Behind-the-Scenes Careers in Show Business
Jobs in Films and TV Are Expected to Grow Through 2014
There's no business like show business. Even if you are not “talent” — by the way, it’s what you’re called, not necessarily what you have — there are a variety of ways you can get a piece of the action. The number of salary and wage jobs in television and film is expected to grow through 2014. Here’s a breakdown of what’s out there.
Two+ years of college
• Digital Design Artist/Animator — If you are creative and computer savvy you may want to try your hand as a multimedia artist or animator. In order to create amazing action sequences and mesmerizing special effects you’ll need a degree in computer animation or graphic arts to get started.
• Human Resources — Someone has to handle the paperwork for all those people! Get your foot in the door as a HR Generalist and oversee employee benefits administration, payroll and other employee paperwork. The required education and training varies because of the diversity of duties and levels of responsibility.
• On-set Medics — This job is crucial in the making of movies and television shows. In this position you will be responsible for the health and welfare of everyone, from the construction crews to the stars; you are the first medical responder if there is a problem. You may be qualified for this job if you have a background as a nurse, EMT or paramedic.
• Costume Designer — Do you think you can create signature looks and dress the stars for their roles? It’s not as easy as it looks. Start with training at a fashion design school and get involved with local theater to gain experience. Expert sewing skills will also come in handy.
• Screenwriter/Television Writer — If you have a way with words and a creative imagination, you may want to try your hand as a Hollywood storyteller. Scripts are typically written and rewritten again and again, so being able to revise an existing work is crucial. While you are honing your Oscar-winning screenplay, take courses in a liberal arts program that focuses heavily on written communications. There are also colleges and universities that offer degrees in cinema or creative writing.
• Cook/Caterer — Everyone has to eat right? Whether a shoot takes place at the studio or on location, both cast and crew enjoy the delicious meals and snacks prepared by craft services.
• Hairstylists & Make-up Artists — The show can’t go on without you. Film and TV are about creating the right characters, while print and video are about creating a look representing a period in time. And don’t forget about special effects make-up. You’ll need a portfolio to showcase your work. Formal training is a personal choice; many professionals get their start on the job. But you will probably need it for the special skills, such as creating a zombie or designing a wig.
• Miscellaneous Crew Positions — If you are good with your hands and don’t mind hard work and long hours, there could be a place for you on the crew. Carpenters, camera operators, electricians, sound engineers, Lighting technicians and just heavy lifters are important to creating sets and ensuring that they are ready when the director yells, “Action!” If you are patient, organized and have good communications skills, you might find your niche as a personal assistant.
Four+ years of college
• Marketing — With a degree in marketing, you can help to develop a blockbuster advertising plan to promote a studio’s blockbuster film. Likewise, television needs talented marketing professionals behind the scenes to create hype for both debuting and ongoing series.
• Law — Experts in legal affairs get plenty of work in the entertainment world, especially those who are well-versed in intellectual property. If you think that entertainment might be your calling, there are accredited online programs through which you can get your start.
• Accounting and Finance — Number crunchers are necessary not only to get everyone paid on time but to keep track of the (hopefully) millions of dollars that change hands on every production. Not only are there studio positions available, many of the rich and famous employ financial managers to tend to their affairs.
• Agent — The job of an agent is to keep clients employed and negotiate their deals; this includes individuals both in front of and behind the camera. Good negotiating skills and a bachelor’s degree in business are the minimum qualifications you’ll need for this difficult-to-crack profession. Many agents have additional education in law.
• Studio Teacher — If you enjoy working with kids, a position as a studio teacher may be for you. You’ll supervise/tutor young performers while they are on set working on film, television, commercial, theatre, tour and music concert productions. The requirements for becoming a studio teacher include both elementary and secondary teacher certification and the passage of a studio teacher exam.
Don’t see anything you like? Well, these positions are just the tip of the entertainment iceberg. In reality if you have a skill, chances are there is show business-related job waiting for you!
Judith Edna Earley is a freelance writer living in the Los Angeles area. She writes on a variety of topics and most recently authored The Autoimmune Beauty Book.