How to make it as a freelancer in the film industry


Starting out as a freelancer in the film industry can be daunting: with so much competition, making a name for yourself can seem like a truly overwhelming feat. Here are some quick tips and great nuggets of advice from other industry workers to help you on your way.

Network like crazy

As Raindance founder Elliot Groves writes: ‘Hesitation or reluctance to self-promote hurts filmmakers’ careers. The film industry is ruthlessly competitive. The brutal truth is that the most successful filmmakers tend to be the most vocal ones. By downplaying strengths and advantages, filmmakers can become their own worst enemies.’ (For more insights, read the rest of Groves’ article here: ‘The Film Industry’s 5 Self Promotion Myths.’) A fantastic skill set and an impressive portfolio won’t mean much if you can’t get your name out there. So form relationships with those in the industry and learn to self-promote (even if it feels uncomfortable at first).

Always see a project through

As Laryssa Alexa, freelance television producer and author of the industry blog ‘Needle Girl Haystack World,’ advises: ‘Just as you’re only as good as your last job – FINISH the job with the same work ethic you had one day 1.’ (Read the rest of her post here for more tips on succeeding in the film industry.) She tells the story of two production assistants who did high-quality work for two months up until the last day of shooting. Overcome with that Laryssa calls ‘last day of school fever,’ the PAs slacked off and consequently were blacklisted by most of the producing staff. This could seriously jeopardize the assistants’ chances of getting work in the future.

Don’t burn bridges

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You never know where your next job could come from, so try not to burn any bridges. The film industry network is very small, so resist the urge to bad-mouth anyone, even if they deserve it. Word could get around to those that are hiring, and you wouldn’t want something you said in a stressful situation to limit your chances for work in the future. So watch what you say, and make a conscious effort to maintain healthy relationships.

Follow the rules

One of the best parts of being freelance is that you get more control over your work life, but this can sometimes be a double-edged sword. You have to be responsible for all the necessary paperwork: you need to stay on top of following up on invoices, looking after your finances, filling out tax returns and making sure you protect yourself. If someone is injured on set and they claim it’s your fault, public liability insurance can protect you by covering compensation payments and legal fees, as well as a host of other benefits.

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Don’t limit yourself

Specialising in a particular craft is important in distinguishing yourself from your peers, but don’t let that limit you. Evan Luzi, freelance camera assistant and founder/editor of The Black and Blue, points out the fascination with the clichéd phrase ‘climbing up the ladder’ – paying your dues as you work your way to the top. He writes in an article titled ‘Are You Struggling to Find Film Work?’: ‘If you are struggling to find more work, it’s time for you to start thinking about growing in the film industry horizontally (adding more hats) as well as vertically (climbing that ladder). Many of the basic skills, etiquette and training you have from on-set experience is transferrable to new departments.’

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Setting out freelance in any industry is equal parts daunting and incredibly exciting: you’re your own boss! But it takes true dedication and passion to make it in the film industry. Keep these tips in mind as you carve your path and you’re sure to stay working for years to come: lights, camera, action!

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