CareerFilter: How do I find one?
June 17, 2006 11:34 AM   Subscribe

In May, I graduated from university. Help me figure out what to do with/for my working life!

Okay, I know this is a common trope on AskMe, but this question has a few unique wrinkles, so please bear with me.

The story so far: My degree is in film studies, concentration in Computing in the Arts (more or less a minor in computer science with an emphasis on algorithms and techniques for creating "art"). In addition, I took almost enough coursework to qualify for an East Asian Studies minor, including three semesters of Japanese language. I directed/produced/photographed/edited three films while in school, and assisted on several others. I've worked on student theater, as a technician and an actor. This experience, in addition to raw technical skills, has given me a pretty good skillset in terms of managing and being a part of big, high-stakes projects with exacting quality standards.

To sum it up in bulletpoints:
-strong technical skills in digital video/audio pre/post/production
-thorough knowledge of photoshop, final cut pro, after effects, protools, Digital Performer
-excellent written comunications skills; strong verbal
-knowledge of audio/video production procedures
-competent programming in Java plus ability and willingness to self-train
-competent in web design, aesthetically and technically (XHTML, CSS, etc)
-baseline, hobbyist level of experience with electronics, microcontrollers in particular. Not ECE level at all.
-general creative/artistic ability.

-lack of formal computer science training
-relatively little long-term experience

So now I'm trying to figure out what to do with this skillset, career-wise. My first round of applications went to media companies (TV networks, independent content producers, etc) but most people are looking for 5+ years of experience in production, and very few people are hiring entry-level. I'm not wedded to that industry, though -- I'd like to find something where I get to use what I know about tech to solve problems, more or less. Artistic potential is a plus, but I haven't got a solid portfolio to show for non-video/film media at the moment, so I realize a lot of creative jobs are off-limits on that basis.

So the actual question is: where do I take this? I'm most interested in hearing from people who've started with a similar skillset and taken it somewhere rewarding, career-wise (grumblebee, I'm looking squarely at you, if you're willing..) who might know where to go for entry-level work that'll be useful experience later. I'm not opposed to investing in additional training to get to a really satisfying career, but I'd rather not completely retrain, and I still need a short-term plan that hopefully doesn't involve retail.

I'm also interested left-field suggestions regarding non-media industries my skills might be useful in. For example, one thing that came up recently was webcasting/podcasting support, which I think is definitely within my capabilities if I can find an employer who needs it done.

Also, if anyone has suggestions re: career counselling services, other non-scam things I might look into for help focusing all this mental clutter into a career objective, I'd appreciate it.
posted by Alterscape to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like film production is a great place for you to go. Don't be proud: get a job as a production runner or in the mailroom and work up. Or intern. We all did it!

Your single biggest advantage right now is low overhead. This means you can afford to start at the bottom, which is exactly the right place.

Depending on whether you'd rather work on set or in a room, you could try mailing 1st ADs and editors offering to work as an assistant for a couple of weeks, or asking to job-shadow them.

The key thing is to get some real-world experience at this point. It doesn't matter if it turns out to be in the wrong area... it will lead you to the right area.

Your many abilities will help you stand out from the crowd in whatever job you end up doing. If you are the guy who can fix the network, or knock up a web page, or greet the Japanese producer, you will win big and become indispensible.

Personally, out of college, I started by trying to be a photographer, then got a job as a production assistant, then a researcher, then an associate producer, then a producer/director, then a series producer, then an executive, then I quite to write screenplays, and now I'm trying to leverage back into directing features.

If I was doing it again today I would probably start working as a 3rd AD or Camera Assistant, or maybe Asst. Editor.

(I did this although I had excellent job opportunities in computing... a good decision I think in the end).
posted by unSane at 12:49 PM on June 17, 2006

A good friend of mine with a very similar skill set went to work for the Shedd aquarium in their development department (the interactive kiosks and such). Perhaps you could look for something similar.

i know that his job requires him to use editing software (Avid express, i believe), After Effects, Photoshop, as well as development tools like Flash and the like.

