Should I Move to Find Work In the Film Industry?

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Today’s question comes from a reader who isn’t sure how to get started– and I suspect her location has a lot to do with it!

I live in upstate New York (really upstate) about 1 hour north of the capital Albany.  I’m looking to see if I can get into this field.  How would I go about getting initial jobs, and would the best way to start be a Production Assistant?

I wrote a few tips not too long ago about how to get a job as a production assistant. But what do you do when there simply is NO semblance of a film community anywhere near you? (If the biggest production in your town is a local car dealership ad, you fall into this category.) As in this reader’s case, finding a film set an hour north of Albany may be impossible. Ask yourself: If I’m serious about this career, should I move to where the film work is?

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in the bizarre world of set life, it can be a huge decision to move to a new city when you’re not even sure if you’ll like the work. First tip: Call the local state film commission, ask if there are any upcoming projects coming to upstate NY. Find out the name of the production company, offer to work for free. This can get your feet wet without taking the plunge, or maybe you can relocate for a few months.

Unless the next hit AMC drama begins filming an hour north of Albany, you will need to move — at first at least, to get the experience, build a reputation, and establish a career. Since you’re from New York, NYC seems like the closest and logical choice, but it is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

Where Should I Move For Film Work?

Let’s Begin with the Obvious: Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Traffic at Night

While not as many movies are filmed there as in years past, it’s still slammed for scripted and reality television work, on both the production and post production ends. You’ll ascend the ladder faster than in a mid-market town.

A major downside: Kiss your family and social life goodbye; work is the only thing that matters in Los Angeles. Also, the taxes are criminal.

Atlanta.
Atlanta Sunset

Nicknamed the “Hollywood of the South”, Atlanta should be a top choice for anyone considering getting into the business. Georgia has provided enormous tax incentives for out of town production companies, and the film community has blown up. Several movies have been filmed in the greater Atlanta area, plus several television shows (Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta; The Walking Dead, etc).

Miami.
Miami Skyline from MacArthur Causeway Bridge 05-29-2010   dsc8231

Several productions roll through Miami throughout the year, and a large number of Spanish-speaking programs and music videos are filmed here. Local PAs drift between Miami and Orlando, depending on where the work is.

New Orleans.
new orleans street carAgain, tax incentives have really stimulated the television and film industry here. It’s not quite as large of a market as Atlanta, but dozens of movies and television shows have been shot here over the last decade. Plus, it’s New Orleans — it has some of the best food and culture in the country.

Which city will be best in the long term?

This is a list of cities that are great for the film industry now. It can change in a year depending on tax incentives.

If you’re in doubt — find a state or city that interests you and research the film commission.  How many projects have filmed there in the last two years? How many projects are scheduled to shoot there in the upcoming months?

Compare your findings against websites such as StaffMeUp, MediaMatch, and even Craigslist, which is where freelancers typically find job postings. Other mid-market film towns that may be worth a look are Savannah, Washington DC, Nashville, Austin, Portland, Dallas, Seattle.

Remember: Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of tenacity to get your foot in the door. It’s supposed to be hard.  Do your research, make an informed decision, make contacts and schedule lunches, and take the leap.

Do you have a question about the film or television industry you’d like to see answered here? Let me know.

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Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, Laryssa! I just found this site and it’s been an amazing source of info about how to get into the film industry! Thank you so much for all the great tips!
    First of all, I’m not American. I live in Brazil, and I have the dream of becoming an executive producer of TV shows. Here, we don’t have a lot of television shows, they’re usually soap operas and reality TV, so my target is the U.S., which already has a great film and TV industry. I’m just fourteen, but I’m starting to see my options, if I can turn my dreams into plans. In order to do so, I’m doing as much research as I can to be informed about the subject and be sure of what I’m getting into if I actually try this.
    You said in many posts that when you have no experience, it’s recommended to apply for events near you to understand how everything works and/or offer to work for free, just for the experience. My question is: If I move to a city with good opportunities, such as Atlanta and LA, how do I get the experience and networking needed and get to pay my bills? Will I have time to get a part-time job as a waiter, for example? Do you know any foreign pa’s? Will there be any immigration issues?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Henry!
      Well, there likely will need to be some sort of visa that you would need to acquire that would allow you to work in the US legally, and honestly, I’m not sure the details of that.

      Before making a big move, it’s a good idea to have enough ins savings to cover your expenses for 2-3 months while you get situated. This will help you avoid having to get some kind of part-time job as well. (Speaking from personal experience, it doesn’t work out too well to try to balance production with any kind of “normal” part time job… you have to be 100% available when you’re trying to break into production work.)

      I’m not sure where you are in Brazil, but since you’re quite young, I would recommend trying to get experience there first so at least you have a resume when you arrive here. This will also help you decide if you really want to pursue film/television as a career before you go through sorting out the visa, which could take time and a lot of dedication.

      Best of luck!

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