Never the sole reason to teach or learn filmmaking, it’s nevertheless worth remembering that a proportion of students WILL strive for a career in media making well beyond the foundation or development you are offering them. Great teachers can be one of the main inspirations for future media professionals, so its best you arm yourself with truths about the industry, how competitive it is to enter… but also how there are a myriad of ways to break in. The essential thing is to give your keenest students the balanced encouragement they’ll look back from future media careers with gratitude that your advice was a major step up to where they’ll be.
First of the questions you might have to field in today’s materialistic world is whether its possible to make a living doing something you really love like filmmaking? The answer is, of course it IS, although if job security or retiring to the Bahamas at 53 interest you above the need to somehow express ourselves artistically in what you do, then there are other career choices out there… Many media makers find it takes years of struggle to find their exact niche in the industry, and reputations and proof of an artistic voice and vision often take years to develop and the majority may never be fully appreciated or recognised for their talents… its often a tough gig, but infinitely rewarding for those who choose and make it.
After sustainability and realism as a career choice, the next question deals with what exactly are the positions on offer? Its a great idea to be able to reel off a few to give a flavour of how existing parts of the industry are structured – but also emphasising that in 5-10 years there will likely be media roles that we can’t even anticipate now. Who would have predicted the rise of the YouTube star or GoPro extreme sport footage freelancer? Each year the industry evolves and recreates parts of itself, inventing and bestowing upon the world another new format or way to tell great stories in innovative ways – and with that comes a varied and growing range of positions and possibilities in media making careers.
While ‘YouTuber’ or ‘Go-Proer’ are new and alluring possibilities… there are dozens if not hundreds of more established and already essential roles in media making which are worth mentioning in those career-orientated discussions. Here’s a rundown of better known and common existing roles in most productions. Structure will vary between a typical cinema production described below and TV, advertising and online work – but most positions make at least part of someone’s range of responsibilities in these various sub-categories. It’s as important to consider the PROCESS as it is the individual roles contributing to the overall production.
A producer can wear many hats, as a writer, an investor, an idea person, a manager, or all of these things rolled into one. During pre-production, the producer reads scripts and has writers, directors, and agents to pitch ideas.
The executive producer manages the Production Group, responsible for every single aspect of filmmaking: pre-production, production, and post-production.
Directors oversee the film’s artistic vision. They often have no financial stake in their films, unless they’re also a producer. Directors work very closely with the producers during pre-production to decide the best way to visually represent the script. Directors are in charge of a crew that is usually made up of cinematographers, art directors, cameramen, casting directors and sometimes even actors. The director also has the final say on the finished work, even over the producer. Directors work with actors to help them deliver their best performances and ensure those fit the overall vision. The director also works with their cinematographer or DOP (Director of Photography) to ensure everything is being faithfully and artistically recorded.
Highly valued (and often highly-rewarded) screenwriters can become involved with a film project by writing a script and shop it around to agents and producers. In some cases, screenwriters will be hired later in the process, after a producer or director has developed an idea. Screenwriting is a notoriously difficult field to get into.
Film and video editors perform one of the most important jobs in production. A director may shoot hundreds of hours of film to then be edited down to a 90 minutes. Good editors help will pick out scenes and shots that best tell the story according to the director’s specific vision.
Early conversations with the keenest students can direct them towards fantastically varied and creative careers in media making, and the earlier an insight into what makes the industry tick, the better!