Tips for building a “behind the scenes” movie career

Photo courtesy of New York Film Academy. NYFA was founded on the philosophy that “learning by doing” combined with best industry practices is more valuable than years of theoretical study for film, media, and performing arts students.

So you want to work behind the scenes in the movies? Great! It’s a competitive field, but there are definitely things you can do to increase your chances of landing a job. Here are some tips to:

Get educated: Taking classes in film, television, or a related field can be really helpful. Not only will you learn the basics of filmmaking, but you’ll also have opportunities to meet other people who are interested in the same things you are. Plus, it looks good on your resume.

Network: It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know. Attending film festivals, industry events, and workshops is a great way to meet people who are already working in the industry. You can also join online communities like LinkedIn groups to connect with professionals and learn about job openings.

Gain experience: This one can be tough, but it’s important. Look for internships, apprenticeships, or entry-level jobs on film sets or in post-production companies. Even working in a related field, like theater or advertising, can help you gain valuable experience.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” says director Francis Ford Coppola.

Build your portfolio: “Make a short film every year, because it’s your résumé,” says director and producer J.J. Abrams. A portfolio is a collection of your work that you can show to potential employers. This could include short films, photography, or design work. It’s important to have a variety of samples that showcase your skills and creativity.

JJ Abrams at SXSW 2016 on step and repeat red carpet at the Austin Convention Center backstage before screening of Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey on March 14, 2016. Photo taken by Rita Quinn |

Be persistent: This is probably the most important tip. Landing a job in the film industry can take time, and you may get rejected a lot. But don’t give up! Keep applying to jobs, reaching out to people in the industry, and improving your skills and portfolio.

One thing to keep in mind is that working in the film industry can be demanding. There are often long hours, tight deadlines, and lots of pressure to produce high-quality work. But if you’re passionate about filmmaking, it can be a really rewarding career path. Good luck!

Specific jobs required in the film industry

Making a motion picture involves a collaborative effort from many different professionals who work both on and off-screen.

The list of job titles at the end of a film can be quite extensive, as it includes all of the professionals who worked on the production, from pre-production to post-production.

Here is an overview of various departments, and the job titles within each department typically involved in the making of a motion picture:

  1. Production
  • Producer: oversees the entire production process and is responsible for managing the budget and timeline (The best producers are PGA’s)
  • Executive Producer: typically provides the funding for the production and may be involved in creative decisions
  • Line Producer: responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the production
  • Co-Producer: assists the producer in managing the production process
  • Production Manager: responsible for the logistics of the production, such as scheduling and budgeting
  • Production Coordinator: assists the production manager in coordinating logistics
  • Production Assistant: assists various departments as needed during production
  • Unit Production Manager: oversees a specific department or unit of the production
  • Assistant Unit Production Manager: assists the unit production manager
  1. Art Department
  • Production Designer: responsible for the overall look and feel of the film’s visuals
  • Art Director: oversees the art department and is responsible for creating the visual style of the film
  • Set Decorator: responsible for decorating the film’s sets with furniture, props, and other elements
  • Prop Master: responsible for acquiring and managing all of the props used in the film
  • Set Designer: designs the sets for the film
  • Construction Coordinator: manages the construction of the sets and other physical elements
  • Leadman: manages the set dressing and props on a specific set
  • Art Department Coordinator: assists the art department in logistics and coordination
  • Graphic Designer: creates any graphic design elements needed for the production, such as title cards and posters
  • Storyboard Artist: creates storyboards that visually represent the shots in the film
  1. Camera and Electrical
  • Director of Photography: responsible for the overall look of the film’s visuals and supervises the camera and lighting departments
  • Camera Operator: operates the camera during filming
  • First Assistant Camera (1st AC): responsible for maintaining and preparing the camera equipment
  • Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC): assists the 1st AC in camera preparation and operation
  • Steadicam Operator: operates a stabilizing device called a Steadicam to achieve smooth camera movement
  • Gaffer: responsible for the lighting on set
  • Key Grip: responsible for rigging and moving equipment on set
  • Best Boy Electric: assists the gaffer in managing the electrical department
  • Best Boy Grip: assists the key grip in managing the grip department
  • Dolly Grip: operates the camera dolly during filming
  • Electrician: assists the gaffer in lighting setup and operation
  • Grip: assists the key grip in rigging and moving equipment on set
  • Digital Imaging Technician (DIT): responsible for managing the digital files generated during filming
  1. Sound Department
  • Sound Mixer: responsible for capturing high-quality audio during filming
  • Boom Operator: holds a microphone on a long pole (a boom) to capture dialogue and other sounds during filming
  • Sound Designer: creates and designs the soundscape of the film
  • Sound Editor: edits and manipulates the recorded sound for the final mix
  • Foley Artist: creates sound effects in post-production by performing them live to picture
  • Re-Recording Mixer: mixes and balances the final sound mix for the film
  • ADR Supervisor: oversees the process of recording automated dialogue replacement (ADR)
  • Dialogue Editor: edits and cleans up dialogue recordings
  • Sound Effects Editor: edits and creates sound effects for the final mix
  • Music Editor: edits and manipulates the music used in the film
  1. Makeup and Wardrobe
  • Makeup Artist: applies makeup to the actors for the film
  • Hair Stylist: styles the actors’ hair for the film
  • Wardrobe Supervisor: manages the wardrobe department and is responsible for the costumes worn in the film
  • Costume Designer: Designs and creates the costumes worn by the characters in the film. They work closely with the director and the production designer to create a cohesive visual style for the film.
  • Makeup Artist: Creates and applies makeup to the actors to enhance their appearance and to create characters. They work closely with the costume designer and hair stylist to create a cohesive look for each character.
  • Hair Stylist: Designs and styles the hair of the actors. They work closely with the makeup artist and costume designer to create a cohesive look for each character.
  1. Special Effects & Post Production
  • Film Editor: Responsible for piecing together all the footage shot during production to create the final film. They work with the director to create the overall structure of the film, including pacing, mood, and tone.
  • Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor: Oversees the creation of special effects for the film. They work with the director and the producer to develop the visual effects that will enhance the story and the visuals.
  • Compositor: Takes all of the separate elements that make up a visual effect (such as green screen footage, 3D models, and special effects) and combines them into a final shot.
  • 3D Artist: Creates and animates 3D models for use in the film. They may create characters, creatures, or environments using specialized software.
  • Colorist: Works with the director of photography and the film editor to create the final look of the film. They adjust the color and tone of each shot to match the overall mood and feel of the film.
  • Sound Effects Editor: Creates and edits sound effects that are added to the film in post-production. This could include creating unique sounds for a particular scene or enhancing existing sounds to make them more impactful.
  • Music Editor: Responsible for selecting and editing music for the film. They work closely with the director to ensure that the music enhances the mood and tone of each scene.
  • Foley Artist: Similar to the sound department, the Foley artist creates and records sound effects that are added to the film in post-production.
  • Dialogue Editor: Similar to the sound department, the dialogue editor works to clean up and enhance dialogue that was recorded during production.

Of course there are other critical miscellaneous jobs that support the making of films like

  • Script Supervisor
  • Casting Director
  • Stunt Coordinator
  • Location Manager
  • Production Accountant
  • Transportation Coordinator
  • Caterer
  • Animal Trainer (depending and the film)
  • Picture Car Coordinator





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