apply even when moving within your country — whether that’s from New York to Los Angeles or Munich to Berlin.
You have to consider the fact that people are already working there. The barriers of moving still exist, but on a much more localized level which makes them more manageable (you don’t have to deal with as much government red tape).
What’s important is to realize that unless you’re being begged to move to another locale, there is already somebody there doing exactly what you do and likely doing it well-enough to stay employed. In an industry built so heavily on word-of-mouth networking and favorites, it’s a tough nut to crack to force yourself into someone else’s market.
Move When You Need to, Not When You Want To
The attitude that moving to a bigger market is the answer to your jobless woes is, in some ways, misleading. In a few cases, it can be the right answer, but in others, it is a mistake that’s hard to overcome.
My advice is to move when you need to, not when you want to.
How do you know you need to?
Well, consider how much work you are getting locally — is there anything you can do to get more work, or are you maxed out?
And be honest with yourself on this answer.
Just because you aren’t getting jobs around the area doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Perhaps you’re not trying hard enough. But if you feel that you have truly tapped the market, then it might be a good time to consider moving.
Or maybe you’re getting tons of work, but it’s not paying very well. You’re skilled at what you do, at the top of the game in your area, but you’re not cashing the paychecks you’d like to see — that would be a good time to move because you have experience to place you on your feet in a new locale.
Or, as a third example, your market has absolutely dried up out of your control. Now it’s do or die and you have to pick somewhere that’s offering more work. If the circumstances are forcing your hand, pick a market similar to the one you were successful in, or if you’re feeling ambitious, choose the bigger fish to hook.
What do all these scenarios have in common?
They take into account the context in which you are opearting — your experience, your financial situation, your area.
There is no right or wrong answer, no golden ticket, no yellow brick road to Hollywood (or anywhere you wish to be, for that matter).
The only definitive answer I can give you is to move because you have to or your situation demands it, not because you think it’s the answer to your lack of success. The only solution for that is to work harder, improve your skills, and hustle your network of industry contacts.
Just because you arrive in a new city full of untapped opportunities doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to you — in fact, you may be passing up opportunities surrounding you already.
Have you ever moved markets? What was the experience like? Would you do it again and what advice do you have? Please share in the comments!