While there are plenty of things that need doing on set, breaking into the UK film industry will be your first challenge - explore the range of roles that come together to make a feature film
Career opportunities in film
This is a notoriously competitive industry to get into. Many film jobs aren't advertised in the traditional sense, qualifications aren't as important as experience and film graduate schemes aren't readily available either.
Instead, you'll need to be proactive in contacting film production companies and studios through speculative applications to enquire about any vacancies. Even then, you'll find that structured entry-level programmes such as film internships are scarce.
Graduates may be able to secure a week or two of film work experience as a runner, but you'll need to grasp the opportunity by impressing the film crew with your skills and by turning your hand to anything asked of you in order to land a contract for the next shoot.
If you didn't go to film school or study the subject at university, you can develop your filmmaking skills by working on student or local productions. There are plenty of resources online to learn about screenwriting, or you could join likeminded individuals in making a short film through relevant social media groups.
Despite the fact that careers in film can be incredibly rewarding, they typically come with a low level of job security as you'll usually be hired on a film-by-film basis. Wages, working hours and locations vary, depending on the size of the production you're working on and the level of funding behind it.
Also, the majority of film set jobs are filled by freelance workers, so it's up to you to show dedication to the craft and make a name for yourself.
Read about some of the most common filmmaking occupations and explore those best suited to your talents and aspirations.
The most popular of all film industry jobs and crucial to the completion of any film, directors are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the creative process and bringing them together.
This involves managing budgets, holding meetings with all departments at the planning, execution and post-production stages of filming, and concisely and effectively communicating your vision for the film.
You'll need strong communication skills, a fair but firm approach to giving orders, excellent time management and the ability to problem solve under pressure.
While a degree in film production will provide you with a deeper understanding of what's involved in making a film, practical experience will help you build a network of contacts in the industry and allow you to develop your filmmaking skills.
Learn more about becoming a film director.
Director of photography
Otherwise known as cinematographers, the director of photography (DoP) will work with the film director to realise scenes in line with their visions. They manage the camera and lighting crews on a film set, make artistic and technical decisions and review footage in the post-production stage.
You'll need an in-depth knowledge of camera and lighting equipment and what will and won't work for certain shoots, an excellent eye for detail, the ability to make reasoned decisions quickly, and be prepared to both give and take direction. You'll oversee film crews, but if the director has specific intentions, you may have very little control over how a scene is shot.
To progress to this advanced position, you'll likely start in a junior role - for example, as a runner or camera assistant, where you'll gain the experience needed to direct others.
You'll oversee the creative process of a film from conception to completion, working closely with the director to make artistic and technical decisions about shooting, budgets and post-production.
A strong head for figures, excellent leadership skills and the ability to make reasoned decisions under pressure to ensure the smooth running of production are what's needed.
Progressing to this senior role as a film producer will require genuine passion and creativity, carrying out work experience and networking at any opportunity. You may have to start in a junior role, such as a runner or programme researcher, to get your foot in the door.
Take a look at what else is involved with being a film producer.
Working with raw footage in post-production to compile an end result that's suitable for release, a film editor will often work closely with the director to ensure their work is in line with the director's intentions for the film.
It's no simple task - crucial, 'invisible' aspects of film, such as comedic timing, pacing and suspense, are what often elevate a production from good to outstanding quality and are the result of sharp, seamless editing. This may involve changing up the order of scenes or removing some completely.
Successful editors pay close attention to detail, bring creative flair and a passion for film to the role, and have the patience and self-motivation to experiment with editing.
To become a film editor, you'll need to build a wealth of experience working in TV and on smaller productions before progressing to editing feature-length films. You might enter the industry as a runner, trainee or second assistant, moving up the ranks to first assistant before becoming an editor in your own right.
Learn more about the role of a film editor.
In any film, good lighting is crucial to creating the right atmosphere. This is what a lighting technician brings to the production process through technical knowledge, a good level of physical fitness for lifting heavy lighting equipment as well as creative flair.
Many lighting technicians working in the film industry are already qualified electricians, while some may also have a specialist degree in a relevant subject such as lighting technology or design.
Whichever route you choose, pre-entry experience into this role is essential - whether that's through finding a job as a technician, helping on student film projects while you're studying or securing work experience with a professional.
Find out about a lighting technician's salary, working hours and more.
If you're wondering how to get into the film industry, you'll find that while the runner is the most junior position in any film production department, it's often the entry point into this career.
It's a runner's job to carry out administrative tasks and aid the smooth running of film production. Your film work will involve setting up locations for a shoot, hiring props and transporting equipment, among other tasks required by the director, actors and other members of the film crew.
As this is a varied and time-demanding role, you'll need to be resilient, enthusiastic and work diligently.
Many runners are hired by being in the right place at the right time or through their contacts rather than their qualifications and can remain in the position for a year or longer before progressing onto researcher roles.
See what else you need to know about being a runner in the film industry.
A location manager is responsible for researching, identifying and organising access to sites for film shoots. It's a demanding role, where you'll need to manage both cast and crew to ensure your stints on location are completed within the time and budget constraints.
Location managers are organised, good problem solvers and work well under high levels of pressure.
While you won't need a degree in a particular subject, those related to media or production will give you an advantage. You may also look into completing a course accredited by the industry's skills body, ScreenSkills.
Discover what you'll need to do to become a location manager.
It's the job of a sound technician to operate the equipment needed to record, mix and enhance the audio of a film. In this role you could either be working on set, liaising with producers to meet their sound requirements and monitoring the recording process, or in post-production where you'll integrate audio with visual content and create and alter sound effects.
Many film productions require a team of sound technicians in order to run smoothly, so you'll have to be an excellent communicator and good team player. You'll also need patience to work with the meticulous attention to detail and timings the role requires.
You don't need a degree to become a sound technician in film. However, as you'll need an in-depth understanding of the technicalities, equipment and practices the role encompasses, studying for a relevant HND or degree would be to your advantage.
Discover the full range of responsibilities a sound technician has.
As a programme researcher on a film, you'll provide support to the producers, director and writers by carrying out factual and picture research to ensure what's being shown in the film is accurate.
As well as using the internet, film archives and museum collections to carry out your research, you'll be responsible for gaining copyright clearance for the use of music and literary material in the production.
This area of work is open to all graduates, although having a degree in a relevant subject will be an advantage. You may be required to have specialist knowledge depending on the genre of the film.
Learn more about becoming a programme researcher.
Hair and make-up artists
Providing a crucial visual aspect to any film, hair stylists and make-up artists ensure the actors in a film appear authentic to the time period the film is set, its geographical location and age of the character they're playing.
This role requires a keen eye for detail as well as a broad and deep understanding of the hair and make-up industry and its history.
You'll need to be technically qualified to at least Level 2 standard in media make-up and Level 2 or 3 in hairdressing. You'll also benefit from gaining work experience wherever you can, even if this is in a salon or theatre rather than a film set.
Other film industry jobs
- Concept artist
- Music producer
- Production designer
- Sound designer
- Sound engineer
- Special effects technician
- VFX artist
Find out more
- Consider film and media apprenticeships.
- Explore graduate media jobs.
- Discover the skills you'll need to succeed in performing arts.