You oughta be, um, near pictures?
June 29, 2007 5:34 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend loves movies, but doesn't want to make them. What careers should he investigate?

My boyfriend loves movies. Watching them, buying them, talking about them, reading about them, analyzing their technical aspects, etc etc. He's looking to go back to school, finish college, and plan a career. He thought for a while that he wanted to do film editing, but he's thinking more and more that he's more interested in working with films than on them. Some fields he's mulled over, and their potential problems:

Criticism: He doesn't feel comfortable with his writing ability, although I imagine he could overcome that with training and practice.

Teaching: If one isn't teaching production, it seems like college-level teaching generally involves publishing papers, which presents the same problems as criticism. (Also, college students/academic culture is a pain. That's me talking, not him, but I worry.)

Archiving/Preservation/Conservation: Sounds like an interesting field, but underfunded, and there may be less and less demand as everything goes digital.

Film Librarian: Attractive possibility, but is there much demand for specialized film librarians?

Do these impressions accurately reflect reality? What are we overlooking? What other jobs might there be out there that we haven't thought of? Where can we look/who can we ask for more information and ideas? His financial and location requirements are very flexible. He just needs a somewhat steady job that he'll enjoy. Does such a thing exist?
posted by doift to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Where does he live? I ask this because in Los Angeles there are a zillion different types of jobs that support the movie industry directly or indirectly, but there might not be so many if he lives in Kansas or something...
posted by miss lynnster at 5:55 PM on June 29, 2007

He's planning on moving soon and where he moves will depend, in part, on where he can get the best education and connections for whatever he decides to do. L.A. is a possibility, as is New York.
posted by doift at 5:59 PM on June 29, 2007

video store?
posted by matteo at 6:01 PM on June 29, 2007

Hm. Maybe some sort of job relating to organizing film festivals would be fun. Granted, I don't rightly know if there's a demand or even an open niche for this sort of thing, but it would fit right up his alley!

I know you said that he isn't interested in working "on" films, but are there any other interests that may overlap with his devotion to film? For example, if he's into music, he could help work on soundtracks. If he into costumes, he could do FX make-up. I think it would be awesome if he could combine multiple hobbies into a fulfilling career.

Good luck to him! I second the idea that California would probably open up lots of opportunities for sideline film work.
posted by ElectricBlue at 6:09 PM on June 29, 2007

I just finished my first year in a graduate program for moving image archiving; everything may be going digital but I don't get the feeling that there's going to be less and less demand for working with films - it's just that the medium will be different. And there's still a need for people who are knowledgeable about technical aspects of film production as well as knowledge of film history, especially in fields like restoration. So I wouldn't rule out archiving/preservation completely; he should definitely check it out further.

On preview: yeah, programming for film festivals is another great option (and also something many film archives do)
posted by estherbester at 6:15 PM on June 29, 2007

doift's boif,

Film professors in my experience aren't under tremendous pressure to publish. Perhaps this is because of the mushrooming number of enrollments in film departments, or perhaps my school promoted laziness (no friday classes in Film and Digital Media, no classes before 10) I dunno. They do publish, but the workload was always the bigger complaint.

I would absolutely recommend pursuing a BA in film, film theory, whatever they call it where you go. (come to UCSC!) That will be the experience you need to pick your ideal career. Classes will teach you about the art, craft and history of the medium, and many things will reveal themselves to you. You may decide to be a personal documentarian, maybe in casting, or location scouting or adaptations or sitcom writing or sound mixing... there are many paths, and each is begun either by coincidence or inspiration!!

Me: I'm shooting for academia. It's hard to get into I suppose, but so are many of the good jobs in "the industry," after all.

Wouldn't he love to find some interesting trope in the media and go research it himself? That is grad school in the arts. You can always bail out of film study and teach English or something. That's my rock bottom plan, and it leaves plenty of time for movies at night!

Getting a job "in the industry" is no harder after your BA than before, unless it's on camera of course. But living in LA is, imo, a high price to pay for love of cinema. Don't drown yourself in that culture before you have a degree and some clout, is my crusty advice.

