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July 2021 | Georgie Mcgahey

My First Job in Film

Are you sure you are maximising your chances of finding full-time or regular employment? Just what is the secret to finding paid work?

This is the question on everyone’s lips, how does one attain a paid job in the film industry? So let’s think about it for a moment and start with the basics. Here you are, having just left college or university, you may be deciding to leave your current job in favour of the film industry. After you have decided where your career is headed, researched, made your plan of how to get there, researched, read The Value of Work Experience, researched, and taken the step to find work experience placements during your studies (or if you are coming late to the party internships or short films), it’s now time to get that CV into great shape for the job market.


Your CV is your drive, dedication and determination subtly camouflaged under a list of skills and work experience on a sheet of A4. Your resume is like a film trailer; it should peak the interest of the employer and leave them wanting more - in the form of an interview. This is why you need to be strategic about your CVs and covering letters, they need to be tailored and ticking boxes in the employer's mind as they scan through, it should say two things - wants to work in this area of the industry, has the relevant experience. If you're applying for a job in production you also need to be able to tick the box of location; productions rarely pay for overnight accommodation for junior members of the team. So if you have friends or family who live all over the country, you could be based in London-Cornwall-Cardiff-Hull for example, cast your net wide as productions shoot all over the UK.

When employers are going through a stack of CVs yours needs to catch their eye. So before you email over your resume have you:

  • Read the application fully and made sure you have the relevant experience.

  • Look at the CV advice, CV builder and example CVs on MFJF.

  • Read How Do I Make My CV Stand Out.

  • Checked off how your previous experience has left you with the desired skills and qualities for the role.

  • Researched the company - if listed - know what they offer and who works for them. Made mention of all this in your covering letter and why you want to work for them specifically.

  • Have you checked your spelling and grammar.

  • Have you passed the nit comb through it? Can you honestly say there is nothing else you can add to make this application great?

  • Made a phone call to confirm you have the correct contact information, and you have addressed it to the right person - never Dear Sir/Madam.

If you have ambitions to enter any of the technical roles, your CV and not a show reel is going to be vital in finding trainee and junior positions. If you wish to enter Makeup, VFX, Costume or Art Departments do you have a portfolio of work you can show? When HoDs are asked if they would like a trainee, the production office will hand them a stack of CVs to glance through if the HoD doesn’t have anyone in mind. Remember, you could have an award winning personality, an excess of talent and be exactly the person they are looking for, but,  what stands between you and the job is your CV; which is why you have to be certain it's the best it can be.


If you get through to an interview, there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance at success. In some interviews, you will nail it and come away feeling exceptionally pleased with yourself; other interviews can leave you with your head in your hands as you exit the building. Fortunately, the film industry is very personality driven. People work long hours in all areas of the business to get the job done, which is why recruiters are always looking for friendly, active junior members of the team who they can see themselves working with. It's your enthusiasm rather than your qualifications that can often sway a decision, and an interview is the best place to demonstrate this.  

There is, of course, a fine line between enthusiasm and gushing; when you feel yourself cringe you know you've overdone it. Your interview is an excellent way to sell yourself and your skills. Be personable, keep it light and most importantly be relaxed and casual. If you feel yourself getting pre-interview fear you need to remember one thing; an interview is simply talking to some people. If you can come away from an interview feeling as though you have got your point across, displayed your knowledge, answered those questions about your CV or application to the best of your ability and showed how eager, calm, confident and friendly you are - well done.

Here at MFJF we try to retrieve as much feedback as we can from recruiters, feedback can be exceptionally important for job seekers, and although it might not be what you want to hear, it's what you need to hear. So, if asked to an interview outside of MFJF, and you don't get offered the job, ask them why. You may find that, on paper, you were the best candidate but didn't do yourself justice in the interview, or it may be they enjoyed talking to you but felt you didn't have enough experience. Both of those points can lead you to make improvements for next time, always try and act on the feedback you're given so you can become a stronger candidate in the future.


Relevant experience in the area of industry you're applying for is what employers are interested in. This experience can come from work experience and internships, even from other areas of the industry. If you have worked in broadcast, for example, in sales or acquisitions you will accrue many of the same skills, and you should utilise this in your CV. If you are straight out of university, your experience of making films will hold little weight in the professional world. Which is why working on short films with a professional crew, or looking out for daily work in a junior capacity will add to your CV. If you're searching for crew roles, a reference would give your CV an added level of credibility. It's a small industry so a reference from an established company, or senior member of the crew, can alleviate fears when hiring a junior whose work ethic cannot be vouched for.

There are some exceptions to this however. Makeup schools have a high ratio of turning their students into set ready entrants. Many of the makeup schools have been established by working designers who take trainees with them after they leave the classroom. The NFTS is an established pipeline into the industry but working in the film industry upon graduation is not guaranteed. You still have to make a significant impact on tutors to fully utilise their contact base.  


If there is one key factor in finding work its persistence. You may go through multiple internships, applications and interviews until you find the right fit - but you need to keep at it. Always revisit your CV and contemplate what you can do to make it better. If you are sending out tonnes of CVs and hearing nothing from any of them, it's a sign you need to go back to the drawing board. Do you have the relevant experience for the roles you are applying for? Are you flooding the market with emails or pinning your hopes on one job at a time? If you only have a degree on your CV is that going to convince employers they should hire you? If you want to make a change in your career what have you been doing to facilitate this? No one is going to do this for you, the time for hand-holding is over, and ultimately if you wish to work in the film, you're going to need to get tough, possess a steely resolve and learn as you go.

If You Want To Make Films, Get Thee To A Festival!
A Little Advice For The Reticent Networker.

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