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Find A Career in Film Outside of Hollywood

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Teen filming skateboarder doing a kickflip on a halfpipe.

Thinking about a job in video or film production, but not sure what career options are open to you? Well, here’s a short exercise that might help you answer that question.

Make a list of every type of motion imagery you saw, on any screen, device or visual display, live or recorded, from the time you awoke yesterday morning to the time you went to sleep last night. Start with the devices, then add categories and what you watched. Include everything you can remember – from your smartphone to the movie theater and everything in between (gas pump video, electronic games, billboards, everything). You may need more than a couple of minutes.

Now, imagine what your day would have been like if you had gone that entire time without looking at one single video screen or visual display on any device or media delivery system. Do you think it’s possible to do that? And even if you could, would you have been be able to function normally?

I’m betting your answers are short: “No, and No.” Video is an integral part of our lives; it’s not going away. Here’s why:

  • 90 percent of information the brain absorbs is visual, according to the Visual Storytelling Institute, a trade and training association.
  • Video will account for 82 percent of all internet traffic by 2021, says a Cisco white paper.
  • 60 percent of U.S. businesses say they spend more than a quarter of their marketing budget on video; 64 percent of those surveyed said they create video content in-house, according to a study reported in Forbes.
  • Streaming media and subscription services now reach more subscribers than cable TV companies, according to a June 2017 Fortune article.

Virtually every business and industry that makes, sells or provides goods or services is using video.

Innovative digital and visual technologies are opening up new ways to create and deliver content in entertainment and the arts, science, medicine, education, research and just about every other sector of our society.

Somebody has to create that content.

Although your interest in video production may have been influenced by movies and television, the reality of building a career in big-time entertainment is daunting and often discouraging. Production jobs are project-based, and competition is fierce. And when a project ends, everyone is back in the job market. So while there are opportunities in entertainment, it’s difficult to break in, the path to success is challenging, and career stability is tenuous at best.

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Meanwhile, the total number of people employed in the entertainment industry pales in comparison to the number working in video production in other industries.

There are many other options that will give you a chance to work in any phase of production: creative, pre-production, production or post-production. Many of the core production roles in visual media are essentially the same as in entertainment: writer, producer, director, cameraperson, lighting, sound, editing and so on. So if you want a career in video production, and would like the opportunity to try different roles, consider, for example, working in corporate video.

What is “corporate” video?

“Corporate video” is a generic term for all forms of visual media created by companies to communicate directly to employees and/or to select external audiences. Generally it does not include customer-facing marketing communications like commercials, print advertising, promotional events or brand-marketing campaigns, which are traditionally produced by advertising or public relations agencies for a fee.

Corporate video offers more production opportunities than any other sector of the production industry. There are as many as 30 to 35 types of internal or external corporate video, ranging from short website messages to full-scale documentaries to streaming live events, according to Gydes.com, a video marketing consulting site. Internal video is used for orientation, human resources programs, policy announcements, training, product information, research, meetings, financial and business reports and more.

External videos are created for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) audiences for marketing and sales, product launches, trade shows and exhibits, user groups, recruiting, websites, community relations and other selected audiences. Some companies have even begun creating, producing and distributing sponsored entertainment videos of their own to attract potential clients.

In recent years, as the cost of high-quality cameras and editing software has come down, many corporations have opted to develop their own internal production capabilities and studio facilities and to hire their own production staffs. Access to more affordable equipment has also led to the growth of smaller independent production companies, many specializing in producing video directly for corporate clients. The increase in the use of video has also created more job opportunities for freelance creative and technical people.

Where to start

As you consider a career in production, find out as much as you can about the different roles. Watch the production credits at the end of a program or film. Make a list of the different job functions and browse the internet for basic descriptions. There are lots of sites to explore on line, of course. Production companies explain what they do, developers of editing software describe new functionality, industry and trade publications feature the latest technical and production trends.

It’s important to become familiar enough with an industry to help understand what you’re best-suited for. But nothing beats hands-on experience. Volunteer at your local cable television station. If your school has its own television station or studio, take advantage of it. Research your own community to find local professional associations or schools that offer classes. Contact a local production company, explain that you’re considering a career in production, and ask for an “educational” interview. And of course, use your smartphone, video camera and computer to create your own mini-productions.

No experience is wasted. Whatever production knowledge and basic skills you learn are easily transferable to the next job.

The future

With all the transformative changes in marketing communications, there are no longer one-size-fits-all strategies. As consumers demand better content in videos, companies are allocating more of their advertising and marketing dollars to video content that can be viewed on multiple platforms. That demand will lead to more opportunities in creative and content development and in corporate video production.

And one more recommendation: If you want a career in any communications sector, not just a job, work on improving your own communication skills, including your writing skills – essential for a successful career in any industry.

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Adam Villone-profile-picture

Adam Villone is an award-winning writer, producer, director, and creative director who has made a living telling stories in broadcast and cable television, independent and documentary production, and advertising and corporate communications for many years.

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