If you don't write for fun now, you should start. Blog about movies, and find your voice. Find a movie club, or a Guerrilla Drive-In, or start one. Pick up some film theory books, or criticism. I hope you get bitten like I have!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:38 PM on June 29, 2007

A bit random here, but. I used to know a telecine colourist. It struck me as a nifty job -- interesting film to work on, interesting people to work with (when you weren't working alone), flexible hours, pretty fantastic pay. He had a degree in TV, but that was by no means standard in the field.
posted by kmennie at 6:59 PM on June 29, 2007

posted by rob511 at 7:23 PM on June 29, 2007

Is he interested in community work, or youth work? There are plenty of youth media organizations that he could get involved with in some fashion.
posted by divabat at 7:45 PM on June 29, 2007

I'd say criticism is the best way to go, given your description of his interests. You get to watch films, talk about them and analyze their technical specifics. If he's not comfortable with his writing, the only way to work on that is to write.

Is he photogenic? Perhaps he could try his hand at brief movie reviews in front of a webcam. Watch youtube for people who have been doing that before him and then determine what works, what doesn't, and go from there.

There's not a lot of money in film critique tho, except for a select few. He has to produce some kind of product in order to (maybe) generate revenue, and writing is pretty much it, if he's not actually going to make films himself. Whether it's for commercial publishing, or academia, writing papers is product.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:56 PM on June 29, 2007

he's more interested in working with films than on them

You mention a bunch of academic-type jobs, but those aren't the only jobs working "with" films. Maybe he doesn't want to make them hands-on, but does he want to work with people who make them? You don't mention anything along those lines, but just for a start:

* casting director
* location scout
* poster designer
* booker
* tie-in licensing
* theatre manager
* regional/municipal film commissioner

And of course the last ten years have seen an absolute explosion in the number of jobs in special effects, especially computer-generated. Those are very much like being a software developer, but probably more fun than putting together a transaction server.

If it weren't "movies", what would he do with his life? Try to match that with the movie biz. There may be a way to make the square peg fit the round hole.
posted by dhartung at 9:50 PM on June 29, 2007

I ran into a couple assistant directors at a party earlier this week (I had no idea what an AD did before this). They're basically project managers and though they knew film forwards and backwards, neither could act or direct a film, they just read scripts and guessed how much stuff would cost, and then help keep films on track by keeping everything in line.

If he's got some organization skill and people skills, an AD sounds like a good non-creative role for someone that loves movies.
posted by mathowie at 10:18 PM on June 29, 2007

Thanks for all the thoughts, folks, I'm going to be handing out "best answer"s like candy in a minute.

So it's pretty much confirmed that a decent undergraduate film program is the best way to go forward exploring the possibilities. Which I know is kind of obvious, but getting different perspectives early is always helpful, so he doesn't go in artificially limiting his options.

estherbester, are you in the UCLA program? I actually considered that program myself before I decided to go a completely different direction. Would it be ok if my boyfriend e-mailed you to ask some questions about the archiving end of things?
posted by doift at 8:38 PM on June 30, 2007

He should make a no-budget 30-second movie. Either the bug will bite him or it won't. If it does, you won't be able to keep him away from it.

If it doesn't, then you can steer him away from production and post. If you don't love those jobs (like AD or editor) they can be a real grind.

So if he hates the process of making the 30-second video, he should look into academia, or possibly development. Although many would argue that D-folks should be filmmakers, some of the best development execs are well-read analysts who love to figure out what needs to be fixed.

Caveat: The development business is highly competitive, because the road leads to producership, or executive stripes.
posted by ScarletPumpernickel at 4:06 PM on July 2, 2007

doift: Yeah, that's the program I'm in, and I might add here that I chose it because I love film but didn't want to study critical theory/film criticism (I hate writing papers, and I'm not interested in teaching). Also, I'd originally considered becoming a librarian before I found this program. Anyway, your boyfriend is more than welcome to email me with questions (address in profile).
posted by estherbester at 10:23 PM on July 2, 2007

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