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Why You Should Work in Film

Contributed By Kenna McHugh

Just about everybody loves going to the movies, including you. If you didn't you wouldn't be reading my column. Just walking into a movie theater, buying your ticket, and finding a seat in the dimly lit auditorium excites you. And once the house lights go out and the celluloid figures begin moving across the screen, you leave your own world behind and enter a new, different, and exciting one.

And you are certainly not alone. Both in the United States and all over the world, going to the movies is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. In fact, according to the latest industry statistics, movies are attended by people in the United States close to 1.3 billion times every year, bringing $6.5 billion in annual revenues.

You recognize the actors and sometimes the director is a familiar name. Most people are accustomed to top stars like Tom Cruise or directors like Steven Spielberg. But, you probably never heard of many of the people who work behind the scenes to make that movie come alive. There are hundreds of hardworking, talented and creative people behind every actor in a film. These people include set painters, electricians, sound recordists, makeup artists, film editors, publicists, location scouts, casting directors, animators and more. And finding a job in one of these exciting fields in the film industry is exactly what my column is all about.

The Film Industry Is Exploding

Hollywood produces and/or distributes four hundred to five hundred films each year. That's a film a day. It is growing rapidly because, according to Career Guide to America's Top Industries, Americans spend billions of dollars every year to be entertained, much of it spent in the film industry. The increasing availability of cable and satellite television has spurred demand for film and videotape production of domestic and foreign television, feature film markets, home video, and informational, educational, and industrial films. In response to this demand, employment in motion picture production and distribution is projected to increase 33 percent over the 1996-2006 period, more than double the 14 percent growth projected for all industries combined.

New technology also continues to offer opportunities for the entertainment industry. As growth in the videocassette and cable television markets has slowed, satellite broadcasting and the Internet have come forward as likely new delivery systems for entertainment programming. These advances in technology should contribute to the worldwide success.

The international marketplace continues to be crucial to the success of the film industry. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reported that in 1995 its members' companies, the major filmmakers, earned nearly 42 percent of their revenues from foreign markets, up from 34 percent in 1988. There has never been a better time to seek a career in film and television. On the East Coast, CNNfn the financial network reported that, in 1997, 213 movies and 105 television shows were at least partially shot in New York City, bringing $5 billion into the metropolitan economy. Julianne Cho, director of special events at the New York Mayor's Office of Film, and Theatre and Broadcasting stated in the report, "Right now the city is running a stunning wave of production. We're in our fourth consecutive record breaking year of production."

What does all this growth in the film industry mean? It means more employment opportunities for the lower paying, less glamorous, behind-the-scenes positions, such as production assistants and set construction workers. These jobs are the runways to more responsibility and higher-paying jobs. Job growth is also expected in film reproduction and distribution, as more large studios turn to this part of the business because of video rentals and cable. In addition, many more jobs will arise by the sheer fact that this business is a high-turnover industry. Some people just do not have the tenacity to persist until they have secured themselves in a high-paying job.

There will also be an increase in the glamorous, higher paying jobs, such as actors, directors, cinematographers, camera operators, grips, screenwriters, and producers. Comparatively few will find regular work in these jobs because competition is fierce. If you have the will power and attitude, you can establish a long and productive career by hooking up with a producer or director who likes to work with the same crew over and over again. That is the key to longevity in the movie business.

It is a love of the movie business that places me in front of my computer to write this monthly column for Cyber Film School. I also want to help you break into the business. Every month that you visit this column, you will read advice from film professionals on breaking into film as well as my own insights into the business. Together we will build a stable foundation towards an everlasting career in film.

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