So there are a number of opportunities and avenues towards TV that will get you the kickstart and contacts you need for your career. Do the same exist for film?
Well, yes and no.
It is probably fair to say that the world of film is a much more closed shop than the vast corridors of TV. But that doesn’t mean that the shop is closed to you. You can be canny enough to figure out their opening times and raid the store for everything they’ve got.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that to get by in this world it’s “who you know rather than what you know” that will determine your fate. But what is not added to this adage is that while someone you know might get you the opportunity, it’s down to your talent and hard work to ensure that the nepotism or favouritism is justified. Otherwise, in the immortal words of Donald Trump: “You’re fired.”
The notion of ‘six degrees of separation’ should probably read ‘three degrees of separation’. You’d be surprised how tenuously you can link yourself to someone who has some tie to the industry and who might, just might, be able to swing something your way.
Your cousin’s wife’s sister could work for a post-production house and might be prepared to have a word with her boss about the possibility of getting you in as a runner, or in dispatch, or hell, just sit in on some edits and learn a few things.
I think that perhaps people, especially those ‘new and naïve’ to the business, go to the Cineplex and check out what’s on offer and think there’s no way of breaking in. But that’s the high profile of cinema. The top-end of production and distribution. You can’t just walk into that arena without earning your stripes first.
Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of films being made, every day. These include shorts, low-no budget features, pop promos, commercials and corporate videos. And while they’re generally crewed up quite quickly, there’s still that small gap of uncertainty for a production manager when he/she has to consider: “who can I get as a runner? What about a production secretary?”
This is where you come in. Your unbridled passion and enthusiasm will have generated some momentum where you’ll find yourself in a position of contact for these people. Those that casually check out the scene and back out because there’s not enough opportunity are the has-beens not the wannabes.
So what is out there? You know it already. Despite the occasional weary criticism from its own members, Shooting People is practically recruiting every day for films, shorts and scripts. It may be payment on a lo-no-deferment basis but remember, everyone’s got to start somewhere.
They’ve recently started a New York division too. Very exciting. And don’t forget Talent Circle and UK Screen who provide a similar service.
Screen International is the film industry trade mag for the UK and will sometimes slip in an advert for development peeps.
You could try the reliable approach of writing to film companies with your CV but as everyone does this, it really has to be a good letter, practically a winning pitch of yourself for it to work. Although if you’re wily and witty enough, follow it up with a phone call (see previous post for TV) and see how far you can get.
Working Title Films have an annual (open) internship called ‘Action’. Check the website for details. “The successful candidates will spend 12 months with Working Title on a full-time basis with the development and production teams”. The deadline for this year is February 22nd 2006. This is an amazing opportunity. Make sure you’re first in line. Annihilate the opposition with your commitment to film.
Are there any more opportunities? Probably. If anyone knows of something else, please share. Apart from that though, it’s down to the contacts you make or any industry relatives you might (tenuously) have. A friend of mine’s mother is a housekeeper for a friend of Frank Stapleton, the ex-Irish and Manchester United footballer, and I have enjoyed tickets at Old Trafford because of this vague connection (although I must stress, I am not a United fan).
My mother’s cousin worked in special effects in Ardmore Studios and lo, my first break in film was born. But after that, and I don’t mind saying so, it was all me. I even got a job doing on-air reviews for a youth magazine show on RTE just because I approached them at the right time and with the right tone (my screen test however was quite nervy but he gave me a shot anyway because my film reviews were good, bless you Philip McGovern). And then I came to London and you know the rest.