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Development Intern

If you're interested in working in development or want to know how films make their way onto the screen, working at a production company is a valuable first step. Production companies offer work expereince and internships too, giving you all important experience to add to your CV.

My First Job in Film: How to become a production company intern
Stage
1

Alongside MFJF resources research production companies in the UK to see if they have their own intern/work experience programmes in place, make sure they conform to Creative Skillsets guidelines.

Stage
2

Apply for development assistant/runner/producers assistant positions at production companies. Make sure to research the company’s body of work, does it fit with what you're interested in?

Stage
3

You can expect to work as an assistant for 18 months to 2 years before progressing within a company, you could also look at producers assistant and co-ordinator roles for progression.

WHAT IS A PRODUCTION COMPANY?

Independent production companies are set up by producers, directors, actors, financiers, former sales executive, former studio executives or even graduates. Their sole aim is to get films financed, produced and distributed theatrically to as wide an audience as possible. Production companies can be as small as three people working in a one room office, right through to companies with hundreds of staff on their payroll. 

The development of a feature film can be a drawn out protracted affair that is commonly referred to as ‘development hell’ if the project is unable to secure any traction.  Hundreds of scripts will be vetted during the year by producers, script readers, office juniors and interns at production companies in the UK. What makes a good script is mostly subjective; however, producers will be looking for originality, marketability and commercial potential. Those that tick the boxes progress from the hands of the intern or development assistant to the desk of the producer. Most, however, will find their way to the development assistant, who will attach a polite letter stating it’s not currently what they are looking for.  

Producers will not just be on the lookout for scripts to option; they will be searching newspaper articles, novels (fiction, non-fiction and biography), plays, comic strips, listening to pitches, or developing their original ideas.  Unsolicited scripts are sent to production companies on a daily basis. Most production companies simply to not have the man/woman power to read them all so they will be sent back, but there are a few companies that do accept unsolicited scripts. The other reason for not opening unsolicited scripts is a legal issue; production companies need to protect themselves from claims of plagiarism - especially if they have a project in development that has a similarity to the script sent in. As companies are often swamped with screenplays from all sources, it’s not uncommon to see junior members of staff or interns writing up reports on scripts dumped unceremoniously on their desk. As much as you can hear the common sign as another heavy wad of paper hits the doormat, or a PDF file makes its way into the office inbox, no one wants to miss a truly inspired story.

Staff and freelancers populate production companies, some working across several productions others brought into the office to work one a single film. One of the best ways into a production company is starting off via an unpaid work experience placement or a paid internship. The industry typically labels both as internships so make sure to swat up on the Skillset Guidelines to ensure you understand the difference between the two when applying. Starting you career in the industry as an intern is a rite of passage, it's an excellent way to network and get some experience on a thin looking resume. Internships vary in remit, giving you the opportunity let your talents shine. Good interns are always noticed and lazy ones dispatched quickly, it’s wise not to waste any opportunity so take to your tasks with enthusiasm!  

WHAT IS THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS FOR FEATURE FILM?

The research and development stage can take anywhere from four months to two years; development is the primary focus of any production company. The systematic hoops and hurdles that need to be navigated to enable the first day of principal photography are widespread. It’s not uncommon to hear of films in development for years (this is what is meant by development hell, John Carter holding the record for 79 years), finding a resurgence as another director is attached to the project, or interest is shown from A-list talent.  

Producers are looking for stories that are original and compelling, but also marketable and attractive to talent and financiers. Some producers have a relationship with a publisher who will alert them to any new work that may be of interest, they talk to colleagues and pay close attention to the industry and film markets. Keeping up-to-date with the slates of other companies is critical for producers, being in competition for investment in a similar style/type of film is not desirable.

Once a concept, script, article or treatment has been earmarked for further consideration, the production company establish who holds the rights and ascertain who has been involved with the story to date. Anyone who has contributed or modified the script or treatment will need to be approached, producers need to be sure they have all permissions needed to proceed. This is called the Chain of Title Report and can involve the company's Legal Department who will make sure all documentation is put in place. Many problems can arise from seeking out permissions at a later stage; some may refuse to grant permission which can be disastrous/expensive if the project has been green-lit.

