Skip to content

Careers Centre

Film

Sector Overview

This page has been written by Liz Batterham, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Liz, or any of our advisers, visit our website.

Independent figures published by the British Film Institute (BFI) show that the UK film industry is making a significant contribution to the UK economy. New government tax reliefs for high-end television and animation programmes are helping to drive production investment alongside the existing film tax relief, which plays a major role in attracting international productions to the UK and provides vital support for UK independent productions. Cinema continues to attract UK audiences in their millions. Surviving in the film industry is tough and having talent is just the start. It's a small and competitive industry and the key to success is not necessarily who you know, but who knows you.

The medium of film is a multifaceted forum serving a variety of purposes, including education, exploration, the communication of messages and, most often, entertainment, amongst others. To these different ends recruiters will demand varying degrees of experience in different genres of the film industry. A particular feature of the industry, however, is that you are almost always going to start at the bottom, for instance as a runner on set, but from that position you can gain the essential connections needed to excel and progress in the business.

Another feature of a job in film is that a 9-to-5 day is usually out of the ordinary, as long days of hard work are required during production and these typically intensify as deadlines approach. These aspects mean that to become successful in the business you must have strong self-confidence and be highly motivated and convicted in your goals and determination. Rejection is a commonplace, so candidates must be prepared to deal with the negative sides of this competitive industry, though those who succeed in the industry tend to report high levels of personal satisfaction.

 

Film attributes/skills profile

 

Key attributes/skills needed for the role Where you could develop these skills or attributes
Very confident and articulate communication skills This is most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies and work experience. Reel Film Series is a perfect platform.
Creativity and an inquisitive mind
Ability to manage time and work well under pressure

CAPOD regularly runs courses covering these skills within its Professional Skills Curriculum.

Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies such as The University Film Society will give you the chance to put them into practice.

Good team-working, organisational and project management skills.
Flexibility, drive and perseverance.
Evidence of your broadcasting ability If you have recorded material and posted this on appropriate social media sites this will give you a head start when impressing future employers. Also develop your online presence through LinkedIn, Twitter and setting up your own website to use as a portfolio or blogging. Experience working with Bubble TV or Star Radio are will demonstrate these skills.

Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?

  • Awareness of the technology used in broadcasting.
  • Think about how TV, multimedia and radio communicate and be aware of how a programme maker approaches a subject in order to package it.

 

Nature of sector or roles

The film industry is composed of much more than just actors and directors. In reality it is an amalgamation of many different jobs and professions, including agents, camera operators, carpenters, riggers, and a host of other roles that can be both independent of and central to the film business. The specific skill sets required for these jobs can often be unique to that profession. A film/video editor for example would likely need to be proficient in editing software packages, such as Avid or Final Cut Pro, which a lighting director would not necessarily need to be involved with. You can attend courses to learn about these packages, but they can often be expensive and cover different elements of the software or equipment so it is worth searching online for the best price and to make sure the course addresses your aims. The more knowledge you have of such software can sometimes give you an edge over your competition, but having experience of working with computers and an aptitude with digital equipment are often essential.

See Creative Skillset for a comprehensive analysis of the industry’s roles and to better understand exactly what area(s) you might be interested in. Creative Skillset also provides great links to potential recruiters and has a good ‘real life stories' section from people in the business.

These roles can be broadly categorised into the following five sectors:

The majority of roles are found within the film production sector, and production crews are divided into standard departmental hierarchies. Each department has definite tasks and allotted objectives at particular stages in the production process. The first decision that faces anyone wanting to work in film production is actually: which department do I want to work in?

Development

The screenplay provides the blueprint for the entire film making process. The script development starts either with a Screenwriter writing a 'spec' (self-financed) screenplay for sale to a production company, or with a Producer commissioning a Screenwriter to write a screenplay based on a concept, true story, existing screen work e.g. a cartoon or TV series, or another literary work e.g. story, novel, poem or play. Developing a screenplay involves painstaking visualisation of every aspect of the finished film, without any certainty of the work being realised on screen. Development is collaborative and requires the creative input of other film professionals including: Script Readers, Writer's Agents, Producers, Development Executives, Script Editors, and, eventually, Directors, who are often involved in the final versions of the screenplay and shooting script.

Production and Post-Production

Filmmaking starts and finishes with the Production Department. It is their role to foster an environment in which creative individuals can be brought together, and in which their talents may be cultivated. Film Production is complex, requiring the setting up, running, and closing-down of a substantially sized organisation for the purpose of producing a single film. Those who work in the Production Department must be highly motivated, multi-tasking individuals, with the creative vision, business acumen, and single-minded determination to do whatever it takes to see that the film is made to the best of everyone's abilities. Roles include: producer, production manager, production assistant and runners and the technical roles: location manager, film or video editor, sound or lighting technician.

Distribution

Distribution involves launching and sustaining films in the marketplace. Film distributors must connect each film they release with the widest possible audience. As every new title is distinctive and different, Distributors must be strategic and knowledgeable about promotion and publicity in order to entice audiences to see their films, utilising successful film release plans, created in collaboration with film production and/or studio company personnel, marketing teams, publicity departments and exhibitors (cinema operators). Roles in film distribution include: distributor, marketing and publicity manager, marketing assistant, publicist, sales agent.

