I get asked about this frequently.
First, you have to go where the work is and that is not necessarily Los Angeles. I don’t recommend L.A. because they aren’t making as many feature films there and that is what most people are interested in. Another reason is that it’s expensive in every way, and if you don’t have a network of friends to help you find even an entry level job, it can be discouraging. Also, sleeping on somebody’s old couch can get old real fast. Listen, plenty of people do tough it out, catch a break and get their start in L.A. I love to hear from those I know when that happens for them!
My new thinking, since the feature film industry seems to be contracting, is to give Television a closer look. That medium is booming now. I never liked working on TV shows because it was repetitious, ruled by committee, (writers) and I got bored quickly on standing sets. Some people love it though; it can be a stable gig without a lot of travel and you can experience an almost normal life. My wife worked on “Mad About You” for years and had a great time. Besides - a job is a job, and I probably would have loved starting out that way. Remember, I started in a film lab in the maintenance department and considered that a “film job”!
In the late 70’s, the film business in California was pretty much a closed union shop and it was very difficult to get your “card”. Now it’s easier to get a start because production companies are shooting in cheaper states that have “Right to Work” statutes and have rolled out the red carpet via incentives and sweetheart deals. Look into the State Film Commissions nationwide. These sites contain valuable information about what’s been filmed there, shooting now or upcoming projects that list production office contact numbers and key personnel. Your best bet is to make a personal appearance as no one from these film commissions will ever say anything other than, “come on down”. Remember, they have a local crew base that has to be looked after first.
So, pick a place, load up your car, cross your fingers and take off! Sounds like an adventure to me!
Once you’re there, take anything that is offered - make new friends and work as hard as you can. I promise you’ll get noticed! Don’t forget – this is a “performance” based industry - so perform – you’ll have a lot of competition.
Be patient, there will be plenty of time to settle into what you think you want to specialize in. Try and give other departments a look – you might discover a brand new interest. I left college with goals to become a film editor or a post production supervisor and then I changed my mind - twice. And that’s OK.
Good Luck!Return to Musings