When entering development (or pre-pre-production), a budget is conceived which will factor in; script writing services, legal fees, travel, publicity and marketing, location scouting, entertainments, general overheads, schedule and budget creation if it needs to be outsourced. Development can be extremely costly, so that the production company will have two options; meet the cost of development themselves as external funding can compromise a producer at a later date, or seek external funding from the BFI, Film 4 or BBC Films to name but a few.  

Once development funding is in place, a screenwriter is hired to work with the producer developing the story. Producers may decide to bring other writers on board at a later date, initially though the writer is brought in for two drafts and what is known as the ‘polish’, meaning a working draft to include in the pitch. How many drafts produced is entirely dependent on the production. It's entirely possible that those two draft and polish will be enough, if other changes are requested further on down the line, it’s likely that another screenwriter can be employed at any stage of production. The film of Spooks (2014) ran to 25 drafts before they entered production, which goes to show how the process can vary. Once a working draft of the script is agreed upon, producers begin looking for the main body of investment and finance.

Putting together the pitch for investors can be one of the most challenging aspects of the producer's role, a film financing company can be brought into the mix if needed, and the services of a sales company who will licence the film to foreign distributors which generate pre-sales revenue. A pitch package would consist of:

  • A treatment of the script, which can be anywhere from a page to a more detailed ten-page document.

  • A copy of the rights to the story, all options and acquisitions agreements.

  • An investment proposal, clearly laying out the terms and conditions of the investment.

  • Comparable box office returns on films of a similar genre or tone.

  • Market research on current trends, with emphasis on work that has just gone into production.

  • Talent attached to the project. The director and cast are the primary selling points, as is the screenwriter if they're established names. A letter of interest from all parties is a good indicator to investors that securing the talent is possible. Any crew agreements that are set.

  • A copy of the budget. Strategies for funding and distribution with any evidence of commitments or interest.

  • Revenue projections.

  • Any examples of press coverage the company have managed to generate, which would include any marketing materials they have commissioned such as posters.

While seeking funding, a co-production can be considered on many independent films. Many indies in the UK are made in conjunction with other European production companies. Far from meaning joint control of a project the division of labour is often applied, one company will work on securing the finance for the project while the other acquires the talent and develops the script. A co-pro has other added benefits; production can take extra tax incentives if the co-producer is based outside the UK. Finance is a delicate business, investing in a feature film is seen as a high-risk activity so producers and production companies may decide to seek investment for multiple films rather than a single project. The theory behind this is it spreads out the risk. Theoretically, spreading the investment over multiple projects should see one make money. This is also a way to gain funding for a film that previously held no interest for investors or distributors.

Projects get knocked back and shelved at varying stages of their existence only to be brought back a few years later. A project's  lifespan is highly dependent on the producer or production company who want to push it forward. Sadly many scripts never make it into the development stage, many films in development never make it into production, and films that have been shot and edited fail to find a distribution deal. The business of film is precarious, to say the least.  

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL ROLES IN A PRODUCTION COMPANIES?

Production companies, of all sizes, accommodate work experience placements and internships. These placements are usually short term arrangements - no more than four weeks full time for work experience or 160 hours over three months - they should equip you with some contacts (if you play your cards right) and some experience in the workplace. If you're engaged in an internship you should be allowed to apply your learning and skills to the work environment, and you should be paid NMW, you can be assigned tasks and projects which should allow you the opportunity to let your talent shine. If you're looking to work in development or within the production management side of a production company, gaining work experience on your CV - ideally while you are studying - will give you the advantage over your competitors.

Larger production companies such as Working Title or Shine Pictures have a team of assistants and/or runners who work throughout the building, participating in the smooth running of the business itself. The other junior position to look out for when you reach stage 2 -3 of your career plan is that of development assistant, producer’s assistant or script reader.  Development assistants are more concerned with assisting the development team and will often incorporate running duties into their remit in smaller production companies.

