How to Get Your First Good Job in Film Production

How to Get Your First Good Job in Film Production
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It’s not always easy getting your first job in the film industry and getting your first good job in film production can be a challenge.  It’s doable though, as anyone who works in the industry will tell you. 

We all had to get our first jobs or our first good jobs before we could start building our careers.

Whether you’re still in film school and have worked on a few student films or you currently have a job as a production assistant and are ready to move up, you’ll need to work your contacts and make some new ones.  Entry-level positions provide valuable work experience, but you don’t need to stay in one longer than you have to.

Here are some tips for getting your first good job in film production:

Work Your Contacts

You already have more contacts than you think and, even with the advent of online job sites, I’ve found the best way to get a job is through my contacts and the contacts of friends.  It’s how I got my first job in film production and word of mouth is how I got most subsequent jobs.

Today you have the added advantage of social media and the internet as well as your personal network.  Email and social media are easy ways to stay in touch and build your network of contacts.  

Your contacts should include all your peers who are at your level in their careers, not just potential employers.  Your peers are a valuable asset, because they may hear of job openings or be offered jobs they can’t accept and pass them along to you. 

I’ve gotten many jobs that way over the years and so have most people I know in the industry.  I’ve also recommended many people for jobs I was offered but couldn’t accept. 

It’s how the industry operates and it can work to your advantage, especially if you regularly keep up with your contacts.

However, I don’t recommend sending impersonal group text message blasts announcing that you’re looking for work, which I’ve seen some people in the industry send out.  I believe you’ll get better results from a more personalized outreach in your job search.  

A thoughtfully written, personalized email stating your credentials and what you’d bring to a project always get my attention because I’ve received so many careless, impersonal emails.  Attach your resume and add a professional signature and perhaps even your picture.  

I’ve gotten production jobs and freelance writing jobs from sending out letters of introduction (LOIs) and I always read the ones that are sent to me.  Even successful, experienced freelancers send out LOIs, which is probably why they’re successful.

I’m currently working on a freelance writing assignment that expanded into a year’s worth of work from an LOI I sent out cold.  

Make sure your resume is current and looks professional, so you’re not scrambling to update it if a potential employer requests your resume.  If you have a website or portfolio, keep them up to date.  

Don’t be shy about asking for a recommendation from people you’ve worked for in the past.  People are more likely to hire you if you’re highly recommended by a previous boss or employer, which is especially important when you’re starting your career and don’t yet have many credits. 

Be sure to thank anyone who recommends you for a job, whether you get the job or not.

Never lie about union membership on your resume.  Anyone hiring you will check and that will be a bridge burned for you if you state you're a union member when you're not.  I got a job at the last minute a few years ago when it was discovered the person who was hired lied about being a union member.  You can bet the producer will never hire that person again.

When you do get a call or text for a job, respond promptly.  The person doing the hiring may need an immediate response, and if they don’t receive one, they’ll move on to someone else. 

I started in the industry in the era of answering services and pagers, so I appreciate the fact we all have phones in our pockets and can quickly and easily return messages.  

When your presentation is professional, you create your own opportunities because you present yourself as an ideal candidate.  The best jobs often go to those who have the best presentation and people are eager to hire them.

Attend Networking Events

In-person networking events are back and they’re a great way to connect with experienced crew members from different departments and people who work in the production office, who often hear about available jobs. 

There are usually people working in a variety of film industry jobs at networking events and the right people may be there to hire or recommend you for your first good job in the industry.  You don’t need previous experience to attend a networking event.

I’ve gotten a lot of work from attending networking events over the years and it’s a more personal way to connect with industry professionals than online.  Also, you don’t have to live in Los Angeles to attend, as there are now networking events anywhere there’s a film industry.  

Commit to attending at least one networking event a month and you’ll find your network of contacts expanding fast.  

Some industry trade organizations have discount student memberships, so if you’re a student about to look for your first job, it’s worth joining for the contacts you can make, and attending the group's events will usually be free. 

If you’re already working, it’s definitely worth joining a trade organization as another tool to help build your career and your membership is tax-deductible.  

