If you have found your way to this page, it’s likely that you’re having a difficult time finding entry level film jobs. Perhaps you’re not even sure exactly what they are. It’s understandable – the film industry can feel quite elusive at times, with the jobs being highly sought after, and only trusted people getting in.
Of course, if you have a friend producing an independent film, you can help however you want. But you’re not here to hear that. You want to know how you can start earning the big bucks on big Hollywood features and TV shows. Fortunately, we’re here to tell you how to do just that. We’re going to be breaking down all the different entry level film jobs, as well as their pros and cons to help you decide what the best route for you is.
By far the most popular way of entering the film industry, and for good reason – it works. Once you find a job, if you have a good attitude and are able to put in the hours, you are pretty much guaranteed a higher paid position at some point in the future. Aside from those with family connections, almost every highly-paid cast and crew member starts out as a PA.
Working as a production assistant actually does a lot to weed people out. The hours are the longest of almost anyone on the crew, the work is the least fulfilling, and you’ll face the most adversity. It’s a very hard job, and I’ve watched many people realize that the film industry isn’t quite for them after working in it for awhile.
Depending on what you ultimately want to do in the industry and how good your interpersonal skills are, the amount of time you’ll have to do this varies a lot. Getting paid much more in different departments can come relatively quickly if you’re hard working and lucky. Becoming a union assistant director can take much more time. In any case, you can take this job just about anywhere. You get to see all the different departments in action and get a feel for what you’ll like the most. It’s our best recommendation if you’re not sure what you want to do.
Tasks include keeping track of people, locking up the shot, and running errands for the crew. We’ve compiled a complete list of the duties and responsibilities here.
- Teaches an excellent work ethic you won’t learn anywhere else.
- Option to “Day Play”, working sporadically when needed.
- You get to experience EVERYTHING, including awesome stunts and explosions.
- Meet celebrities on a regular basis.
- Easiest spot to climb from. Lots of interaction with the whole crew.
- Hours and work is incredibly grueling, 14-16 hours a day, 5 days a week.
- Limited access to writers, creative heads, office departments.
- Job can be quite demeaning and boring on certain sets.
- Pretty difficult to master the job.
If running around on set and blocking doors isn’t your cup of tea, joining the industry as an office production assistant is your best course of action. While the set PA is the best path towards the on-set departments or working in production, the office PA is the best path to, well, working in the office. If working as a production coordinator or production secretary sounds appealing to you, there’s no better way to get started.
The job isn’t as glamorous – you won’t be watching as many explosions or dramatic performances, but you’ll learn a lot more about what goes in to making a movie happen. You’ll get to form solid connections with your fellow office employees, as well as in-office departments like locations, accounting, and casting.
Besides, if you change your mind, it’s relatively easy to get work as a set PA, as you’ll get to know production coordinators and assistant directors while you work in the office.
Tasks include sending e-mails, copying scripts and other clerical tasks. Check out our complete guide to working as an office PA to learn everything you need to know.
- More relaxed, less physical than working on set.
- Great opportunity to learn about the office and planning a film.
- Increased access to producers, writers, showrunners, art department, etc.
- Better hours.
- In less demand, there are much more on-set jobs.
- Often no option to work part-time.
- Limited access to on-set departments like Grip, Electric.
- You don’t get to witness the movie magic.
This “entry-level job” is an option most people aren’t aware of, and some workers might try to tell you it’s not viable. However, one way that many of my peers have entered the industry is through their work as background actors. Sure, you’ll be a little bit lower on the totem pole than the previous two jobs, but there are a few benefits to starting like that. The jobs are a little easier to obtain – they’re often open to the public and require no experience. Sure, this might be something you do before you get a job as a PA, but it’s still an “entry level job”
Keep in mind, you actually don’t need any skills as an actor whatsoever to become a background actor. If you’re not exactly sure what that means, background actors are the people used to fill in the background of the scenes, often doing mundane tasks or talking to others. They’re necessary to enhance the atmosphere of any motion picture, and they keep the film feeling real.
You’ll usually be hired a day at a time, and if you have a popular look, studios will take note of you and keep calling you back. The pay isn’t amazing, and you’ll definitely need another source of income, but you’ll be in an excellent spot to meet people.
Now, this is the most important part about this option: It will be much more difficult to get people’s attention. Unless you want a career as an actor, starting as a background actor will not lead to any crew promotions. It is only to be used as an opportunity to network. By showing up, talking to people when it’s appropriate, and demonstrating that you understand set etiquette, you can definitely earn the connections necessary to nab one of the other jobs on this list.
- Easiest job by far.
- Easiest to get, publicly advertised.
- Can be a lot of fun.
- Inconsistent nature means you can hold another job.
- You get to be IN the movie.
- Nothing to get promoted to, used solely as a way of meeting people.
- Not a consistent job.
- Can be difficult to network.
- You don’t learn about what it’s like to work.
Independent Film Crewmember
Everyone who works in the film industry is aware that it is actually divided in two. No, we’re not talking about film and TV. We’re talking about big-budget and indie.
If you’ve read any filmmaking books like Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without A Crew, you’ve probably learned that with enough confidence, you can throw tradition aside and carve your own path. By joining independent film crews, or even directing/producing indie films of your own, you can find yourself in a higher-level film industry job without needing to spend several years in the dirt as a PA.
While the world has seen many directors rise up from PA’s, there’s no better way to demonstrate your directorial talent than by, well, directing. Putting together your own films is quite a hassle, but when nobody wants to give you a chance to show them what you’re made of, your best course of action may be to just do it yourself.
Joining your local indie scene requires a lot of determination and creativity, but it can have by far the best return on investment. Of course, you’re still probably not going to get hired to be the key grip if you don’t even know what a grip is. The point here is to work on small sets and try to gain whatever experience you can, and then use that experience to land jobs in the departments that interest you.
- Ability to potentially do non-PA work from the get-go
- By far the most fulfilling and engaging. Allows you to express your creativity.
- A more intimate family-like environment with stronger relationships.
- Is the quickest path to becoming a famous director.
- Will likely have to work unpaid at first.
- Work (and success) can be very inconsistent.
- Making your own films requires creativity.
- Not always a one-for-one representation of the real film industry.
- Easy to get taken advantage of if you’re not careful.
How To Get A Job In The Film Industry With No Experience
So we’ve taught you about all the different entry level jobs that can get you into the film industry. Now, you’re probably wondering what you have to do to find and obtain these jobs.
Here’s a list of other resources we believe will be useful in your attempts to join the film industry:
- 19 Ways To Get Fired As A Production Assistant
- The Ultimate Production Assistant Resume Guide
- Essential Production Assistant Gear To Crush Your First Job
- 9 Unexpected Things I Got Really Good At While Working As A Production Assistant
Good luck! If you have anything you would like us to add to this guide, leave a comment below.