If you have experience working as a receptionist, or as an executive or personal assistant, it’s entirely possible to cross over into the film industry. These roles require skills that translate to all industries, and if you're interested in films and filmmaking they can be a great stepping stone into the industry. If you are working front of house on reception, you will soon get to know everyone in the building. 

WHAT ARE THE TASKS AN INTERN MAY BE CALLED UPON TO DO?

Many universities offer work experience placements while studying, in other cases, it’s going to be up to you to go out there and find them during holiday time. Taking short work experience placements gives you a significantly better chance of finding employment after graduation, you are meeting people, getting references and most importantly can use you placement to list skills and relevant experience to put on - what can often be - empty CV. 

Internships have been developed to provide the right candidate with an immersive experience into the world of film production and give you a chance to find out how each section of the industry runs. The tasks you may be assigned may feel menial and not educational, such as making the tea, but you will be able to chat to people; ask them what they do, what’s their job like? Internships should also provide you with the opportunity to get your teeth into a project, and for the right proactive candidate, an internship can see you gaining some valuable experience in the workplace. Ultimately you're on a fact-finding mission. The kitchen is always the best place to start a conversation, so be chatty and ask the right questions, don’t waste a second. Other tasks you may be called upon to undertake are:

  • Sitting in on meetings to take minutes.

  • Making the tea and coffee.

  • Photocopying and email sending. 

  • Script reading. You may be asked if you would like to submit a report. If you're looking to take on script reading duties in the future, this would be a good time to show your talents. Ask to read a strong script to give you some idea what they are looking for. 

  • Researching projects. You may be asked to assist junior staff in their work, such as researching locations or the film markets. These tasks should give you an idea of what you would be expected of you at a junior level. 

WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ASSISTANT/runner IN A PRODUCTION COMPANY?

Production companies come in all shapes and sizes, so if you're working for a small business, the assistant role is going to be the most junior which can mean booking executive suites at Cannes and replace the toilet roll in the bathroom. It’s a mixed bag of tasks, chores and requests - but everyone has to start somewhere, most likely you'll be asked to tackle:

Administrative tasks.

This can be photocopying, emailing out scripts and treatments, responding to unsolicited scripts, updating the company system, circulating script reports from the script readers if there is no development assistant.

Dealing with office supplies and kitchen duties.

If the company have a kitchen, you'll be asked to take responsibility for stocking and keeping it tidy. Most days you'll be there making tea, so give it a once over while you wait for the kettle to boil.

Tea/coffee/lunch runs.

Production companies can be exceptionally busy at peak times so it’s not uncommon to find members of the team eating lunch at their desk, you may be asked to get the sandwiches in. Keep some takeaway menus for deli's handy and get to the know the best places in the area.

Dealing with the post.

From distributing the morning mail to franking mail for the evening post, always keep an eye on the time.

Making bookings.

Most of the senior members of staff will be conducting meetings either at the office or out and about, you can be required to make the meeting room presentable or book meeting space.

Being sent on errands.

Also referred to as ‘runs’ which is where we get the name of the runner. Always keep your phone on if dispatched from the office, check in before you return in case any last minute jobs need doing. The errands can be anything from delivering a script to collecting dry cleaning. Try not to use the tube (if working in London) as you will be uncontactable, and always look at your route first it will save you time.

Help create mood boards or reels.

If you have got a good handle on an editing package such as Final Cut or Premiere let members of the team know about it, you can make yourself a valuable resource within the office.

Researching.

This could be locations, who is going to be at the festivals and markets, what other production companies have on their slate, what’s been green lit.

Making travel arrangements.

Locally and abroad. Flights, accommodation and vehicle hire, are the most likely bookings, but you may be called upon to provide maps and contact details. If you speak another language, make it known.

Editing the cut down casting reel.

The directors preferred actors showreels or auditions.

Script reading.

Reading scripts is what it’s all about, you can be asked if you would like to write a script report too. 


