Fancy a career in the film industry? We have all the knowledge and tips to help you become a film pro.
- What is film?
- How does the film process work?
- Film examples
- Jobs in film
- Film companies
- Recommended film books
- Useful film industry links
What is film?
“The technological and commercial institutions surrounding the production of moving pictures to tell a story”
Starting with a simple idea for a story and turning it into a polished blockbuster movie involves hundreds of people working together from the creative and financial sectors. Films not only have to entertain, they have to sell, and it is the task of producers to assemble teams together in order to get films off the ground.
However, the film industry is a notoriously competitive sector, and due to the amount of freelance work centering on individual projects or contracts, it can be hard to hold down a job long-term.
The time-honoured route of acting as a runner for a film production company is still the easiest way to get your foot in the door and get an overview of the filmmaking process. Whilst some of the tasks may appear menial and seem irrelevant to the particular route you want to go down, the on-set experience provided is invaluable for making contacts and getting ahead with your career. Put simply, experience is the key to getting into the film industry, and any time spent on a live set will give you an edge.
Being able to showcase your work and demonstrate your passion is also a big bonus. Make your own short films with friends, or as part of student projects, and don’t be afraid of entering competitions to get your work noticed by industry experts. Attend free events and screenings to make contacts and ask those key questions. Always have ideas on the go: imagine you’re stuck in a lift with a film executive and only have two minutes to sell your idea. Can you summarise the plot and demonstrate why your idea is unique? Film producers are busy people and don’t have time to listen to too much waffle. As director Frank Capra once said “there are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness” - make sure your ideas stand out!
How the film process works
There are numerous different stages in the production of a film, whether it is this summer’s big blockbuster, or a kooky independent short.
Planning (also known as pre-production) is the key to launching an idea and begin making it into a film. This stage centres heavily on the producer, who will employ a scriptwriter with an interesting idea and begin assembling a team under a director. Actors and locations are chosen and budgets are set before legal agreements are signed to ensure that the film goes ahead. It is then up to the art directors to create a set and props in line with the central idea.
Next is the most famous element of film, production. This largely involves the technical teams, who will set up the cameras, lighting and sound to ensure that the footage captured is of excellent quality and adheres to the general mood of the film. The actors also have to be dressed and made-up to visually transform them into the roles they are playing by a group of costume designers and make-up artists. The vast majority of the content is created at this stage and it is the responsibility of the producer to ensure that whilst the creative and artistic needs of the director are met, the film still keeps to budget and scheduling.
After the film has been shot the footage has to be put together in post-production. This is largely the work of the editor who will put the shots in order in a ‘rough cut’ before adjusting sound levels and adding special effects to perfect the footage recorded. This will then be sent on to the distributors who will market and sell the film, putting it forward to be shown in cinemas worldwide.
Jobs in film
The most exciting part about working in film is seeing how a simple idea develops into something that can be shown in cinemas worldwide. It involves teams of hundreds of people, and whilst some many are from more specific technical backgrounds, many roles don’t require a specific degree and simply value experience and passion.
Below we’ve listed some of the key roles in the filmmaking process and all the basic info you should know about them. Find out what happens, the skills you'll need and what you can expect as a starting salary. If you see a job title you like, pop it in your profile so we can match you with employers.
Working as a producer involves getting an idea from page to screen. Producers are involved in all the aspects of film production and work closely with directors and production staff to manage the film and ensure it remains close to its artistic conception as well as staying at a reasonable cost based on the potential market.
- Pitching and persuading
- Film Production Assistant
- Senior Film Producer
Controlling the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects, the director guides the technical crew and actors in order to best visualise the script and adapt it for the screen. Directors also have a key role in choosing the creative teams who will work on a film and are essential for its critical success.
- Idea generation
- Knowledge of camera angles
- Assistant Director
- Senior Film Director
The brains behind the stories, scriptwriters generate the ideas and write the scripts for films. Beginning with a simple concept, scriptwriters develop plots and create characters through dialogue to bring a script to life and prepare it for filming.
- Idea generation
- Junior Scriptwriter
A more technical role, cinematographers (or directors of photography) are responsible for capturing the footage in a film and need a sound knowledge of camera equipment, lighting and sound. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t work in cinematography if you don’t have these kinds of skills, you can still join the industry that you are passionate about in a supporting role whilst you up skill by learning on the job.
- Understanding of cinematograhy
Up to £10k (although some jobs are often unpaid as part of internships
- Assistant Camera
- Director of Photography
- Gaffer (oversees electrical work on set)
- Production Sound Mixer
- Boom Operator (holds the microphone during takes)
Editors are almost exclusively involved in post-production and cut the film together and add special effects to ensure the film looks its best when it is released. By working closely with the director they understand the mood of each scene and its desired effect on audiences. Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch’s six main criteria to make a cut in are as follows (in descending order of importance):
- Two-dimensional plane of screen
- Three-dimensional space of action
- An eye for detail
- Understanding of dramatic storytelling to evoke an emotional response
- Proficient in computer editing software
- Assistant Editor
Responsible for visuals on film sets, art directors create the scenery and props. By working with the director and scriptwriter, art directors help to visualise what a scene will look like and turn ideas into reality. This provides actors with a tangible point of reference to help them get into character as well as providing the editors with more to work with in post-production.
- Junior Art Director
- Senior Art Director
Film production companies
- Another Film Company
- River Film
- Sabana Films
- Burning Reel Productions
- Good Film Company
- Iron Box Films Ltd.
- Cracking Productions
- Richwater Films
- Digital Nasties
- SpectreCom Films
- Recorded Picture Company
- Blink Productions
- Trademark films
- Pogo films
- Big Talk Productions
- Cloud Eight
- Ealing Studios
- Ecosse Films
- Number 9
- Ruby Films
- BBC Films
Recommended film books
- Filming the Future by Piers Bizony
- Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design by Christopher Frayling
- Editing and Post-Production by Declan McGrath
- Film (Creative Careers) by Milly Jenkins
- The Filmmakers Handbook by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus
- Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
- On Directing Film by David Mamet
- In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
- The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn't Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film by Reed Martin