Breaking into the film industry can be an extremely competitive process and requires perseverance and determination. This is a wide-ranging field that covers both creative and technical job roles, from writing and acting to work within production and post-production.
Deciding on which area you want to work within is your starting point, after which time you can target your search to find valuable experience. Experience is essential within this sector, so you may have to be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up. Increasing your portfolio of work and effective networking will all play key roles in helping you to break into this industry.
Where do I start?
Within the film sector, you could be looking at an extensive range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Film director
- Film/video editor
- Lighting technician, broadcasting/film/video
- Location manager
- Media researcher
- Runner, broadcasting/film/video
- Sound technician, broadcasting/film/video
- Television/film/video producer
Jobs where your degree would be useful to include:
- Broadcast engineer
- Broadcast journalist
- Television camera operator
- Television floor manager
- Television production coordinator
Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed above.
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Creative Toolkit – Provides inspiration, support and practical advice for starting a career within the entertainment sector.
- Screen Daily – Film industry news, articles, festival coverage, production news, careers advice and jobs.
- ScreenSkills – Careers advice and information for those working in or hoping to make it in the UK creative industries. Includes news, blogs, events and sector-specific careers information.
- My First Job In Film – Website includes a useful industry news section as well as comprehensive career guides in the resources section for all areas of the industry, from Major Production/Post Production through to Distribution.
- Production Base – This is an industry network for people working in film, television and commercial production. General careers advice about jobs in this sector.
Competition for jobs in this sector is high and work experience could be the deciding factor in getting your foot in the door. Undertaking work experience is an invaluable way to develop expertise and gain practical skills, all of which will help you demonstrate, in your applications, your motivation and commitment to your chosen area of work. Securing experience will also help you gain a broad understanding of the industry as a whole and build your contact network, which is crucial in this industry. Remember to use social media when searching for opportunities, as last-minute runner jobs are often posted on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Ensure that you’re following employers of interest to you on social in order to see when these vacancies are advertised.
Initially, your options for work experience may be voluntary, but as you build your skills and knowledge you will have more opportunity to take on paid positions. While taking unpaid work is fine when starting out in film, be wary of working for free for an extended period of time.
Finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website. In addition to this the University of Portsmouth Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, in conjunction with Careers and Employability, have developed a Creative Careers guide; an online resource with CV and application information focused on the creative industries.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time.
Internships (usually a fixed period or a limited amount of time), will give you a more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat internships in the same way as full-time employment, so when a job role asks for 'at least one year’s experience’ you can include this type of experience.
Placements will give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience. On some degrees, work placements are part of the programme whilst on others, you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a 1-year work placement or self-employment placement; should you choose to undertake either, your first point of contact is your placement office in your faculty.
Work experience weeks are a good way to get a short but intense feel for how a particular role works and are a helpful way to find out more about a job you think you’d like.
Work shadowing is an introduction to many areas of the media. Here you would be spending time with an experienced professional, learning about what they do and observing elements of their work.
Speculative Applications for work experience
To write a good speculative letter or email you will first need to do some research into the organisation you are writing to, this way you will be able to target your application to their needs and demonstrate your passion for the company, role and industry. It is a good idea to write to a specific named individual, if necessary phone to clarify who the best person to contact would be before sending your letter/email (company websites, twitter and LinkedIn profiles may be useful for this). Remember to give a clear reason as to why you are contacting each employer, and in your letter demonstrate that you have relevant skills, perhaps through extra-curricular activities, and explain how by offering you work experience they will benefit. Also show that you understand what they do as an organisation; really tailor the application to each particular organisation.
The ability to market yourself effectively is a skill you will use throughout your career in media so why not create an online presence that could assist with targeting your speculative applications, use social or professional networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
A good starting place to secure work experience is with the university, some courses offer the opportunity to undertake a work placement with a media or related company, so speak to your tutors to see what is available. You might also like to check out the Students' Union and discover what volunteering opportunities they have within their various media channels; see if they need presenters for the union radio or television stations. Victory Media provides high quality shows online and across the campus, find out if they are recruiting staff for forthcoming projects. Explore ccitv, is there a chance to get involved in any of their films? There could be a multitude of opportunities here for you to gain excellent experience.
Careers and Employability offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability centre. If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' on the voluntary work experience section of our website.
Outside the university think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations; it is worth remembering that most big media businesses organise their work experience placements up to a year in advance so start early and take the initiative!
You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV for the Creative sector, through the Careers and Employability Service website; in addition to dedicated resources available at the Careers and Employability centre, we have created a number of tailored pinboards using Pinterest which provide links to a variety of websites with useful sector advice and examples of creative CVs.
Useful key links to find out more about work experience and valuable industry directories to help identify companies to make speculative approaches to:
- Young Film Academy (includes Magma Pictures) – Film/admin work experience internships are periodically available. Applications from Erasmus Programme students from Europe looking for a 3 month internship in London, for film or video production are welcome.
- Working Title – Offers an annual training programme as well as shorter work experience placements.
- SKY – One week opportunities for budding artists, designers, film makers, digital gurus, or those who are just generally creative with a basic knowledge of and interest in the latest graphics software.
- BAFTA – Internship will put you in the middle of the action at one of the world’s most prestigious cultural organisations, equipping you with varied skills that will prove invaluable on the next step of your career. New vacancies will be announced on bafta.org/jobs and on Twitter and Facebook.
- Company Pictures – Independent film and television drama Production Company which offers work experience to students who are enrolled on an educational course.
- Production Base – The industry network for people working in film, television and commercial production. Vacancies from entry-level runner or intern positions upwards.
- TV Watercooler – A list of companies who offer specific work experience schemes.
- Objective Media Group - Jobs / Work Experience opportunities; to apply send your CV, if they can put your talents to use they will contact you.
