12 tips to start a career in video production

© Jakob Owens

If you are looking to start a career in video production, there are so many options available to you. For example, you could become a movie camera operator, director of photography, video editor, or even a film director. You could choose to work in Hollywood films, television, or even work for yourself and create your own videos.

But video production is a competitive industry, and there are countless skilled individuals at the top of their game working within it. If you are going to succeed, you need to become a master of your craft and equip yourself with all the tools and knowledge required to climb the ladder.

To help you with your professional aspirations, here are 12 tips for starting a career in video production.

Identify your goals

Your first step is identifying exactly what you want from your career in video production. What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to shoot and direct big budget movies? Or perhaps you’d rather be involved in arthouse cinema and independent film. Maybe you’d rather go down the route of scientific research and documentary shooting, or one day establishing your own video production company. There are many different paths you can take in this industry, it’s a good idea to have some clarity on your objectives. This will give you some guidance as you climb the ladder and will help you to make the right decisions early on.

Learn about the industry

Do your research on the film industry early on, so you can learn as much as possible about it before building your career. Take some time to learn the lingo and terminology, so you can have conversations with important people when the time comes. Read books about the industry and brush up on everything that is required to get ahead in film and TV production. If it is truly your passion and your calling, video should become your life and you should devote a significant portion of your free time to boosting your knowledge and your skills.

Watch films

One of the best ways to hone your skills as a videographer is to watch other films. This will allow you to study the techniques and tricks used by experts in the film industry to create emotion and tell stories. Try to be as diverse as possible in your media consumption, particularly if you’re not 100% sure which avenue you want to go down. Watch everything you can get your hands on, from Hollywood blockbusters to independent art house cinema. Make a note of techniques and patterns you notice, and listening to the director’s commentary or reading books about these films can help you understand why certain creative decisions were made.

Study the theory

When it comes to video production, there is an enormous array of techniques to get your head around. Studying the theory will make you a better videographer, and you will have more tricks up your sleeve when it comes to establishing a narrative and having an impact on an audience. Read books on film theory, watch documentaries on the subject, and attend workshops run by industry experts who can help you get your head around these complicated concepts. You should be learning about everything from camera equipment and lighting, to narrative devices and different shots.

Gain a qualification

When the time comes to apply to jobs, you will be considerably more employable if you have a relevant degree or qualification. A degree in a film or video production will stand you in good stead. You will have to spend a few years studying at university or college to obtain this, but it will give you a massive leg up into the industry as well as teaching you everything you need to know about your craft. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to obtain a college degree, there are other options. There are plenty of other qualifications and awards you can obtain in various areas of film and video production. Some of these will require face-to-face learning, while others can be achieved online.

Find a mentor

Do you know anyone who works in the film industry? Having access to an expert who has already successfully navigated the world of video production would be one the most valuable sources of advice and guidance you could have. Perhaps you have a friend or relative who works in the industry, and may have inspired your current aspirations. If so, reach out to them and ask them to share their tips for breaking into the industry. They may also have some contacts that could be of use to you. If you don’t currently know anyone, then don’t worry. Posting a request on your personal and professional social media networks may prove fruitful if any of your connections know anyone who can help you. Alternatively, look for online groups and message boards dedicated to film and video production professionals. If you look hard enough, you will be able to find someone willing to help you. Once you make it big, you can always repay the favour by helping a novice who is just about to start their journey,

Practise

The only surefire way to get better at anything is to practise, practise, practise. If you don’t already have a good quality video camera, you won’t be able to get far. You may not need to spend thousands of dollars on the most high-end product right away, but you will need one that is reliable and advanced enough to allow you to play around with different lighting, angles and compositions. Make a habit of trying to shoot something every single day, no matter how good or bad it might be. Experiment with all the tricks and techniques you’ve learned over the course of your study and try to recreate effects you’ve noticed in other films. If you need human subjects for your films, ask your friends and family to help you out.

Find work experience

Finding relevant work experience will not only make you appear more impressive to prospective employers, but it will also give you a chance to hone your skills and become better at your craft. For example, you may be able to find a gig as a wedding videographer, or shooting music videos for a local band. Use social media and local job boards to discover these opportunities, and consider posting an ad listing your skills and experience online. Getting feedback from the people who hire you will enable you to improve as a videographer and learn from your mistakes. Not to mention the fact that you can use your films as a showcase of your talents.

Create a demo reel

Once you have built up a collection of quality content that you have shot, edited, and produced, it’s a good idea to create your own demo reel. This is a short video, usually a few minutes long, that features clips and highlights from a selection of your work. Many prospective employers will ask for this as standard in their application process, but if not it is a great way to demonstrate your abilities and stand out from the crowd. Make this instantly accessible online, through your social media pages, YouTube channel, or website if you have one. You never know when an employer might stumble across it and present you with the next opportunity.

Network

Getting ahead in a career is largely down to who you know. The more contacts you have and the broader your professional network is, the better opportunities you will have for progression. But how do you grow your network if you don’t know many people in your line of work? The best thing you can do is to get out there and make as many new connections as possible. Attend industry events, film screening, workshops, and anything else that may hold opportunities. Knowing more people helps you learn more about your industry, promote yourself, and open yourself up to job vacancies and sponsorship.

Boost your CV

As well as your demo reel, you need to have a solid resume to hand. For many employers, this will be the first thing they look at when determining if a candidate is right for the role. Make sure yours contains all of your relevant experience, training, and qualifications. Anything you can do to bolster your CV with continuing professional development or impressive extracurricular activities will work in your favour.

Apply for jobs

Once you have followed all of these steps, the time has come to get out there and start applying for jobs. It is a competitive industry, and it can be difficult for those with limited experience to get a leg up. It’s likely you will have to start in a junior role, perhaps as a runner or assistant technician, before working your way up. Even if you plan to start your own business, it can help to get an insider’s view of how the industry operates before going it alone.

As long as you work hard and are committed to your goals, you will no doubt achieve your goal of a career in video production. Good luck!

film industry network members