After Film School: A Guide to Employment in the Film Industry

Filmmaker working a camera

So you’ve graduated film school and the future is exciting but intimidating. You’re not sure where to start. What’s next? What’s the job market like? How do you find work in the film industry?

 

Optimizing Your Resume & Portfolio

Before you start sending out your resume and demo reel, consider tailoring your portfolio to reflect a specialization. Ideally, you’ll have gravitated towards a certain field during your time in school. By tailoring your portfolio, you’ll be cutting out irrelevancies and emphasizing your expertise in your chosen specialization.

 

The Job Market

British Columbia is one of the top places to be for anyone looking to work in the film industry.

The Vancouver Economic Commission estimates over 40,000 people work in film, full and part-time, in BC. Known as Hollywood North, BC is the third largest production centre in North America, with a constant flow of work from American studios and networks due to tax credits and the favourable Canadian dollar.

 

Where to Look

If BC is a film production haven, where do you find work? Some production jobs are listed, but many aren’t. Here are some places to look:

  1. Facebook pages
    • There are many Facebook pages dedicated to hiring independent filmmakers. Filmmakers will create their own community for hiring purposes.
  2. Networking
    • Introverts, strap on your social face! Filmmakers network intensely. Take a look at Women in Film and Television in Vancouver, DOC BC, Celluloid Social Club, Cold Reading Club, etc. Projects often arise from like minds finding a mutual passion. These jobs may never be advertised.
  3. Craigslist
    • Check out the Gigs and Production Jobs sections on Craigslist. These jobs are well paid, but beware of listings that ask if you are “adventurous”—it might be the porn industry!
  4. Job Boards
    • One search on job boards like Indeed.com will bring up many listings for compositors and other VFX positions.
  5. The Union Department
    • The Union department is the pool of eligible labour that big feature films and TV series will pull from. The unions control access to these jobs to ensure large producers have trained and qualified crew members. Once a student has met the union criteria, they’re often placed in a “hiring hall system.” This is why you don’t see these jobs advertised.

 

Doomed to PA?

As you look through these resources, you might be thinking: I’ve got the knowledge, the skills. I’ve made movies before. Do I still have to start as a PA?

It depends. There are two types of filmmakers: those on smaller, independent projects and those on larger scale feature films and TV shows.

On smaller, independent projects (such as documentaries, music videos, corporate videos, and commercials), film school graduates can step directly into higher qualified positions and begin at a higher professional level. They often start their own companies right away and pitch for development funds or jobs. If their film gains recognition (e.g., through awards or festival screenings), graduates can then swiftly move up the production hierarchy.

Working on independent projects means you have greater creative freedom and control. You have more power over what the final product looks like.

On larger scale feature films and TV shows, graduates are often required to start at entry-level positions because these are unionized. It might feel frustrating, but the reasoning is sound—the large, rigorous scale of these productions means more is at stake and requires more on-set experience. Students used to small productions will still find themselves facing a learning curve in a large-scale production.

A film student with the right attitude will have significant advantages over PAs who don’t have the same education. They’ll perform faster and better, and when promoted, will already have the skills needed for the next position.

But you don’t have to sell your whole soul to one or the other! For many graduates, the union path allows them to make good money in the industry and provides access to a network of people and resources to feed their filmmaking passion and do their own projects on the side. Any aspiring filmmaker should have a feature film concept or script ready to go at any time.

As you network, remember the people you meet are people who can support your indie film in different ways. This is how many indie festival darlings are made!

 

There isn’t one single path towards a successful film career and this can feel both freeing and daunting. But with a solid arsenal of skills and knowledge, there’s life and employment out there for any hard-working graduate. Good luck!