KEY SKILLS FOR working at a production company

Unlike the areas of production where you're attached to the film for a short time, production company staff will witness the project from inception to completion.  During your time with the company take the chance to understand what’s going on in the office and how the process works. If you're there as an intern use the experience to your advantage, ask as many questions as you need to get a full picture of how the process works, make sure when you leave to have some numbers on your phone and people to act as a reference on your CV or job application. Demonstrate the willingness to learn and embrace any opportunity to show company members you have the right stuff, good interns who make an impression are thought of when the next junior role becomes available. The essential personal skills for interns and junior members of staff are:

  • Enthusiasm: It sounds obvious, but you should act as though you want to be there. Your ‘can-do’ attitude is essential, though try not to be sycophantic around senior members of staff. It's a fine line, but you'll find your way. 

  • Confidence: Especially when talking to members of the production team or anyone visiting the office. It can be tough being an intern as your placement can be short term - by the time you've got into the swing of things your time will be over. Try to be confident in yourself from day one. You’re not going to know everything; no one will expect you to, but getting the most out of the placement will depend on how you engage with others. If you are introduced to a member of the team make sure your handshake is firm, you make eye contact, and do try and remember their name. A handshake is pretty important in this business, and please don't look at your shoes as you say hello.

  • Be adaptable: Situations can change at a moment's notice in the film industry if you're working at a junior level be as adaptable as you can.  If you are taking an internship or work experience, the production company will respect your hours, especially if you are in an unpaid role. If there are 'all hands to the pump' crisis and you want to stay on let them know, they would probably be delighted. 

  • Show initiative: This is a essential quality that senior members of the team are looking for in interns and junior members of staff. The first few days may be daunting, and you may feel happy keeping to the kitchen making the tea. Once you've got to grips with the office environment, you could demonstrate how resourceful and proactive you are. Producers are often extremely busy and are forced to cope with high levels of stress, which can filter down to their immediate team. Showing initiative and pre-empting situations such as getting the coffees for clients, or passing on anything interesting that may fit with the company’s development ethos will make you stand out. The more you can help the team and make their job easier, the stronger relationship you’ll establish with them. Don’t forget: you want to prove that you are invaluable to their company and that they need you! 

WHAT OTHER ROLES ARE FOUND AT A FEATURE FILM PRODUCTION COMPANY?

There are many companies in the UK developing scripts and producing films. In recent years some production companies have evolved into production and distribution companies, adding other areas of the industry to an already established business. Many companies in the UK are small operations, consisting of 2-3 staff in an office taking on freelancers when they need to. At a medium size independent production company you would expect to find:  

  • Head of production: will be across the budgets of any potential productions.

  • Head of development: Will be working with producers on research and development, monitoring the spends of the R and D (research and development) budget.

  • Legal and Business Affairs Dept: This can consist of one person dealing with the contracts and deal memos the company need to generate when securing rights.

  • Executive assistant to the producer.

  • Producers assistant.

  • Development assistant: the number of development assistant's will vary according to the size of the company, but their job will be to delegate material and tasks to the interns and assist the head of development with the slate.

  • Office manager.

  • Film sales and distribution: If the company is fully established they may have their own in-house sales team and distribution arm.

WHAT EXTERNAL roles ARE BROUGHT INTO THE PRODUCTION COMPANY?

If the production company is working on a smaller scale, various services will be outsourced or contracted to freelance staff such as:

  • Financing company. 

  • Film sales and distribution company.

  • Script editing: Script editors can perform a vital role and save a production thousands of pounds in post production. Their job is to spot any weakness in the structure and narrative of the script, which most often comes to light in the edit. By tightening up the script before the shoot, production will not be forced to cut away footage that has cost a significant amount. Although commonplace in the US system, most script editors in the UK can be found working in television (MFJTV script editor), but occasionally they are drafted in to work on a film script.

  • Script reader(s). Script readers are freelance, working from home and delegated scripts throughout the month from the production company(s). Script readers produce a synopsis and critique of the script, detailing its strengths and weaknesses. Script reading can be a gateway job to script editing, working in development or progressing a career as a screenwriter.

  • UPM or line producer: can be called in for a few weeks to work on a preliminary schedule and a budget.

  • Marketing and publicity company.

