Secrets to Breaking into the Film Industry

Last week I talked about working hard and giving 100%. (You can read that post here.) This week, I’m getting specific and explaining what that hard work actually means.

Breaking into the film industry is no easy task. You have to get creative and be persistent. This means knocking on a 100 doors, and possibly only getting 1 answer. But all it takes is 1 to get you started. I am going to share with you the things I did to break in. If you’re interested in a job in production, take note! (If you’re an actor, stay tuned for next week’s post. Don’t worry, we’re not forgetting about you!)

1. RESEARCH YOUR LINE OF WORK

Want to be a DP? A Grip? A Production Designer? A Set Decorator? Figure out which direction you’d like to go in, and research the hell out of it. Find out what it takes to get these jobs, and what a typical day is like. Find out if you need to be in a union—what that union is, and how to get in.

I did all of this by finding people on IMDb.com. IMDb should be your friend. Get to know one another. You can even sign up for a Pro account that gives you more access to information. Pick a film or a TV show that you like, and look at the CREW. Find the Production Designer, or the Grip, or the DP. Do this for several projects that you enjoy. Next, use the beauty of the internet to find contact information for these people. GOOGLE! FACEBOOK! UNIONS! It’s pretty easy to find an email address these days. So, email these people you admire. Email them and ask them the questions mentioned above. If you’re already in LA, ask if you could buy them coffee for a 15 minute talk. And don’t forget to compliment the work you admire and THANK THEM for their time. Check out LA Bound for a sample email. This is the tactic that helped me the most. I emailed several people, and two let me show them my portfolio, and immediately began recommending me for jobs. I booked my first job on “Trust Me” for TNT, within a few weeks of moving to LA, and a few episodes of “Entourage” on HBO. Those were the most exciting 12 episodes of my life! One of those people still gets me jobs today! It’s amazing what reaching out can do.

Here is a list of union websites that you should familiarize yourself with:

2. SOCIAL MEDIA (Your new BFF)

It is insane how easy it has become to find information online. Social Media has blown up, and has so many more uses than it’s initial intent. Take advantage. Make sure you have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and LinkedIn. (Oh, and maybe keep the drunken mess college photos private.) All of these pieces of social media have groups that relate to the industry. I became a part of Art Department groups on all of these, and started tweeting/communicating to the members. You become “friends” and then your resume gets passed along, and then you have a job. It’s crazy, but it works. Do a search for these groups (all unions probably have a page on Facebook), and start chatting! Let them know you’re looking for a gig. Offer to send them your resume for their consideration. Look at the member list on the Facebook page or followers of the page on Twitter, and contact those individuals. It’s also another way to contact people personally if you can’t find their email address. I’ve gotten two jobs through Twitter, one being my first feature film, reshoots for “The Five-Year Engagement” for Universal. Meeting Jason Segel was pretty fucking awesome! (Thanks, Johnny!!) The possibilities are endless! Here are some links to get you started:

3. PRODUCTION ALERT

This is something I use all the time. It’s a great resource. Production Alert comes out once a week and lists every production that is starting in categories of Pre-Production, Preparation, and Production. Check out the screen shot below of an old Production Alert to see the breakdown. On each production, it tells you where they are shooting, when they are shooting, who is already attached to it (crew members), and contact information. If you’re not ready for cold-calling, they usually provide an email address, and you can cold-email. Ask if they have any PA (Production Assistant) positions available. You may have to email 100 shows before you get a response, but like I said, it only takes 1 response to get you going. So, go for it!

Once you are in a union, you will get this (or another one like it) for free. But until then, you have to pay for it. It’s pretty pricey, unfortunately. $55 / a month. I would try one month and see if you find it useful. Here are the links to subscribe:

4. TELL EVERYONE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO

Yes, this even includes your mom’s cousin’s neighbor who works in development. I’ve worked with an incredibly talented Production Designer, (what up, Stu Ball?!) for four different shows now (Check out “Gang Related” on FOX on May 22!), all because my mother was friends with someone who grew up with him. If you have ANY connection to someone in the industry, even if it is not a close one, just try it. What do you have to lose? The worst that can happen is they say ‘no’ or don’t respond. It’s really a numbers game. Tell as many people as you can that you want to be a filmmaker, and eventually you will find someone who can help you. Whether it be recommending you for a job, or allowing you to shadow them for a day, or just a 15 minute meeting. Take anything you can get. The more you do, the faster it will happen. You can get lucky, people! Put it out there.

5. BE GRACIOUS

If anyone is offering you their time or resources to help you, please, please thank them. Buy them coffee, or send them a hand-written thank you note. Just make that extra effort to show you appreciate their help.

I hope you find this information helpful. These are great tools, but now it’s up to you! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave comments below. Happy hunting!