5 Fast Tips to Getting More Film & Video Gigs
Updated: Oct 28, 2022
The ebb and flow of production can be an uncomfortable adjustment for film and video industry professionals. You can work yourself mad for months straight, turning down gigs because you are so busy. And then, a week off turns into five weeks off, with nothing in sight.
As a recession looms and we head towards the end of 2022, we will all most likely be experiencing this lull in film and video work. Businesses and organizations will cut back on producing promotional content and stakeholders will lean towards less risky investments (more on the state of the film industry in another post sometime in the near future).
So how can you get the few film gigs that are out there and avoid the anxiety of looking at your bank account? Here are 5 tips to help you get more video and film gigs and make connections that will last a lifetime...
1. STAY UP-TO-DATE WITH SOFTWARE AND GEAR
Technological advancements in film and video are happening at a fast pace. DSLRs are currently being replaced with mirrorless cameras, and the cell phones are on track to replace mirrorless in time. SSDs overtook hard drives in speed and durability. And now LED walls allow you to produce shoots virtually while seeing graphics in real-time, replacing green screens. Knowing which gear to use, where to get it, and the pros and cons of each helps you not only be professional and sound smart, but also helps you budget accordingly. Spend a some hours every month reading and watching reviews and instructions on the newest gear.
Software might even be more important in certain cases. Adobe Premiere Pro update? Get familiar with the latest fixes and any new processes that have been added that make your editing easier and faster! I'm loving the new Movie Magic Scheduling and Budgeting software, but I'm finding a lot of sets using Studio Binder, which combines them both, along with call sheets and script editing. Do I know them both now? YES. Final Draft and Celtx? YES. Lightroom and Photoshop? YES. Stay up to date, use those free trials and create something new for your website!
And speaking of websites...
2. UPDATE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
What's the first thing you do when someone sends you a recommendation about a new restaurant? Hotel? New band? Movie? Do you, by chance, Google it? Rightfully so, because you want more information about the recommendation. Well, the same works for producers who are crewing up. You need an updated online presence to get more gigs. People who want to hire you:
1. ... need to contact you.
2. ... want to know a little bit about you.
3. ... need to know what you specialize in.
4. ... need to know you are still available for hire and work in the city where production is happening.
Unfortunately Facebook alone just isn't going to cut it anymore. Professionals in our industries are using YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, IMDB, TikTok, and LinkedIn, in addition to having their own website. You should be proud of all the work that you do and have a place to let yourself shine. I know it may take some weekends or several days off to get every site up and running, (and trust me, I'm right there with you, still updating my sites as well)... BUT it might help you get that rare gig you've been searching for!
If you have some of these sites already, great! Just be sure to take some time on days off to update your socials with the latest info. The first thing on your site shouldn't be older than a year. And you don't have to post everything. Only highlight cool projects, upload only the best photos/videos, and make sure your bio is up to date. No need to put your rate, as you'll probably want to keep this negotiable.
BONUS TIP #1: Update the sites that get more traffic and likes first. This means that if more people are loving you on Facebook, but not so much on TikTok, post more often on FB and link your TikTok to that account whenever possible.
3. TELL EVERYONE
Despite having an online presence, not many people will send you an email saying "You're amazing. I want to work with you and I'll pay your daily rate". The truth is people are being fed more content than ever before, so there is a lot of competition for attention. The old rule was that a message had to be heard between 5 and 7 times in order for it to be remembered. Now that's changing. If you're interested in learning more about marketing, check out Kruse Control Inc.'s article "Rule of 7: How Social Media Crushes Old School Marketing".
In another post, I mention that about 95% of production jobs I receive are still through word of-mouth and personal recommendations (huge thank you to all my friends and colleagues!). It's because of these connections that I don't shy away from talking about my work to friends, meeting new people, and listening to see if I can help in anyway. Not everyone will need a producer, but letting people know that I'm here to help them, even if it's just sending a link to new software, or helping them draft contracts, is a great way to establish a genuine connection. If I can't help, I always try to offer whatever experience I have, good or bad.
