New adventures in hi-fi
October 3, 2007 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How do I get started down an audio/visual career path?

I am currently a technical writer with a background in both English and engineering. I have also been freelancing as a video editor for the last eight years, working with both Avid and Final Cut Pro. The freelance work is fulfilling but doesn't pay, since most local filmmakers defer payment until non-existent profits materialize. I'd like to use my admittedly varied background in service to a career involving multimedia (primarily video) work. But I'm not sure what I should be looking for. I think I'd be happy working in a company's marketing department or in events planning, but beyond those broad categories, what job title am I seeking? Where should I be looking for these jobs? My current employer has an A/V department, but it's small and prospects for growth are slim. Returning to school to specialize is probably not an option, but I'm willing to be low man on the totem pole again to learn what I need.
posted by nightengine to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are lots of companies that do corporate video that are always looking for editors. You need to be vigilant in picking freelance projects and get filmmakers to pay for experience. If these people pay for anything it should be for DPs and editors. Have you done any fast-deadline with in non-linear editing? Because you could probably get a job fast with a local television station if you looked around. I suggest calling local TV news directors and then following up with an e-mail to a site to look at short clips. Offer to work for free for six weeks (they have money) and then see about going into full time or on-call work with them.
posted by parmanparman at 1:58 PM on October 3, 2007

I'd say step 1 is to stop taking freelance gigs on contingency. After 8 years I have to think you have a decent resume in that area.
posted by rhizome at 2:20 PM on October 3, 2007

rhizome FTW...

If you have 8 years of experience, you shouldn't need to be working on spec anymore. Unless you have the shittiest reel in the world, you deserve to be getting paid for your talent and experience. Once word gets out that you're willing to work on spec, all the wannabe schmucks that float through our industry like turds in a pool will take advantage of that. Been there, done that.

Sadly, for the most part, fulltime "career" oriented positions are very, very far and few between in most cities. And many of the positions that do exist are in creatively dull, dead-end positions such as TV stations, or in high-volume, soul-sucking yet lucrative "event videography" companies (aka. wedding video). I would only suggest these avenues if you have a family you need to support and can't afford to not have a steady paycheck, hopefully with full medical benefits.

Another reason why fulltime gigs are in such short supply is that it's cheaper for companies to hire top-notch freelancers on an as-needed basis. And you, as a freelancer, can make a shitload more money than you would in a fulltime, salaried gig.

The #1 thing that matters most is your reel. Nobody cares about degrees or formal certificates of education. You get jobs based primarily on your you need to get that reel into as many hands as possible. Many companies will admittedly roundfile/play frisbee with/make a drink coaster with your reel without watching it, but the ones who do watch it will make note of you if the reel is any good.

The #2 thing that matters is networking. You simply can't get good editing/video jobs without knowing people who already have connections in the industry. I was a freelancer for 14 years before landing my current (and first) fulltime job as a finishing editor at a major post-house in my town, and that was mainly because I was friends with an editor who worked there, and told her I was looking for work. That connection got my foot in the door, but my reel cinched the deal. This is made all the more amazing considering that I am one of the most introverted, shy people you can possibly meet. If you are a social butterfly, you should have no problem.

If there are any Avid or Final Cut Usergroups that meet in your area, ALWAYS attend them. You may or may not meet any movers and shakers there that can hire you, but chances are high that you'll meet somebody who knows somebody who knows another guy whose daughter is the general manager of a post facility that is looking for freelance editors.

I don't know how old/young you are, but if you're under 32, you should try and find your local Ad2 chapter, and see if you can crash one of thier frequent social events. There you will often meet young people who are working at the coolest, largest, hippest agencies and creative companies in your town.

It should also go without saying that you should have business cards and a website with samples of your work online.
posted by melorama at 3:39 PM on October 3, 2007

With a background in writing and experience with video post, you'd probably find you were really well suited at Directing/Producing/Editing corporate videos. It can be horrible work, but at the same time if you find the right clients it can be really fun.

Getting a foot in the door could be difficult. I'd try and get a job with someone already making corporate videos, and get some practical experience in the area. It will give you an idea of what's involved, and how to make it work. If you want to go it alone later, you will know cameramen, and people in the industry and would be able to build your own client base.

As for getting a job doing the cutty stuff right away, you could look at Mandy - there are a wide variety of jobs there all over the place. You might find that with not a huge amount of commerical experience the pay is a little lacking, but if you get a good job with lots of variety it will lead to more money, or at the very least will provide great training and a good stepping stone.

I started in the commerical world with a shit-paid job as online editor at the country's biggest TV production company - within a couple of months I had credits on every channel at primetime on number one rating shows. It was hard and the pay sucked, but it was a GREAT start.
posted by sycophant at 4:42 PM on October 3, 2007

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