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'Working in Film: The Ultimate Career Change'

February 2023 | Charlotte Sorrell

Want to know how to change your career to one in the film industry - then read on.

After a four-year academic degree from a Russell Group university, late nights in the library, sweat, blood and toil, I graduated...just as expected. I went to London...just as expected, to start the graduate scheme that I had always assumed I would start. What I didn’t expect, however, was the persistent feeling that I was letting my life pass me by, sitting at my desk and staring at my computer, when not so deep down, all I really wanted from my work day was a bit of excitement. 

One weekend, as I was browsing away online, I came across an ad for a part-time script-reading job and on a total whim, I applied. I did have a degree in English Literature and French but aside from this has absolutely no work experience whatsoever that could possibly have enticed anyone into checking out my application. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I never heard back, but that one application sparked an internal conversation that I had never had before - ‘why not work in film?’. 

I will not insult all of your intelligence by claiming that I never wavered in my sudden vow that the world of film was for me and for nearly a year this thought remained buried deep in my mind, brought out only to entertain myself during the long and dull days of my corporate desk job. In hindsight, however, this year was a crucial part of the path that has led me to where I am now. For a whole year I ruminated, pondered, planned and daydreamed and, although it seemed like I was doing nothing, I was in fact solidifying my dream and mentally preparing for the career change that I was inevitably going to make and eventually that day came. 

Have a look online and almost every site will tell you that the most intimidating thing about leaving a secure job for the total uncertainty of your dream career is the financial situation which you will inevitably have to face. They’re wrong. For me at least, the most intimidating part is having to explain to your colleagues, bosses and family that no, you are not mad and yes, you are leaving a job which you spent an entire education working towards to pursue a career in film...perhaps the most volatile of all the industries. But I was well prepared and ready to stick by my own vision and off I jumped, into the void of uncertainty that was film. 

At this stage, I hadn’t even settled on what I wanted to do and as it turned out, this was actually an advantage, since it meant I wasn’t at all fussy about what I wanted to do! I quickly sent out as many emails, applications and voicemails as I could muster and waited. Nothing. I repeated this process countless times until, eventually, I heard back. A small company needed a volunteer script reader for a two-week placement and I instantly agreed. This initial experience was incredibly rewarding and although it was hard to come by, I made sure that I spoke to everyone I could, got as much advice as they would give me and networked like mad. We are fortunate to live in a time where this kind of networking is easier than it has ever been, and making use of online resources like My First Job in Film, Linkedin, Facebook and the plethora of sites out there is key to success - along with a friendly and humble attitude! 

Once my work experience portfolio started to grow, it occurred to me that, apart from the fact that I was happy to work for free, I had done very little to set myself apart from the masses of applicants in the incredibly competitive world of film. I quickly started to learn everything I could about building a personal brand and before long had established how I wanted to be seen by those who would determine whether or not I could be allowed into the exclusive world of film work. Think of it like an ultra-VIP club with particularly picky bouncers; if you don’t look like you’re on the guest list, you’re not getting in! I redid my CV, made business cards, and made profiles on countless different job sites and before long I started to notice that as my contact list grew, I was offered more and more opportunities - and ones which paid! As it turned out, making myself and my applications look and seem like someone who already belonged in the industry gave me the confidence to apply for paid positions, rather than just internships. 

Along the way there were certainly brief moments where I wanted to throw in the towel; long nights and some days which dragged on seemingly forever, but these were fleeting moments and hardly compared to the fulfilment and contentment of knowing that I was pursuing something which I found interesting. 

Today, I work as a freelance script reader and even take on writing gigs of my own and am hoping to soon get work in a London-based studio. There are endless articles, books and websites which claim to give you the ‘insider scoop’ on how to get into the film industry and they all seem to finish on the same depressing tone - ‘Luck’. Yes, of course, luck plays a role and I myself have been told countless times that getting into film is like winning the lottery, but the more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities you take, contacts you make and skills you learn the more tickets you’ll be holding when the numbers are revealed. 

As someone who left a ‘traditional’ corporate job, I can tell you better than anyone how the film industry is in constant flux. Now more than ever, the most important skill you can possess is flexibility and knowledge of the fact that, as long as the film industry is evolving, you too will need to develop alongside it. I have only just found my feet but if I'm not careful to keep climbing, I will lose my footing. This may seem like a struggle, but the varied and challenging nature of the film industry is what attracts all of us like-minded people to it and living life with an interesting career is more than worth it! 

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