Getting a Job in Film, Television or Media

People come to the Film Las Cruces office often to ask about how to find a job.  This page is dedicated to information on how to begin the process and places you can go to for information and advice.  Before reading further, take a look at our overview document of the types of  trades that work in film and their career pathways.  We also discuss some basics of getting on a crew list and what it means to work a union production vs. a non-union production.  Want to know more about the pathways to media jobs and the economic impact of these jobs in our area and in the State of NM? Check out the digital media section of the NM True Talent website.

Jobs in film and media are becoming more and more popular and available, thanks to the rise in non-network media companies like Netflix and Hulu.  In addition, technology has made it so that independent film and TV makers can work with smaller crews and budgets.  This means more jobs, in a variety of industries.  In addition, media experts can work in marketing, social media and video game creation.  So, the bottom line is that there are many options for work.  For our purposes, we will concentrate our discussion on how to go about getting a job in film, but there are many options available to those with media technical skills.

The first thing to note is that working in film/TV, is not your normal 9-5 gig.  You don’t go to a job fair, submit your resume and then interview for a job where you report to your office Monday through Friday.  For most jobs, you are basically like an independent contractor.  You work for a few days, weeks or months on a certain project and then you are done.  You are paid an hourly wage, but you won’t get benefits, unless you are a member of a union or guild and the project is a unionized project.  In addition, the hours can be long, 10-14+ hours a day, 6 days a week. That said, the pay is good and if you get steady work, you can make a good living doing fun and interesting work.

Next, you need to understand that your ability to find consistent work will depend on how well you build relationships in the industry.  You don’t have to be friends with everyone you work with, but you do have to build relationships with people who know they can trust you to be professional and to do what you say you are going to do.  You will be working for people who are taking big risks with their time and money.  They will do as much as they can to minimize the risk involved in hiring a huge group of short-term employees, by hiring people they know and trust, or hiring people who come recommended by people they know and trust.  This means that your reputation as a hardworking, professional, expert in your craft is your ticket to consistent employment.

Know that when you start to look for work in film, you will probably have to start in the film equivalency of the mail room.  You may have to take jobs that are not what you hope to do in the long run.  Your best strategy might be to take work on smaller productions in a related craft area but offer to help in other areas if given the chance.  This gives you the opportunity to learn more about the entire crew and allows you to build relationships that may help you down the road, to get hired in the area you want. Be willing to do all that is asked of you and leave your ego at the door.  If getting coffee for the director and taking out the trash is what your team needs from you, do it with a smile on your face and don’t complain in person or on social media.  If you can show that you are hard working and quick to learn new skills, you will be asked to do more eventually.

If, after learning all of the realities of working in film, you are still interested in pursuing it, ask yourself what type of work are you interested in and do you have any qualification that could help you get a foot in the door for this type of position?  Here we will break down this discussion based on where you are in life:

High school student

  • If you are still in high school, take as many media electives as possible. If you are interested in other trades areas (Construction, sewing, catering, etc.) become knowledgeable in these areas.
  • Try to learn as much as possible about movie making and the educational pathways available to you.
  • When you are closer to graduation, try and get a walkthrough of a local film set or be an unpaid extra on a local production, just to experience the work environment.
  • Based on your interests and budget for continuing education, determine what future education might look like for you. DACC offers a 2-year degree in Creative Media Technology.  NMSU offers a 4-year degree from the Creative Media Institute.
  • You can also learn the basics of work on a set by attending the DACC Film Technician Training class. This gives you a certification and 15 days toward the 30-day work requirement for the IATSE Local 480 union.  It is a helpful class for any other trades you are interested in also.
  • If you are interested in acting, be sure to follow Facebook sites such as Film Las Cruces, NM State Film Office and pages for NM Casting directors. Often this is the best way to find out about casting calls in NM.
  • Have an elevator speech ready to go. An elevator speech is a 15-30 second statement of what you would like someone you meet in the industry to know about you and what you want.  It should include who you are, something that makes you stand out or is memorable, along with what you are looking for in work. Practice your elevator speech so that you don’t have to think about it when the perfect moment comes.

 

