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The film industry can be difficult to break into, however, with the guidance of skilled educators, the pressure of learning and navigating opportunities can be alleviated greatly.

There is a range of ways opportunities can be created, whether it be taking on projects to gain industry experience, participating in internships, or thinking outside the box to solve a problem.

Throughout this piece, I want to explore two of the main areas I have found helpful for entry-level filmmakers looking to break into the industry:

  • Networking
  • Adaptability

I am a Department Chair at Full Sail University where I educate students in the Film Bachelor of Science degree program. Networking and adaptability are two concepts I reiterate to my students to help create opportunities for them beyond graduation.

Networking

Networking can open doors in the industry that may have otherwise seemed impossible beforehand. Back in the early 2000s, I began offering my services on a volunteer basis for the Sundance Film Festival–the largest independent film festival in the U.S. It has granted me the opportunity to interact with and introduce my students to notable names and professionals in the industry.

Today, as a result of my willingness to network, I am the Production Supervisor for the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Directors Workshop. This invite-only summer workshop is for filmmakers at varying levels in their careers. I’ve been volunteering at the workshops for over fifteen years. In my role as Production Supervisor, I volunteer my time and talents to provide in-depth support for the next generation of filmmakers.

Additionally, I have been able to create an intersection between my work as an educator and my work at the workshops every summer. For example, throughout the years, I have been able to bring over a dozen students and graduates with me to participate in the workshop on a volunteer basis. As a result, some of the graduates who attended have been able to secure paid employment opportunities through connections they have made. This networking opportunity with high-ranking industry professionals has allowed my students to showcase their knowledge and willingness to learn.

Here are some of my key networking tips to help you create film industry opportunities:

  1. Be willing to explore additional opportunities that allow you to network with industry professionals.
  2. Seek out and attend events that professionals in the industry go to.
  3. Offer valuable input, but also be willing to learn from those around you.

Adaptability

Although adaptability has always been important in the industry, the pandemic has further emphasized the necessity to be able to work in different environments to overcome various challenges.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the film industry had to quickly pivot and adjust to stay on schedule and on budget. Although COVID-19 is an extreme example, there are challenges that filmmakers had to overcome daily. Whether it be scheduling, technology-based, budgeting issues, or any number of elements that can impact production.

It is good practice to never get complacent because the ebb and flow of the filmmaking process can at times change minute-by-minute.

At Full Sail, two of our university’s guiding principles that we reinforce with our students are to “learn and grow, always” and to “embody a spirit of innovation.” Those are guiding principles every filmmaker should embrace, as they help keep you fresh and relevant in the industry.

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Conclusion

No matter the industry, your willingness to explore and take advantage of opportunities as you seek them out helps to build your network and body of work. For example, at Full Sail, we have a career development department that hosts networking events and brings in industry employers. In addition, our university is heavily involved in the film community including associations, film festivals, and so much more.

When creating opportunities for yourself in the film industry, it is important to be open to engaging with new opportunities, and adapting when necessary. If you are diligent about your research, step outside your comfort zone and use your network–especially educators–doors will begin to open for you. And once you get your foot in the door, don’t be afraid to showcase your talents and soak in all the expert insights people are willing to share.

Resources

Below I have provided a few examples of where you can start in your research for educational and volunteer opportunities.

Full Sail University Resources

Volunteer Opportunity Resources

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