As I said in my previous post about not having all the answers, networking wasn’t my strong suit. The hardest part about getting into the film industry – especially a smaller, concentrated one like Nashville – was making the initial contacts. I knew I didn’t have any experience. How do you convince someone to hire you over someone else when you don’t know anything about the industry you’re trying to get into? I didn’t know anything about film. Or cameras. Or lighting. All I knew was I wanted to be on a set and see whatever I did on TV.
In the summer before my senior year of college, I landed an internship with a chill music video production company. Unlike my music business internships, I was thrilled! My first day on the job broke down like this: Started at the office at 10am. Ran errands (which consisted of picking up police lights). The music video* shoot began that afternoon at 3:30pm and lasted until 4am the next morning. During that time, I babysat extras (who can get into trouble if left unsupervised, I quickly learned), helped with set dec (which consisted of removing dozens of old, dusty fourth of July decorations from bannisters in the background), and made two separate runs to Wal-Mart at 2am for zip ties to re-tie the dirty decorations. It was crappy work, but I didn’t notice – I immediately fell in love with the energy, and how thirty normal people can create something seen by thousands. I didn’t get home until 6:30am and then had to turn around and go to an 8am class. I’d worked a 20 hour day, didn’t make any money, but it didn’t matter. I knew I’d found what I wanted to do.
Want to get into the film industry? Work for free.
You don’t have to commit to a semester-long internship in order to get your foot in the door, although it was helpful for me since I didn’t know anything about the way a set flows, and it allowed me to see a little bit of how the office worked in preparation for the shoots. Interning on independent movies can be a good way to get your foot in the door. Call the film commission in your state, ask them what’s going on. You probably won’t get on Tom Hanks latest feature (or maybe you will!), but you might be able to get a few days on an indie movie. It’ll introduce you to people who normally work in the biz, and they may be able to help you secure future gigs.
Film School Disclaimer:
Having never been to film school, I can’t really comment on its worth. Based on what I’ve been told from friends, it’s good because you get hands-on experience – who’s gonna let you hold an Alexa camera on a real set? – but it really depends on what you want to do in production. If you want to work with cameras, it may be worth it. If you want to be a producer, it may not be worth it. If you know you don’t want to spend the money, but you’re determined to get in the industry – you’re in luck: determination is all that’s required. Learning film production isn’t learning neurosurgery – you can pick it up on the job.
* If you’re curious, here’s the music video.