DACC/NMSU Student

  • If you are studying in another area, but what to learn about film, consider taking classes at CMT or getting an FTTP certificate. The more you know about set etiquette and the language of film, the easier it will be for you to have credibility when looking for work.
  • Film sets need people trained in accounting, construction, beauty, math and many other areas. You do not need a degree in film for these jobs.  In fact, a business degree can be helpful in many areas of film making.  If you want to direct, getting a film degree is a good place to start, but other areas don’t necessarily require a full 4-year degree, just a basic knowledge of film to go along with what you already know from other programs.
  • Take as many paid or unpaid internships or jobs as you can prior to graduation and be sure to save your pay stubs as proof of your work experience, along with any other documentation that can be added to your portfolio of work.
  • Vet each unpaid opportunity prior to saying yes. Some may not be worth your time and may leave you unable to take a project that you want later.
  • Immerse yourself in the industry as much as possible prior to graduation. Go to the Film Las Cruces Board meetings to meet people in the industry and network.  These meetings are held monthly on the second Wednesday of the month at 6pm, at the FLC office at 340 N. Reymond.
  • Go to the local film festivals and other film events around the State.  Attend the free trainings offered from Film Las Cruces and the NM State film office.  Attend the NM State film office yearly film conference.  This is held each year in August.  The more people you meet who work in the industry in NM, the better chance you will have of getting work.
  • Get to know the staff at FLC and the NM Film Office so that they know you and can recommend your work to productions who ask for crew.
  • Be sure to also add and keep updated all of your contact information and work experience in the FLC Crew Database, IMDB, NM State Film Office and any other film related sites, including social media sites.
  • If you are interested in acting, be sure to follow Facebook sites such as Film Las Cruces, NM State Film Office and pages for the NM Casting directors. Often this is the best way to find out about casting calls in NM.
  • Have an elevator speech ready to go. An elevator speech is a 15-30 second statement of what you would like someone you meet in the industry to know about you and what you want.  It should include who you are, something that makes you stand out or is memorable, along with what you are looking for in work. Practice your elevator speech so that you don’t have to think about it when the perfect moment comes.

 

Working in Another Career Field and Would Like to Consider a Change to Film Work

  • Film sets need people trained in accounting, construction, beauty, math and many other areas. You do not need a degree in film for these jobs.  In fact, a business degree can be helpful in many areas of film making.  If you want to direct, getting a film degree is a good place to start, but other areas don’t necessarily require a full 4-year degree, just a basic knowledge of film to go along with what you already know from other work experience.
  • Take as many low paying or unpaid jobs as you can work into you paying job just for the experience and be sure to save your pay stubs as proof of your work experience, along with any other documentation that can be added to your portfolio of work.
  • Vet each unpaid opportunity prior to saying yes. Some may not be worth your time and may leave you unable to take a project that you want later.
  • Immerse yourself in the industry as much as possible. Go to the Film Las Cruces Board meetings to meet people in the industry and network.  These meetings are held monthly on the second Wednesday of the month at 6pm, at the FLC office at 340 N. Reymond.
  • Go to the local film festivals and other film events around the State.  Attend the free trainings offered from FLC and the NM State film office.  Attend the NM State film office yearly film conference.  This is held each year in August.  The more people you meet who work in the industry in NM, the better chance you will have of getting work.
  • Get to know the staff at FLC and the NM Film Office so that they know you and can recommend your work to productions who ask for crew.
  • Be sure to also add and keep updated all of your contact information and work experience in the FLC Crew Database, IMDB, NM State Film Office and any other film related sites, including social media sites.
  • If you are interested in acting, be sure to follow Facebook sites such as Film Las Cruces, NM State Film Office and pages for the NM Casting directors. Often this is the best way to find out about casting calls in NM.
  • Have an elevator speech ready to go. An elevator speech is a 15-30 second statement of what you would like someone you meet in the industry to know about you and what you want.  It should include who you are, something that makes you stand out or is memorable, along with what you are looking for in work. Practice your elevator speech so that you don’t have to think about it when the perfect moment comes.

Once you are ready to start looking for work in film, get your credentials together so that you can increase your opportunities to work.  These include:

  • Driver License or other state issued ID.
  • Social Security card.
  • Most recent New Mexico tax return.
  • New Mexico Vehicle registration
  • New Mexico resident card.
  • United States Passport (recommended)
  • 1st letter of recommendation (from anyone).
  • 2nd letter of recommendation (from anyone).
  • Maintain all travel documents and proof of residency so that they can be given to production accounting and so that you can travel freely, with little notice.

Prepare your resume’ and/or portfolio.  This may include the following items:

  • Personal contact information so that the union and potential employers can get a hold of you.
  • Work history/work experience.
  • Collection of work examples, i.e., pictures and video clips from productions that you worked on.
  • Certifications and licenses. Keep copies for documentation and proof of these.
  • Goals and interests (you may want to become a producer or director but starting as a Production Assistant can provide valuable experience and allows you to build skills.)

Be sure to learn about set etiquette:

  • Take note of special etiquette that may be used for a specific production.
  • No phones unless it is specifically state that they are allowed. If so, be smart about when you use it and always be aware of what is going on on set.
  • Be on time for everything!
  • Don’t approach stars and above the line workers (Directors, Producers, etc.) unless they approach you first.
  • Know your film vocabulary and acronyms.
  • Get to know your audience (aka co-workers) before using profanity or telling off-color jokes.
  • Your reputation is your most important asset and it will follow you throughout your career. You are only as good as your last job.
  • Personal hygiene is important!
  • Be professional at all times!
  • Work on your soft skills also (Speaking on the phone, writing, etc.)

 

Lastly, determine if you are interested in being considered for union or non-union work.