Top

Film and television

Media and publishing careers for graduates: film and television.

Types of job in film and television

Within film and television, there are many different job types, with many more hybrids, depending on the area or size of the organisation. Entry to these careers can be as varied as the job descriptions themselves. The following (very brief) overview sets out several of the job titles common in media. Obviously, there are many other careers within this industry, such as animator, set designer or wardrobe designer, quite apart from support industry personnel from other fields such as finance, law and administration and ancillary fields such as marketing.

Producer

Producers are the people who make it all happen by combining creative input with business know-how. The producer decides how resources will be deployed and may be instrumental in accessing funding. Some travel may be involved, and some work will be carried out on set, but much is office-based. Wherever the work takes place, the hours are long and irregular. Work is normally freelance.

Director

Directors are the creatives who plan and organise a production. They manage all aspects of a shoot and its post-production and can be involved in just about any area of production, as well as liaising with all areas of the team. This work involves incredibly long hours and can involve just about any location imaginable.

Production manager

Production managers are the ‘go-betweens’ who prepare the ground for filming to begin, preparing scripts and schedules and complying with legal requirements. This work involves the standard industry long and irregular hours and is normally freelance.

Assistant director

There is a hierarchical scale for assistant directors (1, 2 and 3), but all are involved in organisation and planning. This includes implementing the shooting schedule, providing a link between set and producer, organising actors on set and ensuring that health and safety requirements are adhered to. For the duration of shooting, much of an assistant director’s work is carried out on set, for long, long hours. Work is normally freelance, apart from work in major television companies and very large productions.

Production assistant

This is an organisational role and involves much liaison with other members of the production team. The job includes a lot of administrative work, including scheduling (staff and locations), overseeing scripts, obtaining clearances and often much more. This work is normally freelance, can involve extensive travel and always involves long, irregular hours.

Screenwriter

Screenwriters write the scripts that become television programmes and films. A significant period of time is spent rewriting these scripts for a series of drafts. Screenwriters tend to work freelance on specific commissions.

Sound technician

Sound technicians work with sound equipment and technology to record, balance and monitor (and sometimes mix) sound for radio, television and film. Work tends to be carried out within a studio and hours can be highly irregular.

Camera operator

There are several hierarchical sub-categories within this job title: clapper/loader, focus puller, camera operator. All involve the use of cameras and other equipment, video and digital technology. Obviously technical training is required. Some television/production companies retain camera operators, but most of the work is freelance.

Researcher

The title is self-explanatory: researchers collect accurate information for film, TV and radio productions. Work is often freelance and can be very specialised. General research work may provide an entry point to production in radio, television or film.

Entry requirements

A degree is not necessarily required, but can be a good place to start. Specific qualifications or training are directly related to specific departments. Leaving education and training aside, the requirements for many of the jobs in film and television disciplines are very similar:

  • The ability to work well in a team
  • People skills
  • Punctuality and reliability
  • Time management and the ability to work to deadlines
  • Availability
  • Initiative
  • Tenacity and a very thick neck!
  • A full driving licence – this has become an essential requirement for many areas.

Job applications

For all careers in film and television, recruiters are looking for one major item on CVs – experience. So include every scrap of experience you have garnered, whether it be a couple of weeks’ work experience, college productions, or broadcasting for community radio.

Obviously, CVs must be professionally presented and, even if this is not requested, should be accompanied by some material which highlights your skills in this area, even if it is only a video produced in college.

Interview processes vary, depending on the particular job. Entry-level applicants who are lucky enough to make the shortlist may be brought back to carry out some work which will highlight their skill level and how they function as part of a team.

Working life

When working in film or television, you are likely to find that the hours are long, hard and irregular. However, provided you are a member of the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), you will be well paid, though there are exceptions for low-budget productions. In these cases, crew get paid minimum rates. Depending on your skills (camera, lighting, production, direction, writing, floor management, sound engineering, set designing, web designing, etc), pay scales will reflect your grade if a union is involved; if not, experience is taken into consideration.

Obviously, the higher up the scale you work, the better the money and the more tempting the travel opportunities, but full-time employment is still difficult to come by. That’s when you become established in your chosen career. The reality for most job seekers starting out is that they will initially work for very low wages, or even for free on short-term contracts, in order to ‘get their foot in the door’.

Film and television work demands someone who is flexible time-wise. Television drama may require 12–14 hour days, six days a week for up to 12 weeks; feature film work has a similarly demanding timescale. Copywriting for radio adverts will involve short, tight 72-hour deadlines.