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June 2021 | Georgie McGahey

Thinking of starting a career in the film industry and not sure where to begin? Then consider where you fall in the three-stage career journey to best plan your next steps.

The MFJF community includes a wide range of individuals; career changers, students and graduates, some of whom have just finished A-levels, degrees or film school. Everyone is looking to begin their career in the film industry, which most often will entail starting at the bottom of the ladder - but don't be deterred. MFJF is here to help you through those first few years of your career and if you are finding it hard to know where to begin, consider where you are in your career journey. 

Our members tend to fall into one of these three categories. So, when you’re looking for resources on the website such as example CVs, career planners, or thinking about your next steps; consider what stage you fall into to find the appropriate resource.

Stage 1:

You have a passion for film but your CV is lacking credentials. If you have just completed your academic education, or made the decision it’s now or never to fulfil your dreams of working on a film set, you’re going to need to lay some extra ground work.

Your initial focus should be on increasing your knowledge and skills. For example, if distribution has captured your interest, make a conscious effort to understand what part distribution plays in the life cycle of a film. Conduct research into marketing, sales, acquisitions and how distributors have diversified in recent years; read widely and eagerly. Utilise the resources and essentials sections on the website to guide you through departments and the business of filmmaking.  The knowledge and understanding you build can be applied when searching for opportunities in stage two.

If a production role has been your dream since day dot, consider working on projects with others in the same boat. You may have some strong student productions behind you, if not, or you want to continue to collaborate with others in your local area, you can use the MFJF collaborations board to post your availability. If you’re an aspiring screenwriter with a story that needs to be told, it might be time to find an aspiring producer. If you’re in a remote area of the UK and opportunities are scarce, see if there are other MFJF members around the corner. You might find a kindred spirit and ignite a lifelong filmmaking partnership, you can begin to build focus on your CV but most of all you, will be furthering your understanding and doing what you love. If you want to be a ‘creative’ then you should do just that, create!

Stage 2:

A stage two candidate has a greater knowledge and understanding of the industry, so now it’s time to focus on gaining industry experience and building up your list of professional contacts.

Work experience: We discuss at great length The Value of Work Experience in our article, so we won’t regurgitate it. What’s worth mentioning is how to attain those placements. Companies will not expect you to have experience, the whole purpose is to provide ‘work experience’ in your chosen field. What companies will be looking for, however, are candidates that have worked their way through stage one. That’s correct, they have taken it upon themselves to conduct the research, understand the area of industry to which they are applying and can demonstrate their knowledge in the CV and cover letter. That is what companies are looking for.

Internships: As an intern you can really get stuck in, being assigned projects and responsibilities for the tenure of your engagement. Good interns are often considered for junior roles that become available, in the meantime, however, one internship won't always be the fairy godmother of your career. So expect to be looking at two or three to grow your experience and network in your chosen discipline.

Collaborations: You have collaborated with others in the same situation, now it’s time to look for some shorts or spec commercials made by industry professionals. Members from across the film and TV industry use short films to demonstrate their ability to work in drama or another medium. Members of the crew also use shorts to progress their career. So when a clapper/loader makes that jump to focus puller, you can be sure they will have solid practical experience on short films to draw from. Short films can help grow your professional contacts, from which you can begin to generate some paid opportunities. 

One key task during this stage of your career is obtaining industry references; a crucial way to elevate your applications. Whether a 2nd AD looking for a reliable floor runner or a production company looking for a junior member of staff, an industry reference denotes someone is prepared to vouch for your work ethic and suitability for the role. It’s a small industry and people really do pick up the phone, so make sure you’ve cleared it with your referee before you add them.

Stage 3:

Members who have a CV with multiple professional credits, internships and excellent references fall into the stage 3 category. These candidates will be applying for positions on feature films, high-end drama and permanent positions with companies. They are growing their network of industry contacts, which will begin to provide regular, sustainable, paying work. After that, it’s bye-bye MFJF, hello

It’s wise to bear the three stages in mind. If you are fresh out of education, for example, consider where you fall in the stages, do you really have all the criteria for stage 3, or are there are few extra steps you need to take? If you have production assistant credits in broadcast entertainment, do you have the relevant skills to transfer over to drama? Starting out in the industry can be a long game for some and a hop, skip and a jump for others, it can also be very challenging at times. So if you ever have questions come and talk to us, we’re always happy to help.

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