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How to get started in the UK film and TV industry

I decided approximately 6 months ago to change my career path and see whether I could find work in the film industry as an Art Director, with the aim of eventually becoming a Production Designer. I had never had any experience working on film sets and at University had studied Fashion Design and Photography, so I did not even have a good film degree to promote when applying for work.

The first (and most obvious thing) which I did was to find the best websites advertising film and TV production work. There are a couple of good ones out there and after many long and lengthy applications I finally got my first job as a Stylist and Art Director on a Fashion Film. What I would say about film is that it almost cherry picks from many mediums so the fact that I didn’t have a film degree was not of much consequence because for this job I was able to promote my fashion degree and, most importantly, my enthusiasm to enter into the film industry and gain as much experience as possible.

You need to be prepared to work unpaid and my first job was unpaid. It isn’t very easy for most of us to work in this way because we still need to pay the bills at the end of the day, but on the jobs which I have had so far, those that are unpaid are usually very flexible around this because after all, you’re helping them for free alongside the fact that you are gaining experience which you can apply to future roles.

Once you’ve got that first job you’ve already started to prize open the gap making more room to get your foot in there. And on that first job, do as well as you can, be as nice as you can and as enthusiastic as you can, because more than any other industry that I know of- in film, it is all about who you know. This can be a positive and a negative thing. It’s fine if you have friends or family who work in the industry, but if you’re trying to do it all on your own it definitely makes it a little harder.

Since being able to reference that first job on the Fashion Film I have been able to Art Direct a short film (which was paid) and after getting on really well with the Production Designer on that Short, she has managed to get another job for me on a feature film that she is working on with a Director that she knows... Do you see the pattern? It’s about who you know but it is also important to be open and enthusiastic on your first job when you get it, even if it might not be exactly what you want to be doing because one person will inevitably lead to another person in film.

I am still working on unpaid jobs and I have one coming up that is as a Production Designer on a Student Film which I am really excited about because this will be my first credit in the role that I want to be recognised for. Student films are a great way of gaining experience with others that are also still learning but that are serious about creating good work and as enthusiastic as anything about meeting new people and creating future contacts. Working Freelance can mean a lot of time spent on the computer looking for new work with always the inevitability of not getting every single job that you apply for, but the more credits you build up, the more rewarding it will all feel.

Written by: Francesca Wilkinson - Visit author's website

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