Are you feeling ready to take the plunge out of corporate and into the world of freelance? Or have you already jumped in and your first gig is about to end and you are feeling the “Am I ever going to work again” fears? Something to keep in mind when breaking into the film/TV world is that you will start at the bottom regardless of your previous work experience. Film/TV operates very differently than other careers, and although a basic knowledge will help you greatly in getting your foot in the door, on-the-job experience is what you need to start moving up. Being realistic about this will help you decide whether you really want to leave your current, steady job to go into unsteady work starting as a clerk, answering phones and filing.
The term freelance when it comes to film/TV differs a little from what one typically thinks of as “freelance.” Normally, people think of freelance as not having set hours and just needing to get the job done by the deadline working from home or some location not designated by the employer. That is not the case with film/TV. You are freelance in that you are only on the project for a short amount of time and then will need to find new work. You will be expected to be in the office at 9 a.m. (or whatever time your department starts) and until the job is done for the day. Working really hard for a few months so you don’t have time to spend your paycheck and then, when the project is over, you either have time off or you start another project. Continuing to network while you are employed on a show is helpful in landing your next job.
Managing work-life balance: Managing work-life balance in this industry is a skill that can take years to figure out. (Or you can take this advice with a grain of salt and it may save you a few months of stress.) Realistically on a very good, well-run project you can expect to work a 10-hour day. On a project that has a lot of organizational challenges (phrased nicely) you are looking at 12- to 14-hour days. Also, keep in mind that taking time off while on a project is not acceptable. You were hired for your position for the length of the show, and if you decide to take off for a few days you have put your department and the production in a hard position. Obviously, emergencies and deaths in the family are taken into consideration, so if one of these unfortunate events occurs on a project, communicate with your key/department head and see what the options are.
Going freelance is a commitment : You work show to show which means you will experience unpaid down time between projects. There will be times when a project lasts longer or ends more quickly than you planned or were told at the beginning. Having a good cushion in the bank will help the down times feel less rough. Having a solid three months of living expenses in the bank is ideal but only you can judge what you will need and what your situation is.
Resumes: Film/tv resumes look very different from corporate resumes. When first starting out and trying to break into the industry your resume should highlight your skills over previous jobs. Keeping your resume to one page is best and your initial email regarding any job you are wishing to interview for should be brief. At this point you are selling yourself and not your accomplishments, unless they are film/TV-related.
Work hours & ethic: Always give 110% in this industry. If anyone slacks on his job it will affect the rest of the project. This is true from the intern all the way up to the executive producers - everyone has an important job on a film or TV show and it needs to be taken seriously. There is a lot of fun to be had but when it comes to work and performance there is little room for laziness. You work hard for a few months and then you play hard!
Attire: Very rarely will you see a suit or business attire. Dress for comfort, as your days will be long and full. Dress in business casual attire for your interview, but when it comes to actual workdays, jeans, a shirt and sneakers are more than acceptable. Whatever is most comfortable for you!