Getting Work

Getting Work

How to get Jobs in the Film Industry

Most Recent Articles in "Getting Work"

The Struggle of No-Pay “Experience” for Filmmakersz

Linda Essig takes a stand against a donut shop company that sent a mass-email looking for film students to shoot a promotional video in exchange for “some good experience” and “a dozen free glazed doughnuts every week for an entire year”:

The email was sent to a long list of faculty members at film programs in the region. I hit reply all with the question “What is your pay rate for these skilled services?”

Predictably, there was no pay-rate – unless you consider a dozen donuts a week for a year payment.

(Side note: why not just take the cost of free donuts and make that the rate? Cost of a dozen donuts is $5 – $8. Assuming the profit is about $3 per dozen, that’s $150 right there. An extraordinarily low rate, of course, but these are students who are looking for experience and it can at least help pay the bills.)

There was no payment because it was a “volunteer/intern opportunity.” That triggered Essig to push further and she replied with US Department of Labor rules of an “internship,” but it fell on deaf ears.

Notably, Essig doesn’t rule out freebies or internships as a viable pathway to gain experience. Instead she’s speaking out against companies using them purely for free labor and not as a partnership in which the gains are less lopsided between the parties.

And so, to bolster that point of positivity, a few days later she wrote a post about saying “yes”:

Just – or even more – important than knowing when to say “no,” is knowing when and how to say “yes.”  Giving builds community; giving builds friendships; giving builds social capital (although one need not think of it in those terms); giving lifts the spirit of both the giver and receiver.  We may give of our time, we may give of our money, we may give of our things, we may give of our talent.  Related to giving is sharing – we may share knowledge, share food, share an experience (good or bad), without any exchange of material goods.

I’m glad she wrote the second post because there are some genuinely good opportunities that unfortunately offer little to no-pay. I started off my career as an AC this way and have built several connections in my network with pro-bono work.

The key is knowing when you’re getting hosed and when it’s an investment in a relationship that could pay off later. That’s something I talk about in my post “Pay Me, Teach Me, or Create with Me” in which I basically say a project has to offer me money, worthwhile experience/networking, and-or creative satisfaction. The interplay between these things drives my decision to accept or reject a job.

Unfortunately, the donut project had no money, didn’t sound that interesting, the learning opportunity seemed limited, and it was a one-time thing with no tangible promise of networking.

Rental House Technician Does a Reddit AMAz

Working in a rental house has always been pitched to beginners wanting to get into the camera department as a solid entry-way into the biz. The caveat is that you’re giving up some of what makes the film industry attractive – like a freelance schedule, working on set, making movies – in order to get your start. This rental tech, after close to 3 years on the job, agrees:

I’ll be honest, it did change me. I wanted to be a DP for the longest time, and I wanted to work from the bottom up over 20 years. Now, I’m not so sure. It definitely is a place you can get stuck. Remember the people that come in there are ACs already on shows not hiring, and if they need an extra hand, they don’t immediately think of the prep tech from the rental house.

That said, he does get work as an AC:

Lastly, I do get to set fairly often. I usually work as a 1st AC and am pretty well prepared to that affect, have a wireless FF, etc.

The rest of the AMA has great info on how consigned gear works, what cameras go out most often, and how camera assistants can work better with the rental house staff. Being a rental tech isn’t the most glamorous position, but it provides a stepping stone for a lot of people and they can be an AC’s best friend in a pinch.

What Do You Want to Do On Set?

What Do You Want to Do On Set?

Filmmaking isn’t only about directing or operating the camera. Crew, and all their various talents, fit into an incredibly complex filmmaking machine designed to grind hours into footage. So the question is: where do you fit within that machine? And what do you want to do on set?