Jul 4, 2009

Looking For Film Work

After leaving film school this simple phrase is most likely uttered by all aspiring filmmakers - "I'm looking for film work". As expected, it's easier said than done. Finding a job isn't exactly the problem, but finding quality, inspired, and motivating work (in any field) is a constant challenge.

Now to be clear, I feel quite lucky. My first job out of university last year was with Stream Media Inc. I'm currently still working as an editor and videographer with them on a contract basis, but since things have slowed down since the beginning of the year, that work alone doesn't pay the bills anymore. For a more steady income I took a job as a creative copywriter last month for a national wedding website. The job, while not immediately related, may be more valuable than expected as it looks like I'll be in charge of creating original video content for the site in the coming weeks - still it's not exactly what I saw myself doing. And throughout all this, I've maintained doing small video projects for extra income - promo vids, wedding vids, or even submitting my personal work to contests and festivals. So what's the problem you ask?

Well, it's not so much a problem as it's my post-uni coming of age. The idea of being in a single job for decades scares me to death - and at the same time, those lucrative film jobs aren't falling in my lap like I might of expected they would back in first year. While there's plenty of ways to infuse my creativity into the business world for the sake of making money, what I long for is the chance to do it in the creative world for the sake of making an impact. I'm not even referring to big budget Hollywood films or TV, I just mean something that I can feel passionate about.

Part of the challenge is my location, and on that front I feel like I've exceeded my expectations. The fact that I've been making money doing things that are related at all still surprises me. A bigger city is definitely part of the plan though - Calgary or Vancouver most likely. At the same time I wonder about things taking off with my current jobs. It's not out of the question that I'd stay in little Medicine Hat, Alberta if it meant making decent money and still being able to pursue my personal projects.
It's not an easy road I'm on, but I guess I was always kidding myself when I thought it might be. These challenges and experiences are clearly worth something, and at least I can hope that they'll push me to try new things. As all my former jobs have done, there's plenty of stories to draw on for material. I guess it's about finding ways to connect your own reality to what it is you want to ultimately achieve - pinpointing how the things you do now will help you out later.


Maybe that's the answer. Every student eventually has to face the reality that parts of work are simply about completing tasks, and others are about personal satisfaction. There's clearly a balance of positives and negatives to be worked out. For me, I'll just continue to chalk everything up to experience and hope that my own persistence leads me to new challenges, creative outlets, and more fulfilling opportunities. I think no matter what place I end up in, I'll always be telling myself that I'm still looking for more film work.


9 comments :

M said...

You can have my job. I want to punch my boss for being a complete d!p$h!T.

LUKE said...

haha, and there's another valid point - it could always be worse.

Alex Lamburini said...

Why not take jobs as a PA on professional shoots? Move down to LA, or NYC there is a ton of film work to be had in these cities. I know a ton of people who are aspiring directors/producers and are paying the bills by working as PA's and AD's on professional sets. It really works out well for them because they are meeting people heavily involved in the industry while paying the bills doing something that could really open up a lot of doors for their directing career. I live in New York City and already I'm working in PA like positions on professional shoots and in major studios. Granted I'm not making any money but alot of the older PA's and crew members are earning larger salaries. I'd like to hear your opinion on this, so get back when you have chance.

LUKE said...

You make a good point, Alex, however the trouble is getting there. My preference has always been to work in Canada for starters, because working outside of the country poses additional problems. My main feeling about this however, is that I don't want to jump into the pool that everyone else is trying to swim in. Just by working in Alberta I started my job at Stream Media as a corporate editor, not an assistant or helper, but actually had full projects to edit myself. Even my work a copywriter, leading into heading up the video production - puts me in charge of content right off the bat. True, these aren't narrative ventures, but it's work of a higher nature than grunt work delegated to PAs. It's not to say there isn't valuable experience there, because obviously it's about meeting people, but I think it's easier to stand out and get ahead realistically in places where you're one out of a few hundred with video training compared to a place where you're one out of thousands. There's also little proof that the actual film work I imagine is that abundant - if anything, most of it would still be task work (not that I wouldn't have a go at it).

For the record, my goal would be to edit - so ideally I'd try and get into the edit suite as an assistant. I feel like the variety of work I do on top of my personal projects speaks to a more realistic approach of using my skill. While it doesn't provide the direct contact with the industry per se, it does put my ability to far better use.

My jobs are constantly evolving though, so there's really no telling the positions I could end up in or who I could meet because of the technical work I'm doing outside of the actual 'industry'.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion it's very simple. Working as a PA gets you close to the action, it allows you to meet people and most importantly it gives you the chance to impress those people while still earning something of a steady salary. As you pointed out there are thousands of PA's and interns all looking to direct, but it's drive, determination and the quality of their work that will allow very few to shine in the relationships they create on set. It's not the work that they are doing, it's their intentions and talent that will allow them to progress and move on to eventually directing. I'm starting as an intern at a major studio in NYC this summer and from my past contacts I've already caught the attention of an academy award winning producer. I'm sure he's had tons of other interns and assistants down the line but the quality of my work, my drive and my ultimate ability to convince him to take an interest in me, gave me the chance to build a professional relationship with him. A relationship that will hopefully and ultimately pay off in the future when I'm looking to direct. Who better to give me a job than a producer, that I've known and have been impressing since I was fifteen years old. The point I'm trying to get across here is that while working as an editor as you are doing now will allow you to practice your skills it may not give you the relationships and exposure you need to progress in your career. You have no idea how many aspiring directors I've know that directed only one short film and focused the rest of their time on networking and break into Hollywood directing TV, from a simple PA job. A lot of times in this industry, unfortantly it's not so much talent that prevails but I've seen drive and motivation achieve much more.

LUKE said...

Again, all very true. But even meeting the right people is no guarentee that you'll end up where you want - in my opinion, it's experience that talks. My ability to constantly work on my craft in a variety of settings for different projects gives me the credentials to back myself up. I don't deny the value of PA work, it's just simply not an option for me at the moment, and it's still only one path of many to getting to where you want to go. Finding any way to apply your passion to your daily work is still undeniably beneficial.

LUKE said...

Oh, and I've always been a huge believer that persistence is the greatest tool a filmmaker has. You're correct, that it's not always about the best work as much as it is about the best pitch or promotion for it. No matter what, as in any creative medium, you'll only get out of it what you're willing to sacrifice to get in.

M said...

I am with luke on this as well, working in PA positions for the last 3 years I see no advance. Great connections but it takes years to see movement. Even now the only advance I see is when people quit. Not to mention the stress, the industry is such an unrealistic model of growth its unreal. Stay sane luke an do your own thing.

LUKE said...

Thanks, M. Something tells me I should be telling you to stay sane also, based on what I've read on your blog about your current position :)