Join Online LinkedIn and Facebook Groups

Online industry groups I belong to have posted jobs for every department on a film crew at one time or another.  They’re often for low-budget films, but there’s usually some pay and you’ll get hands-on experience and another credit to add to your resume.  

Short films can be a great entry point for moving up to a new job role, as can low-budget films.  My first good job in film production was working on a low-budget short film.  I was given more responsibility and made twice the salary I made as a trainee. 

It was a great first step and a way to gain experience as a key second assistant director, a job I wouldn’t have gotten yet on a big feature film.

The IATSE union locals, the DGA, and SAG-AFTRA all have online forums run by and for members, so if you join any of these unions, join those online groups, too.

Regularly visit the online forums and groups you join, make yourself visible, and contribute to conversations.  A mistake many people make is to join and then only show up in the group when they’re looking for work. 

If you want a good production job, you have to show up consistently in your search.  The people who do get noticed and hired.


At the start of your career, volunteering to serve on industry committees and at events is a terrific way to stand out from your peers.  Local film festivals almost always need volunteers, and I spent many hours working the tables at events for industry groups.  I met a lot of different people, made contacts, and had fun being a part of the film community.

You can also volunteer to work for free on other’s film projects to get more experience with set work, although in my experience I’ve never found it led to paid jobs.  I believe the long hours and often inexperienced production department on these films are not worth more than a day or two of your hard work.

I always preferred to focus my volunteer work on industry events such as film festivals, DGA events, and trade organization events.  These events tend to be the ones industry pros attend.  

You could talk to an executive producer, a director, a line producer, a casting director, and a production manager at any one event.  That doesn’t mean you’ll get a job there, but you’ll have made contact and can follow up with an email afterward and thank them for attending. 

I’m a big believer in the power of volunteering in the industry, and I encourage young people to get started with it at the beginning of their careers.  It will raise your profile and you’ll be seen as a leader who’s willing to give back to the film community, not just another job seeker.

Check Out Online Job Sites for Good Jobs in Film Production

I have never gotten a job from an online job site, but I was already well-established in my career by the time they became popular and was getting work from my large network of contacts.  

If you’re at the beginning of your career, you may find them useful for the specific type of work you’re looking for.  I guess I’m old school, but I still believe it’s probably better to reach out to a production company directly, especially smaller production companies, than from a job board site, but it doesn’t hurt to try job sites, especially if you’re seeking a full-time job.  

If you’re just starting out, online job sites could prove useful for having access to many different jobs.

Here are links to a few of them:


The UTA Joblist

Entertainment Careers

Media Match

I’m also adding ARRAY Crew to the list, although it’s more of a database than a job board.  Founded by film director Ava DuVernay, its mission is to connect below-the-line crew from diverse backgrounds with producers, studio executives, and department heads.  

Membership is free for professionals across 600+ job industry categories and is supported by all the major studios.

The only qualification is that you be 18+ and have one verifiable production credit.  

Film offices in some states also keep a database of local crew members available for hire.  If your state does, put yourself on the list for film work.

If you’re in a union, put yourself on whatever list they may have as available for work.  

If you get a call for day work on set, take it.

It may only be a day’s work and you may be looking for a long-term gig, but taking day checks on shows is a terrific way to meet people, gain more experience, and make money while you search for a longer-term job.  I’ve done lots of reshoots on films that were just one or two days of work, but I got to work with some high-profile directors this way.   

If you’re already working in the industry and are ready to move up to the next level, you may get an opportunity through day work that keeps you working longer.  The business is always unpredictable, but be prepared to take any opportunities that come your way.

Even if a job is just a day, go to work prepared and always be professional on set.   


While getting your first good job in film production can seem out of reach at times, it isn’t.  It just requires persistence and a consistent effort on your part.  

Everyone who’s working in the industry now had to slog through their first entry-level job to get to the job they wanted.  The search isn’t always fun, but it will eventually yield results.

There’s probably more work in the film industry now than at any time in recent memory and anyone who searching for a good job in film production will eventually find one.  Many of us who’ve been working in the industry for many years remember times of massive runaway production and union strikes when the jobs were few and far between. 

That’s not the case today and you have a much better chance of finding the good job in film production you're searching for than you would have in the past.

The more you network and build your contacts, the faster that job will come your way.  


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