Folio under your arm, at some point you may wish to appeal to those who could give you a job.
It’s nervewracking to be judged by anyone, but your folio is maybe pages of your heart and soul now made visible for others to assess and rate.
The main way anyone gets work is simply by having a portfolio of good work and then show that to someone who pays for people like that to solve a problem they have. There isn’t a single path or trick to game the system. You are not likely to be given a job you are wholly unsuited to – the work is too precious to those who are looking to hire, and there is a pretty robust system of hiring.
Here we discuss some main points to help you get your head straight. Think through what you could mean to them rather than what they can do for you. Listen to the podcast for the full monty, but the key points are listed below!
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1. How much to charge.
- Know your worth
- Know how much it costs you to stand still for a day and do nothing.
- How much do people get paid? Check with trade union pay rates for your region to compare and see what is current.
2. The film industry isn’t looking to take you on and train you. It doesn’t need another mouth to feed.
- The machine which is the film industry isn’t looking to take on someone, spend time training them only to have them up sticks and work for someone else. The ‘industry’ isn’t a single entity, so much a mass of small companies, individuals and private interests.
- For anyone to take a chance on someone unknown, share their contacts, processes and the inner circle is quite a thing to undertake. The risk is you could take that and use what you have learned to help a competitor, so it’s a peculiar situation to be in.
3. Waiting to be picked.
- Someone waiting to be picked V an independent self-starter.
- Evidence of motivated and talent.
- Show evidence of your desire to do the work. A chef doesn’t require a fully fitted kitchen before making their first omelette – make what you can when you can to the best of your ability. Doing so will give you practice and display your journey to an interested party. The people you are trying to work for are like that and they know their own. If you want to do it for a living then you should be doing it whatever.
4. Awareness of the state of the industry.
- Do you know about the industry? About current artists names, credits and back story? We have taught at many places where students didn’t know the masters or even watch films to have an awareness of what went before. This is something your potential employers will notice as they DO know and care about it.
- How good are those currently working and do you measure up?
- What can you do to improve?
- What do people pay for? … People pay to have their problems solved.
Whose problems do you solve?
- Do you know the industry well enough to know that and how you can fit in to it?
- What can you provide and where do you fit in the workflow?
5. Actual ability levels.
- Are you an asset or a burden? Are you asking to help them or are you asking them to help you. Conisder their needs first, and how it will shape your approach.
- Does your folio show examples of what problems the employer will need you to solve?
6. How Busy is the film industry right now?
- The industry sweeps between crazy busy and deathly quiet.
- Are they too busy to see your folio?
- Not busy means they may have time but they are not hiring either.
- How can you find out and what questions should you ask?
- It is easier to turn down an email than a phone call. Hard copy letter is something not too many do so maybe that is an option. You can’t game the system – good work and a good attitude will win.
- Some will hire because of the right attitude and whether you can fit into the organisation as it currently stands. They will pay for someone who is competent enough to do what is asked.
- Chances are they already have their key players in place, so they are not looking for a Jedi Master. They need enthusiastic and capable people they can slot into an existing framework and who will do what they are asked to do.
7. How close do I live near the work? If you don’t, consider the following points.
- Travel costs
- Accommodation costs
- Loss of income from previous job you may leave
- See it from employers’ point of view
- Language/visa/immigration issues to consider
- Right place, right time.
- The harder I work, the more good luck I seem to have.
- You can’t control your employers or their desire to hire.
9. People hate ‘dear Sir/Madam’
- It displays a lack of awareness and disinterest, and laziness. Starting with ‘Hey everyone’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ just smacks of cut and paste, and nobody wants evidence that you have cut as many corners as possible as to not even check to see how your enquiry is coming across. When I read this, I am not ‘everyone’. Remember, a single person is reading this at any one time so address them as such.
- Don’t show your employer that you are lazy in the very first contact. Research who you are writing to.
10. Offering to work for free.
- You are going up against people trying to make a living so few of your colleagues will think well of that strategy. Endless supply of newbies who think it’s a viable strategy but the essence is to get free training and opportunities in exchange for no pay.
- The cost to the employer is babysitting fees and stress, so not always a good deal for them. If you have competence then you should get paid for that. If you have no competence then maybe you shouldn’t be there.
- Taking work for no fee v covering material costs. Not to subsidise/finance the production. Working for free in order to gain experience and et something out of it, going in knowing this and not being taken advantage of.
- Maybe good experience and folio building but limit these jobs, and be wary of taking a paying job from someone by offering to work for free.
11. Security, NDA’s and outsider risk.
- Relatively new phenomena which didn’t affect those running shops when they started out. Stolen phones, inadvertent plot spoilers, production protecting their investment.
- Can you be trusted or do you have a history of revealing every facet of your life online which may deter an employer. If you seem to blab about every injustice you have perceived then as someone who may have to tell you to get stuff done, I am going to wonder if you will hate on me publicly and so that’s not a good quality to have in someone who I will need to have my back. Discretion is a desirable quality.
- Does a union control the work and are you permitted?
- BECTU in the UK. The IATSE in North America is more effective as a union. Unions protect workers and maintain pay and conditions but the trade off is it isn’t an easy path or an open door. The flip side is an unregulated workforce in which good people wouldn’t stand out in a listing.
13. Look out for cons and being taken advantage of.
- Paid/subscriptions/services to find work
- Non-payment and getting ripped off.
Starting out, eager to please but don’t agree to unreasonable. If you are not experienced enough to know what reasonable is then maybe you are too green to be taking commissions. Work for someone else and earn your chops.
14. So what should I do to get my work seen?
- Do good work and present good, clear images.
- Digital folios are essential but consider a hard copy. These are people who sculpt after all, and like tactile objects.
- Keep a list of who you contacted, when, who you spoke to and what was said. Follow up on any advice or information.
- Be on time.
- Try and meet people at trade shows and events such as The Prosthetics Event, IMATS and other gatherings related to your area f interest.
- Remember, you can’t trick your way into work. You either have the chops or you don’t. Good work gets seen and noticed. If you need to improve, then sink your energy into that rather than aggressive campaigns of hustling.
- Keep a professional social media profile and post good work regularly.
- Be persistent and polite.
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-Stuart & Todd