How To Have A Career In Film


Have you ever wondered what it takes to actually have a career in film? Hollywood seems far off for most of us, and films are entertainment pieces that are left for watching in the cinema or streaming on your favourite service. An actual career in film? Unlikely.

Most people think a career in film is prohibitive because the pathway is not as clear, concise and planned out as becoming an accountant or a lawyer. Nor do the jobs seem as abundant as a career in human resources or marketing or as beneficial to society as being a nurse or a doctor. No, for most of us, a career in film is off the table even if we’ve dreamed about it.

But it is a viable career path for those who want to pursue it. There are jobs to be had, money to be made and a career to pursue, should you really want to. So if you’re interested, let’s go over how to begin your career in film — what you need to do, where to look and how to proceed.

The Canadian Film Industry

The average person has no idea that the Canadian film industry is not only growing but thriving. Next to Hollywood (in Los Angeles) and New York City, Vancouver and Toronto both place on top of the film hub list.

Often referred to as Hollywood North, Vancouver is the biggest film city in Canada, having surpassed Toronto in the 2016/2017 season. Some of its current credits include Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle and the CW’s Riverdale and The 100. Toronto was the filming location for big pictures including American Psycho (2000), Room (2015) and even Good Will Hunting (1998). According to the Calgary Film Centre, Alberta’s film industry actually has more Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy wins than any other Canadian province, with credits for The Revenant, Brokeback Mountain, Fargo and Interstellar.

Needless to say, you don’t have to be in Hollywood to be in the film industry anymore. In fact, Vancouver is currently being ranked as the second-best place to start your career in film in North America with its bustling sets and thriving industry.

Roles in Film

You’re probably familiar with a few of the more major roles in film. Think director, actor or writer, but when it comes to film, there are many, many varying job titles. So before we figure out how to make a career in film, let’s figure out what you can do.

  • A producer runs the entire film from start to finish, they run the production (in television this role may be called the Showrunner).
  • A director is tasked with overseeing the actual filming and assembly of the film.
  • The performers make up the cast of the film and include actors and background performers. These are the people you see on the screen.
  • A film’s editor organizes the various scenes into a continual sequence.
  • A production designer takes everyone’s ideas from the page to a visual representation through the use of storyboarding.
  • The writer (or in some cases the writing team) writes the actual script.
  • The music supervisor oversees the music of the film, typically they are involved in post-production.
  • The cinematographer or director of photography is tasked with capturing the magic on film.
  • A film’s set including the buildings, settings, landscapes and interiors are all designed by the art director.
  • A costume designer designs the costumes that the performers wear on screen to help tell the story.
  • While these are some of the major roles in a film, they are by no means all of them nor are they necessarily the entry-level jobs. But when it comes to designing your future career in film, it helps to have an idea of where you want to go before you structure the actual path.

    Entry Level Jobs in Film

    You’re unlikely to start your career off at the top as a director, producer or even lead actor unless, of course, you’re creating your own film. You will more likely than not start off as a Production Assistant. Each province (and it’s respective unions) have different requirements for being on a film set.

    British Columbia

  • Motion Picture Industry Orientation Course through Creative BC — this course is two days long and is $170
  • Set Etiquette and Protocol course through I.A.T.S.E. — This course is half a day and costs around $50.
  • Film Production Assistant Workshop through the Directors Guild of Alberta — This course takes about a day and costs $99.
  • Flag Training course — a few hours for $60.
  • Ontario

  • Set PA Fundamentals through the Directors Guild of Canada, Ontario Council
  • Workers Health and Safety
  • WHMIS 2015 (GHS) compliant course
  • First Aid Training
  • All of the requirements are specified on their membership page.

    While your training is useful, getting a job is the most important part. Creative BC has some great resources on finding work in the film industry. The bottom line is, you need to get your information to the people that hire. Visit local production offices (in person) and hand them a resume, reach out and contact people explaining that you’re looking for an entry-level job in film. Networking is key in any industry and that’s no exception here!

    Film is not your typical job. In fact, people in the industry often tout it as a lifestyle. The hours are typically longer than your 9-to-5 and the job isn’t as stable as compared to others.

    However, the Film industry is a very unique place to be, and certain common principles apply: be enthusiastic, punctual, creative and hard-working, and you can make a real career out of it!