HOW TO GET WORK EXPEriENCE/INTERNSHIPS AT A PRODUCTION COMPANY.

Whether you want to produce, write or direct, starting off with an internship or a week’s work experience at a production company affords you some of the best filmmaking education. Equally, finding junior roles in production companies can open up a gateway of opportunities. Understandably there is lots of competition for these positions, so you're going to need to use all your resources. Initially, you are going to find yourself sending out lots of CVs, and you may not receive a response from any of them if you are sending them in cold. Don’t be dissuaded; it’s all about perseverance in this game - that and a well-tailored CV and covering letter.

CV

Finding work experience is the stage one of your career plan, so it can be difficult to know what to include on your CV. You can highlight activities you have been involved in, such as part-time, temporary or voluntary work. Have you taken on any voluntary work at film festivals, or worked in a cinema or bookshop? In whatever capacity you have spent your time demonstrate how focused you are, think about those essential skills companies are looking for and apply them to your experience to date. When it comes to applying for paid positions you can use your work experience and internships to great effect, and you can also have members of the industry to vouch for your work ethic. 

If you are changing career and wish to work in the film industry, then you are in luck. Many companies like candidates with experience from other areas and a mature approach to the working environment. What you need to do is impress upon them you’re changing careers for the right reasons, and you have the necessary transferable skills and experience.  You will also need to keep in mind how low the pay is on entry level compared to your last job. 

Remember your CV and covering letter are the first things the company are going to see. You’re entering a creative industry which can be very personality-driven, so inject some personality and life into your applications. When working on your CV check through it (or ask someone else to) to see it reads well and is correctly formatted. You can use the CV advice and CV builder to help format your CV and covering letter, and you can check your CV against our example CVs to double check it includes all the relevant information.

You are going to want to keep your CV short and to the point, as many employers will be ‘scanning’ rather than reading, cut out the chaff and try and keep it down to one page - if you’re applying for work experience, this should not be a problem. If sending your CV to companies cold (without there being a place advertised) you'll be told they will keep your CV for future reference. It’s a good idea to see if they have a formalised intern plan in place before you send in your CV. If you call up use your common sense and if they sound busy they probably are, but if you get chatting ask for some advice, or see if they might be able to meet with you for a coffee.

Finding experience and entry level jobs can be a full-time job in itself. Alongside using MFJF you can send your CV to production companies listed in The Knowledge, UK Filming or the BFI’s production company list. Ask friends or friends of friends if they know of anyone who has a connection to the industry. Social media is a great way to find out what companies are up to, and when they're looking for interns. While you're researching companies to tailor your CV look at the other areas of the industry where work experience is offered, such as commercials, corporate and the production office.

You’ll need to develop a thick skin during this period of your career. It can be the case that friends find work quickly enough after graduation (though sadly they will be in the minority), and some may have put in the hours of work experience while still studying. Some may just be in the right place at the right time. Whatever situation you find yourself in, the resounding advice from professionals working in the film industry is to be persistent; persistent and relentless in the pursuit of your chosen career. Keep applying for positions, sending emails, handing in CVs at production companies, and calling in to see if they are taking interns. You may find that you go through multiple work experience and intern placements before you find a paid job, but remember this is a tiny industry so competition is extremely high. The more experience you have on that CV with reputable companies, the more likely you are to find that job in the end.   

Research

Research is vital when looking for work, not only researching the companies but the industry as well. When setting foot in the office for the first time, you need to know the difference between the producers assistant and the head of development. A knowledge of how the film industry works is going to be essential, not just how a film is shot but how the industry works. One of the great things about internships is getting the chance to ask all these questions, remember you're there to learn. One of the first things you can do to familiarise yourself with some aspects of the industry is to look at the magazines and online resources the industry use for information such as:

Many people who work in production will be receiving the newsletters and updates from these websites as they track what the industry is doing day to day. Alongside your knowledge of the industry gleaned from the online resources, you can add some depth in understanding the business of film production. Alongside researching make yourself au fait with the Film Value Chain, you should also hit the library and start doing your homework. It’s not enough to love films and want to make them; there is a whole business model you need to work through to fully understand the work of the production company.

