Jobs in the film industry

Emma Knowles, Editor
January, 2019

Whether your creative talents lie in directing, technology, or hair and makeup, there will be a role to suit you in the film industry

Film is a competitive industry to break into - you'll need to secure work experience, network at every opportunity and work on student or local productions to develop your skills. The majority of filmmaking jobs are filled by freelance workers, so it's important to make a name for yourself.

While careers in film are incredibly rewarding, it's worth bearing in mind that they 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 funding behind it.

Film director

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 visions 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, directors of photography work with film directors 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 both give and take direction fairly. 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.

Television/film/video producer

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 will require genuine passion and creativity, carrying out work experience and networking at any opportunity. You may 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 being a television/film/video producer involves.

Film/video editor

Working with raw footage in post-production to compile an end result that's suitable for release. They'll 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/video editor.

Lighting technician

In any film, good lighting is key to creating the right atmosphere. This is what a lighting technician brings to the production process through technical knowledge and a good level of physical fitness for lifting heavy lighting equipment and 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 more about a lighting technician's salary, working hours and more.


The most junior position in any film production department, it's a runner's job to carry out administrative tasks and aid the smooth running of film production.

As a runner, your work will involve setting up locations for a shoot, hiring props and transporting equipment, among other tasks.

Runners are resilient, enthusiastic and work diligently. Many are hired through being in the right place at the right time or their contacts rather than their qualifications, and can be in the position for a year or longer before progressing onto researcher roles.

See what else being a runner involves.

Location manager

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 cast and crew to ensure your stints on location are completed within 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, Creative Skillset.

Take a look at what else you'll need to do to become a location manager.

Sound technician

It's the job of a sound technician 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 among other tasks.

Many film productions require a team of sound technicians 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. 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 will be to your advantage.

Discover the full range of responsibilities sound technicians have.

Programme researcher

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 film's subject area.

Learn more about becoming a programme researcher.

Hair and makeup artists

Providing a crucial visual aspect to any film, hair and makeup 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.

They're able to analyse a script and identify the appropriate hair and makeup needed in each scene, and keep it consistent throughout all scenes. This requires a keen eye for detail as well as a broad and deep understanding of the hair and makeup industry and its history.

They're also responsible for liaising with wig and prosthetics companies and accompanying actors to fittings.

You'll need to be technically qualified to work as a hair and makeup artist, to at least Level 2 standard in media make-up and Level 2-3 in hairdressing. You'll also benefit from gaining work experience wherever you can, whether you work in a salon or theatre.

Find out more

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