Can You Still Be Successful With Film Industry Jobs?
It’s been a devastating year for those of us who rely on film industry jobs for our livelihood. The impact of two simultaneous union strikes and walking picket lines in the scorching heat of summer was brutal, especially since many actors, writers, and industry crew members were just starting to get back on their feet financially after the long shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WGA has finally made a deal with the producers, and so have SAG-AFTRA members, after passing the one-hundredth day of their strike. Many industry insiders say there will be a major contraction in television production, meaning far fewer jobs than before. Ours has never been the best business to go into for those seeking stability and a reliable weekly paycheck, but this year has pushed many of us to the limit.
So the question is whether it’s even worth pursuing a film industry job as a viable career path. Those of us who have long-established careers or are nearing retirement will find a way to hang on. But if you’re just starting your film industry career, you may have second thoughts about your career choice after this extremely challenging year.
3 Crucial Things to Do:
I’ve always believed that you’re either meant to be in this business, or you’re not. If you know you’re meant to work in a film industry job, you’re probably still pursuing your goals, even during this financially devastating year. If you feel you could be happier and feel more secure doing something else, you probably know that by now, too.
This year has tested everyone who works in the film industry or owns a business that relies on it.
Here are three things that I believe have been proven to be crucial to survival this year in a film industry career, and we should all do going forward:
1. Have additional revenue streams
I’ve written about this topic several times on this blog because I believe it’s necessary for freelancers in our business to have at least one other source of income. I’ve always had at least one other revenue stream, and I was grateful I did during difficult times.
Even during normal times, you can go for weeks or months between jobs, especially at the beginning of your career, so it’s essential to have a financial cushion.
We film industry workers are a creative and resilient bunch and always seem to find a way to keep going. It’s a lot easier and less stressful, though, if you have another established source of income to help get you through rough times like these.
2. Keep up with your contacts
One thing we should never do in our industry is let our outreach to our contacts lapse. Send a quick email congratulating someone on moving up, getting a big job, or even just to say hello. You may have revisited some old contacts while walking until your feet were sore on the picket lines.
As freelancers in every field know, you should never let up on your networking. It keeps you in the loop on what’s happening and reminds people you’re still around.
In the pre-internet days, we kept in touch through phone calls and networking events. Today, it’s so much faster and easier. As long as you’re not constantly asking for work, most people are usually glad you took the time for a quick hello via email or social media.
Also, be sure to put yourself on your union’s availability list when you’re out of work so people who can hire you know you’re available for work, and remember to take yourself off it when you’re working. I’ve gotten hired many times and hired others from the availability list, but it’s annoying when people have been working for weeks and never bothered to take themselves off the list.
3. Get involved with your union and trade organizations
I’ve seen some of my peers complaining online about recent union contracts and conditions in the industry when they admit they’ve never attended a council or committee meeting to express their concerns. Our livelihoods and future benefits are tied to what happens with the contracts, so I encourage everyone, especially new members, to get involved with their union and take the time to vote in union elections.
The industry is changing rapidly, and we should all have a say in how it will evolve, or others will decide it for us. As many meetings are now held on Zoom, you can easily attend from the comfort of your own home.
Trade organizations serve a vital purpose, too, and I’ve found it rewarding personally and professionally to get involved. If you’re not in a union, trade organization events are a great place to make contacts and network.
Serving on committees demonstrates your reliability, leadership skills, and willingness to serve others in your industry. That’s always a plus for your career now and in the years to come.
This isn’t the first time the future has seemed uncertain in our industry, and it won’t be the last. Strikes will happen, and jobs we thought were ours may disappear, but I believe it’s still possible to have a thriving career in our industry if you’re well-prepared for the ups and downs.
Living within your means, having another revenue stream, and constantly expanding your contacts will help ensure you have a long, successful, and satisfying film industry career.
Finally, I've compiled a list of useful emergency financial resources for film industry workers.