Saint Connect, the networking tool of St Andrews University, has a number of alums in the film industry who are willing to share their experience of the sector with you. The following link leads to a discussion thread featuring the contributions of some of our successful alums where they detail hints and tips to help you progress into and through the film industry.

For insight into Scottish cinema you should have a look at the Film Bang website, a directory on all Scotland’s film and television companies

BAFTA Guru is a brilliant website for anyone interested in film or TV and also has a mentoring network.

Networks - why and how to use them

Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations. Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for The BBC, Glasgow Film and More Muppets Productions - Disney. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.

The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union (BECTU) runs regional networking and skills events. They also offer short specific technical workshops.

To find St Andrews graduates working in the film-related positions, join LinkedIn, post your profile and become a member of Saint Connect. You can then try a member search using the term 'Film'. Scroll through the people to find someone working in an area which appeals to you and connect with them via a short email and, as a starting point, ask them for any tips / advice on getting into the industry.

‘Still Game’ director Michael Hines advises that students should write to companies whose films/tv programmes they like and ask for experience. If you don’t have the name of anyone who works there you should address your letter to “Head of Talent”. Make your letter stand out and highlight your experience.

How to gain experience/internships

In order to get experience you will have to demonstrate why you deserve the opportunity of working in film. St Andrews alums always encourage anyone interested in film to just pick up a camera and start filming, or to pick up a pen and start writing. Being able to verbally communicate how you’ve wanted a job in film all your life and how you’d be a brilliant employee or intern is usually not good enough, so get filming/writing to show how much it means to you and to show off your talent. More than anything else, the act of simply recording your own short films, regardless of their quality, will have the positive impact of helping you to think like a director or an actor and you will be able to learn some of the trade. Another idea might be to write a film blog. Choose a theme, be unique, and try and offer something different to all the other film blogs out there. The University itself has many ways in which you can get involved in filming and media. Many alums who now work in the industry, such as Vicky Clark, first started in the University’s own BubbleTV, through the Department of Film Studies, The University Film Society, and St Andrews Radio (STAR).

As the following links show there is no specific time of year that film corporations and groups advertise internships or vacancies. Indeed, some businesses might not advertise internships at all, but might admit an intern if sufficiently impressed with their speculative application, so it is well worth submitting one to bodies you are interested in that are not visibly offering positions or recruiting. Otherwise, check film business websites throughout the year to keep an eye open for potential sources of experience, not least because they will be hotly sought after and quickly filled.

Resources for finding experience:

Offering your services as an extra can also be a method of getting into the film industry. Agencies include:

There are many more extras casting agencies that are easy to find online.

How to get a (graduate) job

The film industry can be difficult to break into, so you should be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. However, the route you take to employment will vary greatly depending on the sector you are interested in working in, as the skills required for different areas are often specific to that sector.

Networking is an essential skill to develop when seeking to enter an international environment, and you can make valuable contacts through short-term contract opportunities and internships.

Luke Cairns graduated in film studies in 2000 from Aberystwyth, after which he spent a few years working his way up in TV advertising in Soho. He then worked in Marbella for a corporate before returning and setting up Butchers Hook Video with Evan Pugh, a shooting director with multiple series of Big Brother, I'm a Celeb and Lord of the Rings under his belt. Read Luke's article on Getting started in Film/TV/video production in the UK and follow the Butchers Hook Video blog.

Graduate training schemes:

The BBC offers a limited number of training schemes for various roles which vary from year to year according to their requirements. These are not specifically aimed at immediate graduates and it is quite common for successful applicants to already have some relevant experience. For current job vacancies, check out the BBC jobs website.

There are around 1,000 independent production companies in the UK. Most belong to the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT). Some of these organisations may provide training schemes.

The industry training organisation, Creative Skillset, has details of programmes on their website.

Job search websites

The following websites may be useful in finding vacancies in the film industry:

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

The following links provide good advice for how to prepare for interviews and information on what to expect during the interview process:

Relevant postgraduate study

A Masters degree or a PhD in the creative arts sector can often be a prerequisite to getting the film job you want. Entry without an academic qualification is common, but all applicants must demonstrate knowledge of and commitment to the film industry. The link to the different jobs in film will provide you with an indication of whether you will need an advanced degree for the position you aspire to hold.

There are a number of websites which offer comprehensive listings of relevant courses, namely:

Having identified possible courses, we recommend that you visit the course provider(s) of your choice and enquire particularly about the employment outcomes of previous students, and also to check that the course is vocationally, rather than academically, focussed. Also, have a look at a comprehensive list of the different programmes being offered by what Tales from the Argo consider to be the best film schools in the UK.


The BAFTA Scholarship Programme assists talented people in need of financial support to study a post-graduate course in film, television or games. It offers successful applicants up to £10,000 to cover their course fees; an industry mentor; free access to BAFTA events around the UK. In addition, three successful applicants will be awarded a Prince William Scholarship in Film, Television and Games, supported by BAFTA and Warner Bros., including a funded work placement within the Warner Bros. group of companies and other benefits. Closing date Friday 12 June 2015. Email scholarships@bafta.org for more information.

Key UK links and resources

Careers Centre resources

Online

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

GoinGlobal

Related Careers A-Z page

Books:

 

General film careers information

USA resources

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.