A Short Guide to Getting Started in the Entertainment Industry

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Getting the foot in the door of the film and TV world can seem like a daunting task. After all, stories abound about people moving to LA to break into the industry, only to have their dreams dashed. First of all: it's not that dire.

There are, in fact, many jobs to be found in the industry, whether you want to be in front or behind the camera. It's only a matter of knowing how to make those first few, crucial connections to land your first job in the entertainment industry and then it becomes a mix of ambition and dedication on your part.

This article will look at the first steps you should take in order to secure your dream career in film and TV.

Narrowing Your Options

Film and TV contains a wide breadth of different jobs, from quote unquote "glamorous jobs" like acting and VFX, to more technical jobs like gaffer and key grip, and more creative positions like screenwriter or director. In short, the industry contains something for everybody. It's your task to think critically about your skills and talents, and narrow your search down to a certain job or department.

The Avenues In

There are a few different avenues into the industry, some more accessible than others. Before we discuss newer, more accessible ways to enter, here are the three traditional ways in which people break into the industry:

  • Nepotism - this is the least accessible of the ways in which people break into the industry, but it nevertheless warrants mentioning. Some people in film and TV have an easy time breaking in, because their relatives or close friends occupy important positions.
  • School - Many people choose to go the school route. There are programs and post-grad diplomas you can take for TV and film production, as well as for acting, screenwriting and directing. This is a fairly accessible way to enter the industry, but it often leaves behind low-income and marginalized groups, who either can't afford or do not have access to higher education.
  • Hard Work - There is something to be said for breaking into the industry through sheer grit and ambition, though people that go this route often have an unfair disadvantage when trying to land a job over the above two - the degree-holders and the well connected.

An Alternative Way In

For underserved communities, traditionally overlooked by the industry, there are mentorship programs like CIE (Careers in Entertainment) from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation. The program helps teens get a foot in the door, and helps address the industry's continuing diversity problem.

Locations

Finally, there is the question of where to be - what city should you live in, in order to gain the best access to film and television work? Conventional wisdom has it that there are four cities in North America to choose from, in terms of productions: Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and Toronto. This is true, but the skills you gather working in the industry are transferable to most cities, as there are small corners of TV and film production all over North America.
If you are considering a job in film and TV production, remember one thing: it doesn't matter where you're starting from. There are an increasing number of avenues and opportunities out there to choose from, and all it takes is for you to narrow your options and start making the right connections.

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