Places like museums, zoos and aquariums are increasingly turning to technology to improve their visitors experience. Because they have constantly changing exhibits, you would have some degree of job security as well.
posted by quin at 12:49 PM on June 17, 2006

try internships that will lead to a job?
posted by k8t at 1:11 PM on June 17, 2006

Game development? Not the programming, necessarily, but the production.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:34 PM on June 17, 2006

Sorry to post again but I do think interning is the way to go. I used to be responsible for selecting interns at a large production company and although we were deluged with applications, very few of them were compelling. Anyone compelling, we interned, and if they were any good, we generally hired them. They usually rose very quickly to become producers/directors/whatever.

The two things that counted when I selected interns/runners were the letter and the resume. Then the phone call. By the time we interviewed you had to work really hard for us not to take you on for a couple of weeks.

We were only interested in people who were ambitious and able enough that we thought they could go places within the company. We were always interested in people who had skillsets outside our own area of expertise. We could train people in film-making: what was really useful to us were skills we couldn't train them in (eg web design, Asian languages etc). Very often, even if we didn't hire them, we would recommend them on to other people. I can't think of anyone who was any good who didn't go on to have a career.

A lot of places do paid internships now. It's not much but it's a sign of respect.

The letter is everything, really. Know WHO you're writing to and WHY they might be interested in you. Tell the why you want to work with THEM in particular. Flattery of the most shameless kind is essential and almost irresistible.

And for Christ's sake spell check.
posted by unSane at 1:56 PM on June 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you for the feedback, unSane. If I may, I'd like to ask a followup:

How do you reccomend finding contact information for ADs and others who may be willing to give me a shot at an intern position? I guess I sort of expected that by the time I finished uni I'd know at least a few people I could network with to find out who's looking for interns, but that isn't turning out to be the case. I'm all over CraigsList, but there seems to be very little out there. Is the need/desire for interns pervasive enough that mailing out a few unsolicited resumes and coverletters to people/companies I'm interested in might get a response? If so, where do I look to find where to send them?

Also: any advice on surviving the first few months of uncertain work, etc? Right now I'm located in Washington, DC but I'll probably have to relocate to Toronto or LA for a shot at any of this.. any advice on surviving in these high-cost-of-living areas while PAing/running, possibly on low or no pay?
posted by Alterscape at 4:28 PM on June 17, 2006

Have you spoken to your department? Professors?

Those are people that may be able to help you...
posted by k8t at 4:50 PM on June 17, 2006

My partner is a post production editor and sound designer. So this will center around post work mostly and what I've observed as I've watched his career develop over the last decade.

He started right out of school interning at a post house. He had been working as a photog assistant through college and knew some local freelance editors, photographers, ad people and writers who knew about different possible internships and openings around town. So network where you can. Look in post/production trade mags for lists of companies and contacts. Go to professional meetings.

Over the years he worked his way up. It was rough and difficult. In those early years he worked a lot. The people that seemed to succeed had a tireless positive attitude and work ethic in addition to their creative ability. The ones that didn't - seemed to resent doing the boring edit jobs, and /or didn't work their asses off on those boring jobs.

So be open to anything and everything. Your attitude is crucial.

Know that whatever town you're in, many in the field know each other and they all talk, especially about young people that interview and do weird things. One guy was about to be hired for an entry level assistant position for a small agency. The agency had a last minute deadline change that made everything else get put on hold while they worked all night through a weekend to finish an important job. The guy didn't get his call and instead left a message on the company answering machine about how pissed he was and what a piss-ant small company they were... yadda yadda yadda. They were going to offer him a job. Instead someone emailed his message everywhere around town all month.

I'm not even in the field and I hear about the weird stuff. So be professional. Other people apply for edit jobs and overstate how well they can edit. Then submit a reel with protools tutorial stuff all over it. lists film and TV production jobs. Student films are on there too - usually for no or little pay but good for learning experiences and resume building material.

Be persistent and eventually you get where you want to be or figure out a better route along the way. Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 5:34 PM on June 17, 2006

Unsolicited letters is exactly what you need to do for intern positions.

To find the contact details for editors, 1st ADs, production companies and so on, consult any one of the hundreds of production guides that are available, eg. Kemps or Mandy.

Also, look for movies/TV shows that are/were shot in your area and then use to find out who worked on it. Then contact them directly.

You do NOT need to relocate to find your first job, although it may help. Most large cities have a substantial production community and I strongly recommend staying put until you have at least some experience.
posted by unSane at 7:09 PM on June 17, 2006

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