If this area of the business appeals to you, taking the time to research your chosen occupation is going to inform what you put on your CV and how you present yourself in your interview. When you're asked in for an interview make sure you've done your research on the specific company and understand how they work and know what films they have produced; see if you can answer the fundamental questions such as:

  • What does a production company do?

  • How is a film financed? 

  • What is the role of a distribution company? 

  • What is the difference between a runner in the production office and a runner at the production company.

  • What makes a good script, how should I know what to look for?

Personality and Attitude

In the majority of cases, work experience is not a paid position, interns should be given at least NMW unless you are studying and the internship is part of the course structure, in which case it is labelled a student internship. Before you commit yourself to anything make sure you have the funding in place and read the Skillset Guidelines which define internships and work experience. 

As you continue on your career path a wage is going to be essential while you are looking for employment, especially if you already live in a big city. If you find yourself waiting tables, working behind a bar, temping, or pouring coffee, these are jobs that offer flexibility to take on internships or attend interviews. If working in an office take the time to improve on your IT and Excel skills, you're going to need them. Your pay will be low for the first few years of your career if you have no external source of income you may wish to consider saving up before you embark on your career plan, or looking for a secondary source of income for supplementation.   

At times it can become frustrating when you’re not getting the roles you want, keep in mind the advice on being relentless and go back to your CV, think about what you can do to make it better, what experience could you gain in another capacity to start ticking boxes for potential employers. Reflect on the possible reason your CV is not being chosen for roles; it could be a lack of experience, the way your CV is presented or if you’re sending in generic CV’s and covering letters - you should give yourself the best possible chance by tailoring each one to each job role or production.

Although the industry is incredibly flexible when it comes to changing career, if you’re applying for positions in another area of the industry you will need to be clear why you want to make the change, and give examples of what you have been doing to facilitate the move.

 

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WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR AN INTERN and junior member of staff WORKING AT A PRODUCTION COMPANY?

Interns can be asked to help out with a variety of tasks; the team can require your assistance at any time and the best thing you can do is approach it with a smile on your face.  One of the advantages to taking work experience and internships is the relationships you build in the early stages of your career. Meeting people throughout the office and working with other interns can be immense fun. Some of the jobs you're asked to do at entry level can be the least glamorous of the film industry, which is saying something as ‘glamour’ rarely comes into any area of the business. 

As an assistant or runner, you can be sent out at 9 am to complete one task and five phone calls later not return to the office until the afternoon - having picked up the coffees on the way back. At points it may feel arduous but once you've proved you can tackle the most mundane task with professionalism your remit will expand.

The film industry is full of colourful, formidable and varied characters - it’s what makes the industry so vibrant and creative, but it can also bring drama to the forefront. As an intern or runner/development assistant at a larger company, you may be privy to some big personalities who aren’t afraid to shout. This may feel alien initially, but the best thing you can do as a junior member is to keep calm and not take it personally if that shout is directed at you.  Be sensitive and aware of your surroundings, but be tough too.

WHAT IS THE CAREER PATH IF I WORK IN A PRODUCTION COMPANY?

Gaining one work experience placement is very rarely the golden ticket of your career. You will be looking to take on a few work placements and internships before your CV becomes attractive to production companies. However, the exemplary work ethic you displayed could prompt a phone call and interview for a job; you never know where an internship will take you.  The film industry is also incredibly small, so if a company has a junior role to fill they often ask around for referrals first. 

Unfortunately, it’s not like being a solicitor where there are clearly defined stepping stones in the path of employment. In the film world, anything can go, and while this can prove challenging, it also offers a lot of freedom to those wanting to work within it. Once your CV is looking good with some experience on there from work placements, have a look at the junior roles offered. The bigger companies employ runners, but there are also assistant positions to be considered such as:

Development assistant.

The development assistant supports the team with initial research, read scripts and write a synopsis (when not assigned to freelance script readers), chase up reports and deal with administrative duties. They also organise meetings, keep a record/database of script readers, log submissions, send rejection letters and provide PA support to the head of development. In small companies, they are the junior role so any running tasks will often be assigned to the development assistant also. 

