Saturday, 1 February 2014

Pff, who'd wonna work in Film?

Imagine a world where no one wanted to work in the film industry. They'd have to recruit people, like they do for the army. Perhaps we'd each do National Service for the good of the nation's entertainment. I see the poster as something like this:

I'm only kidding, it's not that bad.

And, obviously, millions of people want in! Hollywood will never be short of people banging at it's doors, desperate for a shot. And that's because if you do, you have the chance to make something for the biggest canvas out there - cinema. To creative types, that is like a catnip and cocaine fusion, covered in glitter, with a potential climax of wealth and recognition.

Where do I sign up?!!

There's the catch. I feel very lucky to have a job in the industry and I'm aware of how many others are dying for the same opportunity. So I wanted to write a post about a couple of ways the system is cheating you of this.

First I want to talk about this website...

The idea behind this site is awesome - opening up the film industry to those without insider connections, making a one-stop place for work experience and jobs, and creating a supportive community of people all starting out at entry-level. Fantastic!

My problem with it is that it charges you money to view 90% of the jobs. My second problem with it is that once you have coughed up to see these jobs, only a fraction are paid positions. The majority are voluntary work-experience placements. If you're on this site, chances are you're out of work and strapped for cash, and now you're even less well-off, with little chance of earning it back.

I once posted an angry tweet about My First Job in Film when it was just starting. Taking money from the unemployed is not helping anyone. I received a very long and patronising email (god knows how they even got my address!) explaining they had to charge for the cost of running the website, and that I should be ever so grateful for their sourcing of any work experience, in what was a very closed industry.

Now I understand they can't run a website for free - but why not do it through advertising as or Grapevine Jobs does? These sites don't demand your cash.

There are benefits to having a company who contacts production companies and handles their job ads - no big-shot exec or their assistant has time for recruitment, after all. It means a lot more jobs will be advertised, instead of just going to the distant nephew who needs a career path and is immediately available.

However, my second problem with My First Job in Film goes hand in hand with this positive. More advertising = more applicants = swamped recruiters = less chance of your CV being seen. The best and most determined will contact production companies directly, not wait around for a job ad to magically appear. If you want to stand out, signing up to a service with thousands of others to apply for the same position is not going to work in your favour.

Recently, the same company has launched My First Job in TV. Unsurprisingly, this also requires a subscription fee. Shockingly, if you already pay to see jobs on My First Job in Film, your membership will not grant you access to their sister site. Why? A colleague of mine posed this very question. The response she received demonstrates the people running both sites have a poor grasp on how the industry works...

According to MFJF, the two industries do not share "transferable skills" and therefore cannot be advertised through one site.

PULL THE OTHER ONE it's got bells on it.

The only real difference between the film and the TV industries is screen size and an occasional hint of snobbery. It is true that once you start in one, your contacts by default will get you more jobs on that side, but being a runner on a film set hardly differs from running on a TV show. If Martin Scorsese can transfer his skills from Boardwalk Empire to Wolf of Wall Street, I'm pretty sure a production assistant can. Most production companies have a film and a TV department, with people working across both, and I know this because I've been one of those people. You wonna know the real reason they have two sites? It's money, of course.

This is all just my opinion and I'll leave you to make up your own mind. I have heard of people who've had great experiences through MFJF and have successfully broken into the industry. I've also met a guy who did unpaid internships for a full year, being completely exploited, until he was offered paid work. Remember - if you're contributing to a company's work and not being paid for it, it is illegal. I will credit MFJF for abiding by the Creative Skillset Guidelines and encouraging paid work. However, personally, I am yet to get any good results from MFJF and any success I've had has come from my own initiative to approach companies. I've also never had to work for free.

My biggest fear is the day I call up a production company and they tell me, "Sorry, we only recruit through MFJF." When that day comes, the film industry will truly be a closed up, elitist shop.

I'm going to tell you a secret now. I'm going to tell you how you get a paid job in Film and/or TV. It's actually very simple and it's this:
Realise no one but you can make it happen. There is no magic solution. No golden ticket. No easy website with all the answers. You aren't destined to be the next Spielberg. Fate will not make it happen. Dreams don't become reality on their own.
Unless of course you play golf with the son of a Universal producer (you lucky bugger) or your mummy runs Channel 4 (the nepotist), you're in for a long, hard slog.

I wrote a longer post called Getting Started in TV and Film if you want more advice on breaking in, as well as a good rant on applying for jobs, daintily titled I'm Gonna Passionately Shove my Application Up Your ***.

If you can accept that your chosen career path is going to be difficult, if the thought of doing anything else if truly repulsive, if you'd rather die than give up on your ambition, then you have the balls to work in film (and/or television!). Congratulations!

I'd really like to hear from anyone who's had good and bad experiences with this and similar job sites, so get in touch!