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Arts & Entertainment

How to Break Into the Hollywood Film Industry

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 3 min read

Whether you seek to break into the film industry as an actor, a director, a cinematographer, a screenwriter, an editor, a composer, or producer, you will surely face barriers to entry. With the right approach, and a bit of luck, though, you can overcome these barriers and find your niche in the world of film production.

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8 Tips for Getting Started in the Film Industry

Every year, new artists descend upon Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and other film capitals, trying to figure out how to get into the film industry. While there is no surefire method for succeeding in any corner of the entertainment industry, these eight tips can help get you on your way.

  1. Hustle. Once you arrive in L.A., New York, Atlanta, Toronto, or another film center, be mindful that these towns are filled with people just like you. They may have film degrees from the top universities and film schools, or they may have extensive work experience on feature film sets. These other filmmakers will be both your competition and your collaborators, so work hard to ensure that you stand out from the crowd.
  2. Network whenever possible. Rising in the film business requires a network of collaborators in the industry. In the world of filmmaking, friends hire friends and production companies respond to word-of-mouth hype about writers and directors. This means you need to know how to get out, meet people, and spread the word about your creative work. If you're an actor, get to know some casting directors. Aspiring filmmakers should meet producers. Attending independent film festivals can be a great way to meet like-minded people in the industry.
  3. Prepare for long days and hard work. When you first get a job in the film industry, it’s unlikely to be glamorous. You could be a crew member on a no-budget indie music video, showing up before the crack of dawn and working until sundown. Yet on that film set, you could meet all sorts of interesting people who could one day be your collaborators on a feature-length film. Every step in your film career will require hard work, but that work will be accompanied by opportunity.
  4. Stay open to possibilities. There are many roles on any film project. Consider which production industry jobs are the best fit for you. Many film studies graduates arrive in Hollywood aiming to be a major film director, but director jobs can be in short supply. If you love on-set camera work, consider the world of cinematography, where you can rise to be a camera operator or director of photography. If you love postproduction, consider the role of editor.
  5. Accept that you may have to raise money. Real-world film projects are expensive, and unless you are independently wealthy, you may have to do a good amount of crowdfunding to get your own film projects off the ground. If you make a good film with the funds you raise, you can use it as your calling card for future work.
  6. Always be honest. Whether you're a screenwriter, an actor, a director, or a producer, you can make friends in the movie business by being honest and trustworthy, and you can quickly lose friends by lying. Establish yourself as an honest, ethical, reliable person, and your peers will be willing to entrust you with responsibility.
  7. Create your own work. Always be working, whether you’re paid for it or not. While you look for your first job on a professional film set, start working on your own projects with whatever budget you can muster. In many cases, this may mean creating a short film or web series. It might mean delving into screenwriting to develop some spec scripts. One way or another, commit to creating new work while you push for your big break.
  8. Fully commit to every job. If you're able to get an entry-level job as a production assistant, treat it as a dream job. Yes, your boss may make you spend a day running errands, and you may face endless mornings brewing coffee, but you're still in the film industry. If you work hard and treat people well, that PA job can lead to better work in the future.
Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television
Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television
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