Producer's assistant.

 The role of the producers assistant can be a temporary affair, sometimes only engaged during production, in other circumstances a long-term working relationship is formed and often provides the base to springboard into the industry. Again, depending on the size of the company the producers assistant can see themselves emptying the bins one moment and preparing legal documentation the next. They act as the producer’s right-hand person, work in the office and out on location while the film is being shot. Where the producer goes, they go.

WHAT OTHER AREAS OF THE INDUSTRY CAN INTERNSHIPS BE FOUND.

Work experience and internships can be found across a variety of companies that operate in the film industry. If you are looking to further your work experience and create a bit of diversity in your CV you can consider other areas of the industry such as:

  • Commercial production company

  • Corporate communication production company

  • Music video production company

  • TV production company 

WILL I NEED ANY QUALIFICATIONS TO WORK AT A PRODUCTION COMPANY?

There are no academic qualifications necessary to enter a production company - however, working in development will require the skills needed to analyse and evaluate material, you will need to be eloquent, well-read and able to use grammar correctly. Development is one of the most competitive areas of the industry, and many candidates will have academic degrees, so make sure your writing style and clarity of thought/argument stand out. As ever a willingness to do the work and the right attitude needed for those entry level positions are vital. 

A degree in film or any other subject can offer you a solid educational grounding, foster a love of learning and provide some life experience. A degree can also provide you options at a later date if you wish to switch careers. If choosing a film or media degree look closely at the modules the course is offering, does it offer:

  • Practical modules with industry recognised equipment.

  • Lecturers (full time or guest) who are working in the industry.

  • Work placements.

  • Affiliations with industry recognised institutions.

  • A chance to meet alumni or industry members. 

TOP 10 TIPS FOR NEW ENTRANTS WHEN WORKING OR TAKING INTERNSHIPS AT A PRODUCTION COMPANY.

Get to know the industry.

Understanding how a film gets from script to screen can go a long way, launching a film off the ground is a complicated business, and you will need to know it inside out. Remember, the more informed you are about the business the more useful you're going to be working at the production company. Technology and the way audiences choose to view their content are constantly evolving and shaping the industry, so keep tabs on changing trends technically as well as audience trends. The trade papers can be an excellent source of information when researching; they can also keep you one step ahead. Keep an eye on Screen Daily, IMDB to see what’s in production, Broadcast for TV and Deadline for US information.

Watch films.

It sounds obvious but watching films is going to be crucial. Fortunately, many of the films you sit though should also be enjoyable. Other than critiquing the films entertainment value you are going to need to pose a few other questions such as; how much did the film make? Why was it received poorly by critics but still made money? What was the marketing campaign, was that successful, why?… The list could go on. Analyses films, not only regarding why you liked it or not, look through all aspects of why it was successful or why it bombed.

Be diligent and organised.

Always make notes when taking instructions. Many offices are busy, hectic places to work in, and it can be overwhelming for an intern who is not used to the pace, it’s going to be easy to forget a task. Taking direction and writing it down gives you a reference point, just remember to check your notes!

Dealing with personalities.

Occasionally you may be confronted with a situation where people will talk down to you or forget your name. Try not to take it personally, often it isn’t rudeness, it’s the 101 other things they have to concentrate on. Sometimes it is rudeness, and which case weather the storm and be professional (even if they clearly are not).

Always let someone know when you are leaving the premises.

This is as much for courtesy as it is for health and safety reasons. If there’s a fire, your colleagues may believe you to be trapped in the building rather than collecting a 4 pint of milk and a packet of hobnobs from the local shop. It’s also just good practice to let others know you are leaving premises, just as you would if you were leaving the set.

Take responsibility.

If you are given an ongoing task like tracking paperwork or cutting showreels or mood reels take ownership of it. Perform each task to the best of your ability and make it yours. Those are the things that get you remembered.

Learn the office layout in the first week.

