Entry level film production jobs: a brief guide

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If you’re hoping to start a career in film production, you have to start somewhere. Let’s go over a few entry level film production jobs that can help you get your foot in the door.

Production Assistant

Being a production assistant, also known as a PA or a production runner, is one of the best entry level film production jobs to help you get started. PAs are the unsung heroes of the film industry. PAs do a lot of jobs, but their primary role is to support the production of the movie.

Production assistants have different roles depending on the stage of production the movie is in. During pre production, they do administrative work, make copies, or support producers by getting coffee and lunch. During production, they might run errands, help producers on set, help talent on set, and once again get coffee and food. Sometimes PAs also help out with administrative work during post production.

Becoming a production assistant is one of the best ways to get started in the film industry. A lot of amazing filmmakers got their start as a PA. Being a PA is a great way to get to see the world of film production from the inside and learn new skills.

Assistant Editor

If editing is your passion, then a role as an assistant or apprentice editor might be the right fit for you. To become an assistant editor, you will make sure you learn the ropes and work on your editing skills. There are many ways to learn this vital post production skill; some people learn it in film school, while others are self taught using resources like Youtube or Skillshare. Regardless of how you learn, do as much research as possible to make sure you really know what you’re doing before you start applying for jobs.

Assistant editors can take on a variety of roles. Sometimes they simply sort and label footage. Sometimes they complete a rough cut. Often they do other things to assist the editor. Before you accept this entry level film production job, make sure you understand the scope of the work you’re being asked to do, and that you can comfortably complete it with your knowledge level. Editing someone else’s film is a great way to learn new skills, and the more films you get on your resume, the better you set yourself up for your eventual role as a lead editor.

Associate or Assistant Producer

Producers play so many roles, and they range all the way from people just starting out as associate or assistant producers all the way to huge Hollywood executives who are signing checks for millions of dollars. One way to get your foot in the door as a producer is to become an associate or assistant producer, especially for an independent film company that maybe work on smaller sets. Self funding your own film is a great way to get experience as a producer, but it’s also a great idea to get on other people’s sets and learn from them. Some networks and production companies have internships available for people who want to produce. Be warned that until you have a few films on your resume, it can be difficult to get paid fairly (or at all) for this work. 

Camera Assistant

If you dream of working as a DP or cinematographer, becoming a camera assistant could be a great first step. This entry level film production job is essentially a PA whose focus is on supporting the camera department in whatever ways they need. They might prepare, check, pack, or set up camera equipment. They might help pull focus, operate lights or other equipment, and hand off media cards to the correct department after shooting. Like other assistant jobs, this role changes based on the needs of the producers and camera operators. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about how the camera department works on a film set.

Boom Operator

If you can learn the art of boom operating, you will forever be in demand on film sets. A lot goes into the soundscape of a movie, and it all starts with the boom operator. Boom operators are responsible for capturing and recording the sound for the movie, from dialogue to room tone. A good boom operator is a vital part of any production, and if you’re good, it’s a great entry level film production job. From there, you can learn a lot about how to take on other roles in the sound department, or you can learn more about how film sets operate and pivot into other roles once you gain more knowledge. Our boom operator and producer extraordinaire, Cecilia Kierstead, has created several resources for aspiring boom operators, including a series of ebooks that cover everything you need to know, a Youtube series about booming basics, and a list of the equipment that every boom operator needs in their sound kit.

Screenwriter

It may seem strange to include screenwriting in a list of entry level film production jobs. After all, talented writers work their whole life to get their films produced, or to get hired onto writer’s rooms. However, screenwriting is a great way to get started because you can depend 100% on yourself. Every script that you write is a step in the right direction. As you hone your skills, you can work on pitching your screenplays and submitting them to film festivals to rack up laurels and awards. You can even help produce your own work, which gives you a shot at learning more about other film production jobs. It’s a great way to get started, and can help provide other opportunities down the line. Check out the many, many screenwriting tips and tricks on our blog, or take a look at the outlining workbook for screenwriters I put together. 

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Author

Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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