Wondering how to score a behind the scenes job in entertainment? This article explains how you can achieve this goal. It’s a fact that when we think about a career in entertainment, most of us envisage the more performative aspects. After all, performers are largely the face of the industry. However, that kind of position — and the often intrusive exposure that comes with it — is neither appealing nor suitable for all of us.
Thankfully, each performance on every album, movie, and TV show is the collaborative product of a team of professionals operating behind the scenes. This means that there is a rich variety of roles for those of us who want to make an impact, but not step into the limelight. As you might expect, entertainment doesn’t always have the stability of other industries — but then it doesn’t always have the same shackles, either. Many of the roles will be freelance positions, you may even have the opportunity to start your own business.
So, what types of behind-the-scenes positions could you pursue? How do you put yourself in the best position to get them? We’re going to explore a few primary career areas for you to consider, along with the common approaches to study and application.
Here’s How You Can Score a Behind the Scenes Job in Entertainment
Pulling off a huge production of any kind requires expertise in the use of some advanced equipment. Whether it’s laying dollies or operating a live lighting desk, the talents of technicians are in demand. In movies and TV shows, you’ll often see these listed on credits with some odd titles — key grip (lighting), gaffer (electrician), best boy (second in command in a technical discipline). But what’s the route into them?
There are certainly college and university courses that can help introduce you to the skills you’ll need in these positions. Cinematography and film production degrees will help you understand how to operate camera, lighting, and electrical equipment — alongside the techniques that are in demand. Similarly, music production courses can help you understand how to set up and maintain musical equipment, alongside the fine points of studio engineering.
That said, getting into the technical fields doesn’t generally depend on your educational qualifications. Experience is key. As a result, many technicians on movies and TV shows get their start contributing to lower budget independent films or theater productions.
Studio engineers cut their teeth making demos of new bands. Much of your early efforts should be applied to seeking out these small-scale opportunities. These are chances to learn from more experienced technicians and make mistakes at lower stakes. More importantly, you’ll form relationships and a reputation that will lead to the next job.
Someone has to be in charge of the circus. Without people behind the scenes who are organizational ninjas, entertainment productions would be an epic mess. These projects need people who understand how to reduce expenses in order to keep the business profitable. They need people who are able to map out the process from start to finish and ensure all the moving parts work in conjunction. This is where producers, managers, and production assistants come into play.
There are few formal paths to go down in order to start a career in production or management. For the most part, it’s a case of starting on the lowest rung and working your way up — particularly in movies and TV. It’s important to work on gaining soft skills, particularly in communication management as this is the backbone of any career as a producer.
You’ll be expected to liaise between individual crew members, departments, and outside businesses. Therefore, it’s vital that you understand the fine points of internal versus external communication and the formation of communications strategies.
While there will often be entry-level, production assistant roles advertised for each project, you should also be seeking to make contacts. Approaching producers or agencies with a straight, impersonal request for an internship or a job is generally not the right approach. Instead, lead with curiosity.
Ask questions, show a genuine interest in what they do, show you have something to offer. Ask if they’d be open to meeting for a coffee, or a chat at a film festival or convention. These steps not only help you to demonstrate your communication skills but can often turn into informal interviews.
Just because you’re not in front of a camera or behind a microphone, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have opportunities to be creative. Many behind-the-scenes positions involve putting your well-honed artistic chops into action.
In-house graphic designers can be responsible for creating everything from billboard advertisements to the new studio or company logo. Make-up artists, both traditional and special effects, are key contributors to the presentation of a movie or stage show. Without skilled foley artists creating sound effects, the action on screen would be unconvincing.
Your ability to enter into these fields is usually dependent upon a combination of your resume and portfolio. The former is obviously difficult if you have no professional experience in the field. However, it’s still important to include a clear career summary and to list the skills you have gained in previous jobs that may be of use in the position for which you’re applying. Bullet-point these elements, and keep them succinct. That said, unlike most other industries, creative entertainment employers are likely to be more interested in your portfolio than your resume.
Though it can certainly help to have professional credits, it’s not always necessary. If your portfolio demonstrates that you have the skills that studios need for their production, you’re well on your way. Definitely include personal projects, as this helps to show that you’re not just a skilled technical artist, but self-driven too.
This is becoming increasingly important in areas such as animation. During COVID-19 the animation industry is one of the few in entertainment that hasn’t been hit hard, due to its ability to continue production with remote workers. Scope out the job boards for the creative roles you’re targeting, post your images or showreel on social media, and seek out opportunities to collaborate.
Get Your Foot in the Door
Entertainment is not like most other industries. There are few formal routes into jobs — which can be both a positive and a negative. For the most part, to score a behind-the-scenes job you’ll need a mixture of luck, networking, and the ability to show you can do the work. You have little control over the luck aspect, but by putting effort into making meaningful contacts, and getting involved in projects, you can start yourself on the path to a great career.
Watch this space for updates in the Hacks category on Running Wolf’s Rant.
To stay in the loop, subscribe to our Newsletter.
Alternatively, feel free to check out our Featured Posts or scroll down to view posts related to this one.
If you live in South Africa and you're looking for a live music gig or music festival to attend, feel free to check The SA Gig Guide on our sister site (SA Music Zone).
You're also welcome to feed your brain some knowledge on our other sister site, (Interesting Facts).