In addition to full-time and freelance jobs, there's actually a third way you can work in the film industry -- for free. It probably doesn't sound like a very good idea and certainly not something you'd want -- or be able -- to do for too long, but it is a way to get a foot in the door.
There are, in fact, film productions where crews are "hired" for no pay at all. In such instances, the producer may offer the crew shares in the film or some other form of deferred payment -- the chance to make money if and when the film itself makes money. If nothing else, the opportunity to share in the profits of the film should serve as considerable motivation for the crew to do its best and thus help maximize the film's chances for success.
Although this kind of arrangement may appear to be a serious exploitation of crew members, it can actually be mutually beneficial to both producer and crew. How else can a filmmaker with little or no money for a production get a crew? How else can inexperienced crew members get experience? Ultimately -- whether the film is a success or not and to at least some extent -- both sides get what they want: the filmmaker gets his film made, and the new crew members get some valuable experience that they can put on their resumes.
The film industry also has another way people work for free. They're called internships and they are often part of a formal course of study at a four-year college. Among the colleges and universities that offer such internship programs are UCLA, USC, San Francisco State University, University of Texas, and New York University. If you are interested in pursuing this path to get into the film industry, you should contact the admissions offices of the colleges for more information.
Entering into an internship is considered by some in the business to be a noble action, because it suggests that you're so committed to the industry, that you're willing to break in by working for free. The fact is, though, that many positions require training and a certain number of years of work experience. While most professional industry jobs do not require a college degree, they do require that you intern for a period of time to gain the technical, creative, and managerial skills necessary to function effectively in that field.
If you are thinking about interning in the industry, it would be advisable to give some thought to your specific area or areas of interest so that you can prepare. If, for example, you're thinking about interning as an editor, it would be a good idea to take a few editing classes at a film school. Such experience will not only make you more attractive as a candidate for an internship, but will also make you more valuable once you've begun your training.
In my next column, I will write about Instant Internships. One innovative option is to propose your own internship. For now, I have listed some organizations that offer internship programs.
Assistant Directors Training Program
Training program that provides 400 days of on-the-job training, supplemented by classroom seminars, in the work of second assistant directors. Established in 1965. Number of employees: 2. Number of internship applications received each year: 1,000. Ms. Kate Tilley-Carroll, Administrator, 15260 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 1200A, Sherman Oaks, California 91403. Phone: 818-386-2545.
Baywatch Production Company
Television production company that produces the television show Baywatch. Number of employees: 15. Number of internship applications received each year: 100-200. Peter Hoffman, Internship Coordinator, 5433 Beethoven Street, Los Angeles, California 90066.
Lucasfilm provides business services for productions by Lucasfilm. Number of employees: 200. Number of internship applications received each year: 200-500. Amy Baur, Employment Manager and Program Specialist, Box 2009, San Rafael, California 94912. Fax: 415-662-2460.