- Carnival Films – Offer limited work experience placements all based in their Central London office (no on-set work experience). Anyone interested should e-mail them using the form on the contact page selecting 'work experience' in the drop down menu.
- British Council Film Festival Directory – Use this website to find out which festivals are taking place near you.
- Mandy Crew – Online platform with a large community of cast, crew and creative professionals who work with some of the best film, TV and commercial production companies. Here you will find low and no pay film jobs and TV work. This is a collaboration space where you can meet like-minded film, TV and production professionals doing what they do best… creating work, gaining experience and making connections.
Tips to build experience
- Explore the various types of jobs within the film industry before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain relevant experience.
- Get involved in relevant University or external groups, this is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Attend events such as screenings and launches where you can network and make contacts.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations or individuals who interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them.
- Try to build up a blog or portfolio of work that you can present to potential employers. This will show that you are proactive and evidence practically what you can do.
Finding a job
There are many different job roles within the film industry and work can be extremely varied, you could work within writing, production or post-production. It is important to remember that work is often offered last-minute and requires an enormous amount of flexibility, particularly in production. Although some fixed employment opportunities exist, a great deal of the work is freelance and so new entrants should be aware that they may need additional part-time work to support themselves at first.
Many people within the industry start as runners or in other lower-level jobs. These roles will provide experience of the industry and access to invaluable networking opportunities. The British film industry has recently received a boost through the announcement of tax breaks. This means that, although competitive, this is potentially a good time to break into the industry. Further ‘Finding a Job’ information in our TV and Radio Broadcasting Guide may also be relevant to those wanting to work in production.
- There are thousands of film and television production companies and services in the UK that will employ individuals either on a fixed-term or freelance basis. KFTV lists information for production companies worldwide with over 4,000 UK companies featured with profiles, links to their websites and contact details.
- There are many entertainment related recruitment agencies, the majority of them based in London. Specialist recruitment agencies can be an effective way to gain employment within this industry due to the often short-term nature of work.
- The majority of production and post-production work is based in London and the South East.
- Related work will also be advertised by corporate business, charities, universities, marketing and advertising companies.
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- Grapevine Jobs – Extensive jobs board for film and broadcast sectors.
- 4RFV – Online production directory where you can track down key contacts in the industry. Site contains an extensive jobs board covering a wide range of opportunities within media.
- ScreenSkills - Jobs board for creative roles in film and TV.
- The Guardian – Jobs board includes film industry roles.
- Talent Bases – Multiply companies use this website to advertise a variety of jobs in media
- My First Job In Film – Search and apply for the latest entry-level opportunities in the film industry.
- Mandy Network – Latest film and TV jobs
- The Knowledge – Contains contacts and opportunities to find work in the UK film and media industry.
- British Film Institute – Use filters to view current job roles – opportunities are varied from film restorers, programmers and policy-makers to those in support services, such as marketing, finance, HR and IT.
- The Unit – media jobs vacancy site.
- Video Collective – A small UK jobs board focusing on film, TV and video production.
Tips for finding a job
- Target entry-level roles within the industry as well as more skilled positions that you can technically do. A job as a runner for example will provide you with an excellent opportunity to network, make contacts, learn about all kinds of different roles within production and get your foot in the door.
- Make sure your portfolio of work is strong and visible, whether your desire is to be a writer, director or actor. When talking to people in the industry it is beneficial to have something tangible to show rather than just claiming what you can do.
- Use social media effectively to present your work, network and approach prospective employers. In the film industry, last minute jobs (particularly entry level roles) are often posted on Twitter or Facebook.
- ScreenSkills offer a trainee course for graduates that matches individuals to excellent opportunities within the industry where you'll be trained-up and paid.
Useful Twitter and Facebook feeds
Check out the following Twitter and Facebook feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
- Young Film
- Tiger Aspect
- Film London
- My First Job In film
- Production Base
- The Mandy Network
- Carnival Films
- Shooting People
- ITV Careers
- Video Collective
If you need more information why not check out some of the resources below to help you to research this sector in more depth.
- BAFTA Guru – Site aims to inspire those looking to work in the film or TV industries. Offers careers advice, talks and lectures from industry professionals.
- BFI – The BFI exists to promote greater understanding and appreciation of film and moving image culture in the UK
- Screen South – Information about the film industry including jobs bursaries and events for the southern region.
- Production Base – Network for people working in film, radio, television, theatre and commercial production including an online jobs board.
- Searchlight – One of the Leading recruitment agencies for the media and entertainment (includes film) sectors, based in Camden but with work across the UK and abroad.
- Yellow Cat Recruitment – Specialise in entertainment recruitment, particularly working with smaller companies and start-ups.
- Soho Runners – Recruitment specialist, providing runners into the Soho post and film communities’ entry level.
- There are numerous media-based recruitment agencies, usually serving a local area (often London). Visit Agency Central, an online media recruitment agency directory to search for an agency in the right location and area of work.
Many professionals work as self-employed freelancers, working on projects as opposed to full-time employment. Continuous learning and networking are important to finding and securing roles, as is a proactive attitude. You can gain initial experience through work placements, competitions, undertaking work experience and developing your own portfolio relevant to the area of work you wish to enter.
Resources and websites to get you started
- Production Base – the UK's leading digital publication and network for freelancers working in TV, film, theatre, radio and commercial production. As members of this exclusive community, users gain access to hundreds of unique job opportunities on a weekly basis, and can showcase their profile and show reel to all the leading production companies and broadcasters.
- Southpoint Films – In addition to roles they may be actively recruiting for, company also offer freelance opportunities.
- Video Collective – A UK job board for professional freelancers seeking career opportunities in the Video, TV and Film industry. Use filters to find current freelance, full-time and part-time vacancies.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.