Over the past few months, several of you have discovered this blog because you’re looking to make a career change into the film industry. Here are a few excerpts from emails I’ve received:
Currently, I am an Executive Assistant for a creative tech company in NYC. I have a background in Communication Design and find myself increasingly interested in moving my career towards media and entertainment. Do you think it’s too late in the game?
Recently, I was reminded how quickly life goes by. I have always loved films and their storytelling process and in my younger years thought of getting involved but nothing ever came out of it. Now at my Mid 40’s I am feeling pulled to get involved in the film industry, I live in New York City and the productions in films have increased dramatically […] am I too old for going in as a production assistant in films/TV?
Film as a Second Career — Is It Possible?
YES! Almost a third of the people I’ve worked with in film and television had an entirely different career first. They were waitresses, accountants, insurance salesmen, employees at Blockbuster… Now, they’re DGA assistant directors, directors of photography, television producers, and electricians. Several of them didn’t even step onto a film set until they were in their late 20’s or 30’s.
But Am I Too Old to Start Working in Production?
I started my junior year in college, so I turned to my colleagues for their experience on starting in production later in life. As always, they provided great insight:
“I started when I was 27 and I think it benefited me. I had a drive and sense of urgency that I felt some other people didn’t. I just think they need to know that they need to fully dedicate at lease 3 years where every waking day is about building contacts.” -Ian, DGA 1st AD.
“I started as a PA in my thirties. I had a second job to keep money coming in & I was single. I had a huge advantage over some of the younger people in that I had a strong work ethic because life had taught me a few things. Life experiences can be valuable in developing set awareness!” -Maxx, electrician.
“I started professionally in my thirties as well. I had a logistics management career before I got into production, and those skills, and adult work ethic moved me along more quickly than some of my contemporaries in production.” –James, assistant director.
“Age isn’t so much a factor as your circumstances. Young people might not be at the place where you have to worry about a mortgage and kids. The older you get, the more apt you might be to have family concerns like these. Instability of income and crazy hours might not be the best thing for somebody with these obligations and responsibilities.” –Steve, audio engineer.
The life experience and professional wisdom you gain in your 20’s (and 30’s) can only help you succeed on a film set. You know what it means to work hard, and you understand the importance of doing a job correctly without needing positive reinforcement. That isn’t always the case with kids straight out of film school that suffer from entitlement, consider themselves directors, and can’t even write a professional e-mail when a producer asks them for their resume.
If you come from a career that you found soul-crushing, then you will relish every hour on a film set because each day truly is unique and amazing. (Even now when a job is hard or a bit crappy, I stop what I’m doing and think, “I am getting paid to create television. This is crazy.”)
Warning: The hours will be HARD. It takes a certain kind of person to tolerate working in film and television, and the hours aren’t easy. Before you make the leap, ask yourself if freelancing is right for you, and if you can handle a relationship with show business.
Making the Transition Easily
As in most careers, you have to start at the bottom first. Starting as a production assistant may not be your only option. What is your current profession, and how could those skills best be put to use in production?
For example, if you worked as a real estate agent, maybe the locations department would be a lateral move. If you’re a project manager, maybe the production office is where you should begin.
There is also the chance that you despise your current profession and want to get as far away from it as possible.
Are you looking for more support or encouragement? I’ve recently started a Facebook group to unite the future directors, producers, and crew members of the world. It’s a place to seek encouragement from one another, share your successes, and share your mishaps. It’s open to all ages and steps on the ladder of production. There are no dumb questions, only support.
Are you thinking about changing careers?