Do you know where the photocopier is and how to use any internal systems, phone, email, etc. Familiarise yourself with these in the first few days of entering the company, so you can be a useful member of the team.

Learn how to drive.

If you do not have a driving licence, it would be in your best interests to get one. As you progress into paid work, you will often be sent out on errands, or called upon to drive hire cars/vans to collect members of staff.

Show your interest in areas of production.

If you want to progress your career at a production company, gaining knowledge of the filmmaking process is essential. When you are in stage 2-3 of your career plan ask the producer if you can have sometime onset, they may look at you blankly and say no, or you might find yourself travelling to Pinewood for the week.

Be polite and calm under pressure.

It’s a tough industry to navigate, and professionalism is everything. If you do find the experience overwhelming try to let it wash over you and remember why you took the internship or job role in the first place. If you can’t answer that it maybe time to think about another career path.


PHRASES EVERY ENTRANT SHOULD BE FAMILIAR WITH:

  • Option. When a producer negotiates with a writer(s) to obtain the rights to their work for a set period, usually 18 months to 2 years.

  • Unsolicited script. A script is sent to the office from an unknown writer, it's very rare for an unsolicited script to get passed the inbox, but some do.

  • Green lit. A term used by the studios and production companies to signify a projects move into pre-production.

  • Delivery date. In development, this means the day a script is expected to be sent in by the writer or agent. In production, the delivery of a film is when everything is finished, and the film is handed over to the distribution company.

  • Sizzle reel. Usually a maximum of 3 minutes, a sizzle reel is effectively a trailer by the director or production company that's comprised of existing films/youtube clips to best represent their vision or pitch of a film/tv idea. Think of it as a visual summary pitch for the project.

  • Chain of title. When acquiring the rights to the script or concept, producers and members of the legal team will go back though the project's history to acquire consent from all parties.

  • Slate. When a company refers to their slate, it's about the films they represent at that moment in time or have in production.

  • Pitch package. Created by the producer with the assistance of a sales company, and the help of a film finance company to put together the finance plan. This is what the sales company take to film markets when looking for an international distribution deal and what the producer needs to find funding to get the production made.

  • BFI Film Fund: Currently the largest backer of films in the UK. To see how films are funded in the UK go to the BFI site, it has information on projects it’s involved with and how to apply for funding if you are a filmmaker.

FAQ’S

What hours will I be expected to work?

If you're on the payroll, you may find during quiet times you work a regular 9-6 but these days can be few and far between. If you are working as a runner, you will be the first in, last out and at the mercy of your colleagues nocturnal working hours. If you are an intern, your working hours should not exceed a 40hr working week.

How much will I be paid?

The larger companies usually employ runners. If you are fortunate enough to find running work at a production company, you could earn anywhere between £15,000 to £20,000 depending on the scale of the company, your position (runner, head runner) and the projects they are involved with. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the minimum wage, and do not accept less. Please note many companies will require you to go through 3 - 6 month trial period, this does not affect your rights, you will still be an employee of the company. If you are moving to London for a job make sure the wage you negotiate with your employers will cover all your living costs.

If you are taking a paid internship, you will most likely be paid National Minimum Wage, make sure to familiarise yourself with the current NMW and do not accept less. 

Will I need my own vehicle?

If you're working in central London, it's unlikely you'll be called upon to drive into work. A driving licence, however, will be essential. Many junior positions act as chauffeur on occasions to senior members of staff or assist on location scouting outings.

I'm taking work expereince, and they want to keep me on unpaid, what should I do?

Skillset Guidelines state that you should not be in an unpaid work experience placement for more than four weeks or 160 hours if they want to keep you they have to pay for you. Work experience placements and internships are designed to give new entrants a feel and understanding for specific areas of the industry, it’s a great way to build up a CV and as the placements are short term they can easily fit around study to complement your education. Ultimately it’s up to you, but just because you have limited experience doesn't mean you have limited worth. If you’re working over this time, you should be getting paid!

thank you's ...

Mt First Job in Film would like to thank Sophia Gibber for sharing her experience and giving up her time to offer advice for this career guide. 

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