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How to Get Into the Film Industry Without College

by K. Danielle Edwards

If you have dreams of being on the silver screen or working behind the scenes in the film industry, you're in good company. Hundreds of colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in, or offer coursework related to, film. But if you're not college-bound or have no plans of returning to school to finish your degree, opportunity still exists to have a career in the film industry. Formal collegiate film programs focus on film history, technique, writing and more, but would-be thespians and others who aspire for careers in film can still enter the industry through other means.

Talent Above All

Aspiring actors rely most on tenacity and talent to get their foot in the door. Thousands of people move to Southern California each year to give their acting careers a shot. This may happen after spending time "earning their chops" and testing the waters in local markets through community theater and local commercial work. Others may have gone on to tour with regional theater companies and seek placement with local or regional talent agencies. Many ultimately move to Los Angeles or New York City, the largest entertainment hubs in the United States, to try to take their dreams to the next level. While talent is key, thespians who want to enter the big leagues in film, television or theater should be persistent and connected. That means, they must commit to continually seeking opportunities and auditioning for roles. Additionally, aspiring talent should network aggressively, meeting fellow actors, industry decision-makers and others who may provide solid leads or help them get discovered. They may also join professional organizations and associations for actors.

In the Director's Chair

Film directors help all the moving parts of a movie or play come together as envisioned. Their duties include selecting cast members, conducting rehearsals and guiding actors and actresses in their performances. Though stage and film directors usually earn a bachelor's degree, they may also begin in a related role in the industry, such as actor, choreographer or writer, and learn about directing in the process. In this way, some directors learn by seeing and doing, rather than by enrolling in a formal academic program. The knowledge base develops organically through experience and shadowing others already in these positions.

Producing Results

Similar to film directors, producers may earn a college degree, but doing so is not a requirement to become one. They may join the industry in entry-level roles, such as clerical assistant or key grip, and gain knowledge through exposure to and involvement in projects. Producers help to shape the strategy behind a movie, from securing funding at its inception to assuring that deadlines are met. They are like project managers in that they have budgetary responsibility and are involved in all major decisions about a production and oversee the work of the director.

Lights, Camera, Action

Film editors and camera operators capture what audiences see when they go to the movies. They are responsible for recording productions and scenes as actors, directors and producers bring a creative work to life. Though most film editors and camera operators earn a bachelor's degree, not all do. They may begin in entry-level roles, such as assistant or courier. In this way, film editors and camera operators may "pay their dues" before being granted positions of increasing responsibility and breadth.

About the Author

K. Danielle Edwards is an experienced media, public relations, marketing, journalism and communications professional whose portfolio spans daily newspapers, monthly publications, government, national corporations and other companies. Edwards has also won awards for her contributions to communications and social media.

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