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How to Get a Job in Hollywood

1. Get a degree in Film or Film Production. While not necessary to succeed in Hollywood (directors like Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron never went to film school[1]), film school is a great place to learn the hard skills of film — camera settings, lenses, lighting, and sound design — while getting a chance to practice with professional equipment.

  • Many cities have night classes in film at local art schools if you have already graduated.
2. Start with an entry-level position, like production assistant or grip. Filming is an incredibly involved process that often takes over 100 people to get right. From make-up and costuming to sound engineering and cinematography, there are a lot of potential jobs in Hollywood behind the scenes. However, almost none of them will hire you without past experience. In almost every instance you have to start from the bottom to get the job you want. Some of the most common entry level positions are:

’’’Production Assistant (PA):’’’ The PA does whatever the movie needs, from picking up actors or food to checking the script and rolling up cords. This is oftentimes the first job a burgeoning filmmaker takes, because they get to work with many different film departments and meet many people, but it is thankless work.

’’’Grip:’’’ Holds boom microphones and sometimes cameras. This is a great job for someone interested in the audio side of Hollywood, but it is physically taxing to hold up equipment all day.

’’’Script Supervisor:’’’ Reads the script while filming to make sure there are no mistakes. Though this is not always considered an entry level position, smaller studios will often hire a new person if they have experience in editing or writing.

3. Get an internship with a film studio. Internships are not just for college students and recent graduates – anyone can find a good internship with a little hard work. And though the job is often thankless, being in a studio each day teaches you about the industry and open doors to better jobs later in life.
  • Most major studios, like Lionsgate, Universal, NBC, and FX offer yearly internship programs on their websites. If you love the movies or TV a certain studio produces, check out “Employment” or “Jobs” on their website.
  • Search Craiglist, InternMatch.com, and EntertainmentJobs.com for internships across Hollywood.
4. Do every single job to the best of your ability, no matter the task. Being a production assistant or intern is not easy. Most of your day is spent doing menial tasks or running errands, and it might feel like you are wasting your time. However, almost every single person working in Hollywood started from the bottom and worked their way up because they were dependable, respectful, and helpful.
  • You must prove your can do the basic jobs on a film set before you are trusted with the creative jobs.

5. Make films in your free time. The best way to get experience is to take matters into your own hands. These days, the equipment needed to make a film is almost astonishingly cheap, as most smart phones can record HD video and sound right out of the box. Grab some friends, write a short script, and start filming today.

  • Post your videos on Youtube, Vimeo, and Reddit to grab viewers online.
  • Submit your movie to film festivals, like Austin Film Fest or Sundance, where film professionals might see it and ask for more work. This is how several famous writers/directors, like the Duplass brothers (Jeff Who Lives at Home, The League,) got started.
6. Put together a “demo reel” to send to potential employers. While a good smile and personality will help in an interview, most studios want to see some of your work before hiring you. A demo reel is a short compilation of your film accomplishments that you use to prove your skills. It should be no more than 2 minutes long and it should feature your very best work.

  • Keep it short – you should grab their interest in the first 30 seconds.
  • Tailor your reel to your job – if you are applying for a job editing, focus on scenes that cut between multiple angles, if you are focusing on sound design then focus on scenes that showcase how you mix music, dialogue, and sound effects seamlessly.
  • Try to show a variety of work – if you can show 2-4 different projects successfully you prove that you can work on a variety of films.

7. Meet as many people as possible. Hollywood is a tight-knit community, and you never know when someone will offer you your big break. Working lots of different gigs, going to parties, and introducing yourself often will create a network of people around you that can lead to your next job.

  • Work as many gigs as you can to gain experience and make new contacts.
  • Always be respectful and helpful on set – you never know who might get a promotion and need your help later in life.

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