Exploring Career Options
Your Career in Film & Video Production
About This Job
Did you know that hundreds of people can be involved in bringing your favourite content to the big, small or mobile screen? The screen industries are big business in Canada, providing a huge array of career paths to explore and consider. Whether you explore film and TV, corporate video, advertising, gaming, digital content creation, animation or VFX – there’s something for everyone.
If you are interested in working in film & TV projects, it may help to think of the timeline as roughly broken down into 4 phases – Development, Pre-Production & Production, Post-Production and Distribution – and then learn more about what goes into these stages and the job opportunities available in each. While we have all heard of leadership roles such as Writer, Producer, Director, Actor, these are far from the only creative positions available. Roles in Development may encompass Development Executive, Literary Agent, Broadcast Executives and Business Affairs professionals. Jobs in Pre-Production & Production include specialists in their crafts, such as Cinematographer, Gaffer, Boom Operator, Script Supervisor and 100s more! Post-Production & VFX include Editors, Sound Designers, and VFX Coordinators. In Distribution, roles in marketing, film festival organization and PR are possible. Rewarding careers can also be found in support organizations to the sector such as unions, rental houses, training organizations and financing bodies.
Of course, the process of bringing content to the screen varies depending on the budget and format of the project. Alternatively, you may be interested in trying out the different work environments, schedules and challenges of making video content in adjacent industries such as advertising, interactive digital media, gaming, animation or corporate video production.
With the multitude of career paths available in the screen industries, it helps to first consider your location and what lifestyle, practical needs, values, interests, creative or technical skills you currently have and then research pathways that may be a fit for you.
A Career in Film & Video Production
Examples of Entry-Level Roles
There is no one way into the screen industries, but there are some common entry-level roles to look out for. This is not a comprehensive list, and the terminology of job titles is not always fixed, so searching job boards and networking groups using keywords such as – ‘Assistant’, ‘Coordinator’, ‘Junior’ – can often provide clues as to the seniority of the roles out there. We recommend supplementing this overview with more detailed research based on your area of interest and location in Canada.
Production Assistant (or PA): An entry-level crew position and a common route into the screen industries. There can be different types of PA roles, e.g., Office PA; Set PA; COVID PA; Post-Production PA, etc. Duties range depending on the type of PA role, location and project. Example duties may be – responding to different production requests; fielding calls and emails; booking travel; providing transport to cast and crew; picking up or delivering items, and more.
Executive Assistant: Administrative roles that provide support to executive-level professionals (e.g., Producers, Agents, Broadcast Executives, Advertising Executives, etc.). As Executive Assistant and Office Manager/Receptionist roles all liaise with multiple departments, these can be great stepping-stone roles to other areas of interest (e.g., Business Affairs, Development, Account Management, etc.). Duties may include – booking meetings; fielding calls and emails; booking travel arrangements; database management; project or industry research, and more.
Background Performer: Background performers are the non-speaking actors who are included in a scene to create realism. You probably know them as “extras.” They’re part of the atmosphere and ambience: patrons in a café, passers-by in a street, attendees at a funeral, etc. (Source: InFocus Film School). A formal background in acting or film is not required, and this is a great way to learn more about how a set runs.
Researcher: Researchers are mostly freelance roles available in unscripted TV. Researchers find the people, the places, the facts, figures and stories that are at the heart of every TV show. In other words, the content (Source: ScreenSkills). Research duties may include – background checks; interviewing potential cast members; sourcing props and locations, and more.
Marketing Assistant: Marketing Assistants do anything that’s needed to ensure the success of a campaign to market a project; whether that’s scheduling tweets or ordering in lunch for meetings (Source: ScreenSkills). Transferable communication skills and interests can also be used in Communications, Social Media, and Community Engagement entry-level roles. Duties may include – social media strategy and engagement; audience research; proofreading copy; liaising with other departments; fielding emails and calls, and more.
While required technical skills will vary depending on the role (and will evolve with new technologies), essential soft skills are always in demand:
- Effective Communication
- Problem Solving
- Relationship Building
- Time Management
- Critical Thinking
The work environment varies depending on the role:
- Roles in development and distribution, for example, are often based in offices, requiring minimal physical exertion and little exposure to hazardous working conditions
- ‘On set’ roles in production are often freelance positions, require some physical exertion, often mandate long working hours, travel may be required (a driver’s license can be useful) and there is some exposure to hazardous working conditions.
Training & Professional Development
Professionals in the screen industries come from a wide range of educational backgrounds and training; some have post-secondary degrees, some have certifications, others learned entirely ‘on the job’. Proficiency in a certain software or technical ability may be needed to work in some departments. It is always recommended to research the requirements by browsing job postings and asking advice of industry professionals in your area of interest.
If you are interested in further training, there are many organizations that offer film, TV or advertising industry education – from universities to art centres and non-profits, anything from a four-year degree to a one-day workshop. To learn if these are a good fit for your needs – do your research by reviewing testimonials from current and past participants; look at the credits and experience of the instructors; research alumni career paths and get an employer’s perspective from professionals in your field.
As your career progresses, you may be interested in exploring unions or guilds that provide tangible benefits to their membership and, often, access to further professional development and a community of peers.
Job Search Tips - Where to Focus Your Time
- Meet with a TFS Career Services Advisor
- Join Facebook Groups and online communities to make connections, such as:
- I need a producer/ fixer/ crew – Canada edition
- InkCanada (screenwriting)
- Women Drawn Together (Kids media) and more…
- Request informational interviews
- Research mentorship opportunities and career accelerators through organizations such as:
- Attend or watch community networking events, film festivals, panel events, Q&As, such as:
- Writers Talking TV c/o WGC events listings
- Local festivals such as TIFF, VIFF and more…
- Join a professional association, such as:
- Learn about career pathways, what different roles entail and salary data (Union rates are also available, by region/role, online)
- Learn about industry trends via free newsletters and ‘trade’ magazines (Realscreen, Playback, Kidscreen, Hollywood Reporter, AdWeek etc.)
- Build a strong resume
- Build your reel/ portfolio
- Job Boards:
- Learn more about film unions and guilds in your region, such as: