The Movie Production Industry
The movie production industry has a sense of uniformity to it. Most movie productions, and really film and video productions of all sorts, follow the same set of professional categories. This means that the same positions are in these different movie productions, the jobs tend to not change, and the chain of command remains static. In the film industry there are a lot of different directions that you can go in, each one focusing on one area of production where you can be creative in a specified field. Here is a look at different movie production jobs that you may want to pursue.
The film director is the movie production job that you will likely be most drawn to if you are interested in creative filmmaking as the director controls the creative work of the film. It is their vision that will manifest the story from the screenplay, they will work with the actors, make the decisions about the visual elements on the screen, choose different creative positions, and essentially be the person who crafts the film. The director will essentially be a boss in this film, but since they are not in the role of a business executive they will often still be an employee. The director is also the most difficult of any movie production jobs to achieve as you are going to determine the success of a project almost entirely.
The best way to focus your education is to go to film school for a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts or Master’s of Fine Arts. Here you want to develop a portfolio of directorial work that you will then try to make a name for yourself through promotion, film festivals, screenings, and the like. You will likely still have to start at a lower movie production job and work your way up, but remain project focused and make screenwriting a priority as well. The financial rewards of directing are far above the line, though this is going to be different between films. You may make only a few thousand dollars on an independent film, while a major film may land you ten million dollars or more.
The producer can be the lead boss on the project, though it is one of the lesser defined movie production jobs. The producer guides the film production by controlling it as a business operation. This means that the producer is the final line in hiring and firing, works out the budgets and financing, works with the studios or the financers, and on smaller movie productions will do things like scouting, scheduling, contracts, and other business and technical elements. The producer will essentially run the movie production, but it will not make the creative decisions as this will be up to the director and the other creative movie production jobs.
There are a lot of educational degrees that focus in on producing specifically, and there are noted graduate programs at UCLA and Chapman University. There is no educational requirement for this position, but a degree in film is going to be your best bet to start as a producer just as with a director. Your work as a producer is going to be more connected with your work in the industry rather than your portfolio work. The actual earnings of producers also change between productions, especially the different level of the movie production. You can expect there to be a large gap, and the producer can be a position that makes more than any other in Hollywood.
Director of Photography
The director of photography, or the cinematographer, runs the visuals for the film. This does not necessarily mean that they actually operate the camera, but they do interpret the vision from the director and then craft images for each angle. They will work ahead of time with the director who is trying to storyboard while breaking down the script, and they will then interpret the scenes visually. The director of photography will then work with the lighting, the gaffers, the grips, and other people that will essentially put together what is on the screen.
On larger productions the director of photography will not be the camera operator, and instead they will work with the camera operator to get the images right. On much smaller productions the director of photography will also be the camera operator, so learning the technical elements of the camera are important. In both situations an assistant camera position will still be important.
To focus in cinematography you can go to a program that is specific to that field, but it would be best to go to a regular film school and then going into a cinematography degree system. The reason is that this is too specific and you want your education to give you a little more room in the industry and how you choose movie production jobs. Financially this is going to remain variable as well, but will usually not go far above a few hundred thousand dollars for major productions. Most directors of photography tend to make less than a hundred thousand dollars a year.
One of the most important movie production jobs is the sound mixer who will monitor and record the sound on set. The exact parameters of the audio mixers movie production job depends on the film in question, but they will often be running the audio mixer apparatus and will be monitoring the sound. They will then create audio logs for later reference, work with the levels and filters used on set, and manage the media on set. They may be more focused on monitoring than on recording, and they may also be the person that does audio post-production.
A sound mixer is not always going to have an educational requirement, but this is still a good place to go if you have gone to film school or have studied audio production in some way. This is also not going to make as much as other positions, but for larger productions you can make a large piece meal pay as a freelancer. This could bring you down to under thirty thousand a year, or well over a hundred thousand if you are working consistently.
Production Coordinator, Manager and Assistants
There are a number of less defined movie production jobs that are still important. The production coordinator is one that, like the name suggests, will coordinate the production. Here it will often be on set, preparing different locations for shooting, working with extras, securing props and vehicles, and generally setting things up for the production itself.
The production manager takes more of a business role and will do a lot of the things that a producer would do, but may actually be a part of the larger production company rather than a specific movie production. This movie production job is going to change depending on what the needs of the production are, but you can expect that it will be similar to managerial roles in other fields. The production manager is going to be one of the more stable movie production jobs and can be a good way to create a consistent employment out of the film industry.
Production assistants are a completely ill-defined movie production job and will be where many people begin when they want to break into the film industry. Here you are at the call of other positions, such as the assistant director or the production coordinator, and you will do whatever is needed on set. Production assistants also make next to nothing on set, and oftentimes they are there as volunteers or film interns.
This post is part of the series: Professional Film Jobs
Here are different articles to help you find jobs in the professional film and video industry.