Since graduation, I’ve been scouring every inch of the net seeking job opportunities with the film industry. It goes without saying that there are way more folks looking for work than there are open positions, so I’ve been attending creative career orientations, networking events and re-imagining my portfolio. I’ve been immersing myself in LinkedIn and tweeting a storm (a selective one) on Twitter in an effort to stay informed and engaged with fellow creatives and trends in media/film.
I recently came across highlights from an interview with Barbara Freedman Doyle by Lee Jarvis of Media Match regarding her top 5 tips for breaking into the film industry.
1. Contacts Are a Big Deal
How many times have you heard it said that he (or she) is “connected”? Being connected is a shortcut. It makes things easier. Before you disdain or discount the concept of connections or that much repeated term “networking”, take a minute and think about how important these may be and why. Every day hundreds of people arrive in Los Angeles with the intention of making movies. But there is no qualifying certification. Anyone can say, “I’m a director / producer / screenwriter”. So relationships and referrals are important. They serve as a filter. They lend you that minimum certification. And by the way, once someone does a favor for a friend by meeting you, they will be able to ask a favor in return. That’s politics.
2. Begin Networking
Tell everyone you know your plan. Is it possible that they may know someone you can call for advice? NEVER use someone’s name without asking permission first. If they seem hesitant when you ask, don’t do it. Is there a film festival in a city near you? Festivals use volunteers. Usually in exchange for your unpaid assistance, you can attend as many panels and workshops as can fit around your work schedule. You will make the acquaintance of people who might be willing to give you advice. When a panelist at a festival mentions a film to watch or a book to read, do it! This kind of research – seeing the films and reading the interviews, not just stopping at the IMDb credits list – should quickly become a career-long habit.
3. Find a Mentor
A mentor is someone who is at least a few steps ahead of you, someone who has “been there, done that” and can help steer you along. A business mentor is not a buddy, and finding someone who wants to help you can be hard. Don’t ask someone to be your mentor. That’s too formal and official, and it’s too much of a commitment. Have more than one person whom you think of as a mentor, and from whom you can ask advice.
4. Do your Research – Learn the Names
You can go online and research people, you can read the trades (Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter), and you can read Nikke Finke’s daily newsletter at Deadline. You will learn an immense amount about what is happening in the industry very quickly, including the names of people and companies, and you will begin to become aware of the rhythm of how things work.
5. Try to Learn Something About the Business at Every Interview
Whether by following up on something you overhear in the waiting room, or by researching something the interviewer says, you will get better at these meetings. Knowledge and practice is what will help you to feel more at ease.
Doyle also recently released a book titled, “Make Your Movie: What You Need to Know About the Business and Politics of Filmmaking.” If you enjoyed the tips she shared here, I suggest you take a look at her book.