Career Opportunities in Film Production

Film production is an artistic as well as a technical craft, and professionals in this field combine photography, sound, performance and production skills to bring a story to the screen. Read on to learn about career opportunities in the field, including screenwriter, director, cinematographer, lighting and sound technician and editor. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Film Production Overview

The movie industry is bigger and more diverse than ever. As a result, careers in the film production are an increasingly attractive option for creative thinkers. Jobs are available in the writing, producing, and directing fields and offer professionals the chance to collaborate with like-minded individuals on a variety of creative projects. The following careers are some of the most common in the film industry:

  • Screenwriter
  • Director
  • Cinematographer
  • Lighting, Sound Technicians
  • Editor

Important Facts About Careers in Film Production

Professional Memberships Most professions offer membership in guilds, such as the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America
On-The-Job Training Depends on the field; technicians often receive brief training on new software and equipment
Work Environment Studio or Office Setting
Key Skills Artistic Creativity, Adaptability, Teamwork, Reading & Writing

Screenwriter

Whether a screenplay is original or adapted from another source, screenwriters must understand how to take a story and bring it to life. In screenwriting college courses, you focus on how to develop ideas, structure a story, outline your screenplay and write your script. You also receive peer feedback, since many writing courses are conducted as workshops.

Learning the skills of screenwriting prepares you not only for a career in cinema but also in television and online media. Screenwriters usually work on a freelance basis, but those who are employed in television sometimes work as part of a writing team.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), writers and authors of all types usually possess a bachelor's degree paired with excellent writing skills (www.bls.gov). In addition, the BLS reported job growth of 8% for these professionals over the 2016-2026 decade, which is as fast as the average. Although the salary for writers and editors working in the motion picture and video industries was not specified in BLS, these professionals, in general, earned an annual median salary of $73,090 in May 2018.

Director

Directors are responsible for all the creative aspects of a film's production. As a director, you might get your start on small productions after graduating with a film degree or as a screenwriter, actor or similar profession. Typical tasks you might perform while directing a film include hiring actors, working on story revisions with the screenwriter and on staging with the set designer, approving costumes and rehearsing the script.

Technical aspects such as sound, lighting, and cinematography would also be within your jurisdiction. Your main job is to visualize the story, to take the written word and give it life on screen. The daily shooting schedule is compiled by the director, as is the editing schedule when all the film has been shot.

Another option for directors is documentary film production. In this genre, you will be responsible for creatively telling a true story. There is still a screenplay and the technical aspects are similar, but much of the shooting schedule is based on interviewing subjects and recording historical or real events.

The BLS states that directors usually need significant work experience in a related field, as well as a bachelor's degree in a subject like cinema or film. Producers and directors can expect to experience faster-than-average employment growth of 12% from 2016-2026. In May 2018, producers and directors working in the motion picture and video industries earned a mean income of $104,600.

Cinematographer

The film is a moving series of photographs. To become a cinematographer, you'd need to understand the science of how raw film, lighting and a camera work together to become a motion picture. You'd work closely with a film's director to ensure that the production is shot correctly. Cinematographers usually start out in film production as a cameraman or another technical position.

You will also assist in storyboarding a production, meaning that you will use drawn frames as a template for shooting a scene. You and the director will then devise a shooting schedule to determine the number of working days needed to finish preliminary production. During production, you will take instructions from the director on the shot selection, but it is your responsibility to frame each shot, check on the lighting and sound and, in most cases, operate the camera. In essence, it is your duty to translate a director's vision to film.

The BLS states that camera operators, in general, possess a broadcasting or film bachelor's degree and have experience with video editing software and camera operation. Camera operators in the television, video and motion picture industries can expect to see a 7% job growth over the 2016-2026 decade, which is an about average growth projection. In May 2018, professionals working in motion picture and video industries earned a mean annual salary of $70,550, per year.

Lighting, Sound Technicians

As a lighting technician, you work with the director and cinematographer to correctly light each individual shot. This involves moving a series of lights either on location or on a closed set and setting them up in the correct positions. As a sound technician, you work as part of a sound crew to record the dialogue between actors, making sure that the dialogue coincides with the scene being shot.

Audio and video equipment technicians usually possess a certificate or other postsecondary non-degree award, as well as hands-on experience. A 13% growth is expected in this field from 2016-2026, which is faster than average, according to the BLS. Audio and video equipment technicians working in the motion picture and video industries earned a mean salary of $57,920 in May 2018.

Editor

After a film has been shot, it is left to the film editor to take the thousands of feet of film and compile them in the order that the director has instructed. Initially, you'd edit the raw footage for immediate viewing. Most of your work would be accomplished in post-production, where you not only edit the footage but also take the sound recording and make sure that it is synchronized with the film. Other editing duties include adding sound effects and music.

The most common educational requirement for a film and video editor is a broadcasting or film bachelor's degree. Knowing how to use video editing software is also critical. A 17% job growth is predicted for film and video editors from 2016-2026, according to the BLS. Those working in the motion picture and video industries earned a mean annual salary of $94,860 as of May 2018.

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