Updated: 04/16/2012

Film, Radio and TV - 14

FRTV 14  




Plotting a

Career In Films



>>In this final module on film we'll take a look at careers.

As someone who has worked in the film, radio and TV media for many years, as well as sharing responsibility for training a few thousand people in these areas, I will speak from personal experience.

First a little pep talk using some real-world examples.

>>Steven Spielberg, recognized as one of greatest film directors in this era, started his "career" even before he was out of grade school. During this time he made numerous short films — including a "disaster epic" showing two of his toy trains colliding.

Foreshadowing his Oscar-winning film, Saving Private Ryan in 1998, was a film he made before he was a teenager.  In one scene he had his mother put on an army helmet and bounce through the back hills of Phoenix, Arizona in a Jeep while he filmed the action.

Spielberg, of course, is not alone among major directors in this type of single-minded dedication. (Plus, it doesn't hurt to have a mother that believes in what you are doing.)

The point of all this is to underline the commitment — even lifelong commitment — that's required for success in a highly competitive field like film.


16mm FilmOne of the "Glamour


>>Film production, like the radio and TV professions we'll cover in upcoming modules, is a so-called "glamour profession." This means that it is highly attractive to people and therefore highly competitive.

Those who are at the top of the profession receive six and seven-figure salaries. Their names are often "household words" — familiar to everyone.  They tend live in lavish homes, drive fancy cars, travel the world, and hobnob with the rich and famous.

But, even though they may be reaping the material benefits of their success, most of these successful people have attained their success by concentrating, not on money, but on perfecting their craft.  In explaining their success a common statement (worded in various ways) is:

" I just focused on becoming the best I could be. The money came afterwards."

Another often stated feeling is, "I love what I'm doing so much, and I'd try to do it even if I wasn't paid."

>>For every person who is enjoying this exalted status there are a hundred-thousand who are striving to reach that point; but, so far haven't had the right breaks, haven't met the right people, don't know the right things, or haven't had the single-minded dedication. 

If you lived in the Hollywood area any length of time as I have, you constantly meet them.  They are clerks in photo stores, waitresses, real estate sales people, or maybe they work the night shift in a fast food restaurant, so they can look for film work during the day.

Job Interview 2 >>Some eventually make it.  One of my former students lived in a one-room apartment, ate meals with the help of food stamps (government assistance), and spent all his available free time learning more about television. He persevered, and is now a network executive.  

Several well-known actors were so financially strapped as they looked for work that they had to live in their cars.

Although many of these people now make their work look easy, they've "paid their dues," (put in their time learning their craft) and can now use everything they've learned as they pursue their goals. Most "overnight successes" have been 20 years in the making.  

Like Steven Spielberg, many highly successful people in film had supportive families.  But many also had families that were dead set against their "unrealistic dreams."

>>Formal education is a definite plus; but, formal education isn't an end; it should only be a beginning of lifelong learning.  

Danny Arnold, a successful Hollywood producer-director I knew, had minimal formal education.  On his own, he went beyond his very limited schooling, and, among other things, became familiar with the ideas and writings of a wide variety of noted writers, including William Shakespeare.


Film Job Classifications

>>Let's take a look at the various job classifications in film. In the Job Interviewprocess, we'll also include the some expense categories for making feature films.

It has been traditional in film to think of jobs and expenses as falling into two broad areas: above-the-line and below-the-line. 

Although the "line" involved can at times be blurry, above-the-line expenses generally relate to the performing and producing elements: talent, script, music, office services, etc.

Below-the-line elements refer to two broad areas:

  • the technical personnel (that list of scores of people you see at the end of major films), and
  • the physical elements (sets, props, make-up, wardrobe, graphics, transportation, production equipment, studio facilities and editing)

>>In breaking down the personnel and costs in film production it's necessary to go beyond the above-the-line and below-the-line designations and divide production into at least 17 categories.

    1. script and general preproduction costs
    2. location scouting/travel expenses
    3. studio and office rental
    4. sets and set construction
    5. on-location site expenses
    6. equipment rental
    7. film stock and processing (assuming film is being used)
    8. production crew
    9. producer, director, and associated personnel
    10. actors and extras
    11. makeup and hair
    12. clothes and costumes
    13. insurance, shooting permits, contingencies, etc.
    14. editing and special effects
    15. food/catering
    16. police, safety, watchmen and crowd control
    17. materials, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses

In looking at this (rather abbreviated) list, you can begin to appreciate the millions of dollars that go into making feature films — and the list of names that seem to go on endlessly when they end.

>> All three of the mass media areas — film, radio and television — share many elements in common. Many film actors started out in radio or TV.  Now, the Internet is combining all three of these media.  Thus, the upcoming modules on radio, TV, and the Internet will add valuable information.  

If you will soon confront the task of getting a job in one of these areas, it might be helpful to jump ahead to the information in Module 39.

>> This file has some of the latest information on mass media employment.

In the next module we'll turn our attention to radio.

The next matching quiz will be after Module 15.

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