Economy & Jobs

Film Industry Careers: Where to Begin Your Life Behind the Camera

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At one point or another, you’ve probably dreamed of joining the film industry. We all have—there’s just something about the movies that draws us in.

But if you’re serious about a film career, you may not know how to get started. After all, there’s no clear path to becoming the next Steven Spielberg. Here are some basic tips for how and where to start a career in this exciting field.

What Education Do You Need?

For many careers in the film industry, you don’t need a formal education; training for a variety of career options is on the job, rather than in the classroom.

Your first step should be assessing your skills and interests before deciding which film career you’d like to pursue. You may, of course, change your mind as you go along, but that initial assessment will at least give you a starting point.

If you’d like to attend film school for training and networking opportunities, more than 150 colleges around the country offer film studies and film production as a major.

What’s a Typical Career Path?

Though a lucky few may break into the industry through connections, most people start their film careers in low- or no-paying jobs. You get hired for low-budget films first, and then work your way up. Even more so than most careers, networking is essential, as is hard work.

“Remember the three P’s of just about any film or television career—stay passionate, persistent, and patient and you will dramatically increase your odds of succeeding in the entertainment industry,” says Phil Breman,’s television and film careers expert.

Where Should You Launch Your Career?

Though you might immediately think of Los Angeles, you can launch your career in the film industry in a number of American cities. Many states offer tax incentives to filmmakers that can significantly increase your paycheck, boosting your quality of life.

Here’s the lowdown on some film industry hot spots you might want to consider:

Los Angeles, California

Hollywood is, without a doubt, the most famous movie city in the world. Though it’s still the heart of the industry, take note that some filmmakers are leaving California because of unfriendly tax policies.

Portland, Oregon

This funky city might not come to mind when you think of the movies, but it’s grown more popular in recent years. One benefit? Savings. The state offers 20 percent off Oregon-based goods and services used in production, as well as a 10 percent rebate for Oregon-based payroll.

Atlanta, Georgia

This southern metropolis’ film industry is booming. One reason is its world-class airport, which offers easy access to both coasts. Another reason is the state’s attractive 20–30 percent tax credit on qualified productions. Atlanta itself boasts more than 23,000 jobs in film and TV, with salaries averaging around $84,000.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

This diverse city offers a range of landscapes and a 25–30 percent tax credit on New Mexico-based production expenses, including pay for resident crew. Did we mention that the city has 310 days of sunshine per year?

New York, New York

Not only is New York one of the greatest cities in the world, but its home state also offers one of the most generous tax credit programs in the country: 30 percent off production and post-production expenses, and an additional 5 percent for filming outside the metropolitan area.

Wherever you decide to break into the film industry, bring a willingness to work long, hard hours, and hold onto your passions as you work toward achieving your dream.