How do you get into the film industry without film school?
Here is a short documentary on how it’s done. 6 steps. First thing is answering the question what do you want to do in the film industry?
1. Get very clear on what job you want to do. Research as much as you can about that on Google and YouTube. I can tell you upfront that actually seeing somebody do that job is going to be what is the most valuable. That’s how you’re going to be able to see if this is something that you really want to do.
I did a lot of research when I started in the film industry and through my entire career. I watched the credits in the kind of films I wanted to work on and got in contact with the production companies and people who worked on those films.
I went to meet professionals at their small production companies, their offices, their editing studios, and on set. I had a list of questions about their work, how they shot certain scenes, and got a fascinating inside look at what they created.
I took notes on everything they said. And because I was so interested, they told me more and more! I would come up with even more insightful questions and I would reach out to professionals and get them answered. This led me to opportunities where I could work on set with the same people. These were professional sets because I am talking to professionals!
I memorized equipment catalogs for the camera and sound houses. This gave me even more to talk about with professionals, because they work with the stuff day in and out. By being eager, and having questions about the craft, they will teach you.
Most people ask them about how did they get where they are today. People ask how can I get what you have. Wrong question. It’s annoying for them to be asked that question because it implies you want the shortcut without putting in the work. So, focus more about the craft that you are interested in, not how to get where they are.
2. Next I want you to think about what kind of knowledge do you need to have about that job that most people don’t have. My motto: Do more than what anybody else would think of doing.
Know more than other people from researching everything there is to know about your niche. For instance, if you want to be a cinematographer, you need to know about the camera bodies, the software, the monitors, the lenses, the filters.
You need to get your hands on the equipment. Most people will say the only place you can get your hands on that equipment is film school. That’s not true. There are camera houses that you can go to and watch a prep. There are lighting, grip, sound, prop houses that you can go to and learn from. Some have even have workshops.
I developed mentor type relationships at the camera and sound houses too! I knew I needed to learn the gear inside out, so I spent a lot of time at these places in Los Angeles. They cater to professionals. They are not like retail places. They really focus on providing amazing service.
They also know that when you’re starting out, so you are going to be investing in gear soon. They are smart to develop relationships with you when you’re starting out because you may buy or rent their equipment. Sure enough, I’ve spent probably $500,000 at the places that helped me out when I was learning. Loyalty.
If you’re thinking you need to go to film school to get access to the equipment, consider how much camera equipment you could rent and shoot with, for the same price as film school.
Cameras change so fast in the film industry, film schools cannot keep up. You’re definitely not going to be working with the gear we are working with on professional sets.
Be creative in how you learn the equipment. And one of the fastest ways is to be on professional sets and work as a camera production assistant. Then you’ll learn the latest equipment by working with it. There is no better way!
When I started in the film industry I learned on professional sets. I used the gear that was provided on the shoot.
At the same time, went to the camera and sound houses and played with the equipment. I spent a lot of time in the rental department hooking up the gear and breaking it down. Changing batteries and asking tons of questions.
I volunteered my time at film schools and worked on many film projects. I got experience, very quickly, and that did not cost me anything.
3. Build your own professional connections. Professional connections you only make on set. You can make friends at film school, but these will be people who are trying to get into the professional film industry. You’re not going to make professional connections at film school.
I’m talking about the kind of close connections were people get endeared to you. They invite you over to their house, invite you into the editing room, teach you, and take you under their wing. People will bring you into their life because you are so great to work with. I got invited to BBQs, parties, and people’s houses where I could spend as much time as I wanted playing with their gear. People are so nice!
The best way to make these relationships is by working with people on professional shoots. You get to spend a full 12 hours with these people, and you can help them out, be johnny on the spot when they need you, ask insightful questions, laugh and joke with them. People have to spend time with you in order to get connected to you and vice versa!
It happens on professional sets. You don’t make connections with people at a film festival because they are interested in networking with other people that can give them work. You don’t make connections with people at a union meeting or a meet up because they are interested in networking to get work.
You want to make relationships with people in the environment that you want them to think of you. Film set.
Because when they are thinking about hiring somebody they’re going to be scanning in their memory of who they worked with last ON SET.
Not who they met at the last film festival or who they met at a meet up.
Everything happens on the professional film set.
4. You need to be on film sets every week Learning your craft from professionals. Every week you should learn something major that will help you in your career.
The fastest way to learn your craft is to be around it all the time. To watch other people that are really good at it. You can ask professionals what they do that makes them in demand. You can go to the same camera houses, grip and electric places, the same events professionals go to… And go with other professionals.
Basically you can join their clan.
Many people are waiting to get good enough so that they could someday work on a film set. You are waiting to get good enough to join the clan.
I want to tell you that you should go straight onto a film set and use it as your training ground. Joined the clan and start growing your career every day.
5. The next step is to make a list of people that are in your area that are doing the job that you want to do. Put on that list all of the people that you’ve met on set that you think are really good, that are doing the job that you want to do as well as working in departments that work with your department.
For instance if you are cinematographer, you need to know some great editors, special effects people, DIT, focus pullers, and some great directors that match your style. If you are more run and gun, you want to find directors that are shooting more run and gun style shows.
You will meet these people on professional sets.
If you want to be an actor, make a list of all of the working actors that are in your area. Do some research on them. What agencies are they with? Where did they get their training? What are their reel like? What TV shows have they been on? What workshops have they done? Their resumes are often on their websites so that info it out there.
We have a process that we teach inside the A-list Work-Study program where you learn how to make what we call a Magic List of people who are working professionals in the business.
The main intent is not to reach out to these people and ask them to hire you or help you. The main intent is to know who are the major players in your area because as you get into the professional film industry you’ll meet these people personally. It will be a big benefit for you to know something about them.
In the process, you also get to learn about the pathways that other people have taken to get to where they are. You can learn who they are aligned with, what production companies hire them, where they got their training. This is for inspiration and also for having that “get it” factor, where you know more about what is happening in your market than most people.
6. Continue working on set, and vector towards the kind of shows that you really wanna do. Could be feature films, music videos, TV shows, commercials, sports.
Talk to people on set and find out what other production companies they work with, what other producers and production managers are working on that kind of work. Get refer to those people and move into that sector!
I started off working on interviews, which led me to documentaries, and from there I went on to work for National Geographic. I would have my lists on set of the people I wanted to work with, and I would add more people and production companies to that list every time I was on set.
From National Geographic, I moved into commercials with the same process of talking to people on set and finding the production companies and people that did commercial work.
So as you can see, when you have a focus plan that just has you going out there and doing your craft, learning from the best people, building your connections on professional set, and being very focused on the kind of work that you want to do, you can get there quickly without film school.
I am an example of that, and I actually teach people all over the world how to work professionally right off the bat.
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