So tell people what you do! Practice that pitch, be a little more extroverted if you can, share your films and reels, and show them how much you enjoy it. Chances are, if you are truly happy with what you do, it will shine through. HOWEVER, remember to listen as well and try to form an authentic professional connection.
BONUS TIP #2: Business cards don't replace connections, though they may enhance a prospect's follow-up. Think about how many business cards you've received throughout your life and how many times you've actually used them for contacting others.... You see my point? Use them sparingly. Not only is this better for the planet, but it will keep you focused on listening with intention, and force you to keep your socials updated. We are in a digital medium after all.
4. INTRODUCE YOURSELF ON SET
Some of you might be thinking "I have a fairly steady line of work, but I want to work more days / I want to move up". Every set you are on is an opportunity to learn new trade secrets and grow your network. You should always focus on doing the job at hand, but if and when there is down time, introduce yourself on set and learn crew members' positions and interest. You may find that the DIT is producing a movie of his own and needs a UPM, or the DP started out as a wedding videographer, and then learned her skills from a special online program. Get their contact info and socials, and be sure to follow up, i.e. "Are you still looking for a UPM?" or "Hey 'X', it was really cool to see you in action the other day. What was the name of that program you mentioned?".
I personally know a sound mixer who wears a black shirt with his name and company embroidered on the top right corner. Yes, it is embroidered. He wears it every time I see him on set. You might be thinking, that's corny, but personally, I think it's genius. You're reminded of his name every time you look in his direction. He stands out as a more approachable crew member, and when you start to talk to him you realize he is a fantastic person. I'm currently considering getting my own for one-off shoot days. Now you don't need to go out and print off some shirts (unless you want to), but you should consider putting the phone down and chatting with someone new during your lunch break.
When introducing yourself, be sure to say what positions you're experienced in and which ones you are looking to explore. Your fellow crew members might have a gig for you or know someone who does!
5. KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL
Professionalism is no longer just inclusive of punctuality, equipment, and dress code. It is also the way you act on set, the way you speak to people, and the ways you demonstrate that you are a team player. Professionalism should be reflected at every level, from the Executive Producer to the PA. If someone is unprofessional at the top, it will seep through the entire production and affect everyone. As the press releases more and more stories of bullying, harassments, sexual assault allegations, and accidents happening on film and TV sets, it is crucial to demonstrate to your producers that you take your job seriously if you want to book your next film or video gig.
Back when I started in this industry, it was extremely normal to be yelled at, made-fun of, picked on, and bullied, even when you were working for free. I had an AD riding me during a indie film shoot, day-in and day-out, accusing me of standing around, doing nothing. Looking back I realize he expected that I would anticipate the needs of the crew, even though I had never worked a feature shoot before. Instead of assigning me tasks, I was expected to react before he said anything. Without direction, the only job I could guess to do was to help people carry things. I quickly ended up a favorite amongst the grip department, and they adopted me as the "best boy". This shoot was run so terribly, and with no pay and no contracts, people were dropping out by day 10. I left after day 18.
I say all this because I learned a really important lesson across all the jobs I have ever held.... People may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel. There are certainly people who I know I could never work with again, and people who feel they would never choose to work with me again. I've made mistakes and acted unprofessional in my roles on set as well. It's important to address the issue, learn from mishaps, and continue to grow in your field. That's how you become a trusted source for your position. Thinking about what you say, how you talk to people, and how you act, can make a huge difference to your coworkers, especially those who are in the same boat as you.
Now this isn't an exhaustive list of all the things you can do to getting your next film or video gig, but it will certainly get you started. Like everything, practice makes perfect and taking first step towards any one of these tips is better than sitting around and waiting. Put yourself out there, stay up to date with the latest gear and software, keep it professional, pay attention to your socials, and tell people how much you love what you do!
Stefano Gonzalez is the founder and CEO of Transgress Studios LLC, a film and video production company serving the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2013, Stefano has produced an array of media including feature-length narratives, shorts, docs, promotional content, and live events. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-580-2066.