40 Hollywood Film Jobs: Where Do You Fit Into the Picture?
Welcome to Hollywood!
You’ve gathered all of your things, stuffed them inside of boxes, and now you’re just waiting on your big break.
Will it be in television work or film jobs?
It’s only a matter of time before you’re walking the red carpet, answering questions about your dating life (or rebutting rampant dating rumors), talking about “who you’re wearing”, and mulling over what type of speech you’ll give as you accept your big Hollywood award.
Stay with me…
So in what category will you receive your prestigious honor? What role would you play in a Hollywood production? Do you know all of the components that make up a motion picture or television show?
Chances are, you may not and that’s completely okay.
But you should know some of the most sought after TV and film jobs and even lesser known positions because it takes a lot of people to make for a magical on-screen moment.
Here are 40 Hollywood TV and film jobs you should know:
40 Hollywood Film Jobs
1) Production Assistant (PA)
PAs may be the lowest man/woman on the production totem pole, but nearly all TV and film jobs start with this position because it can expose you to nearly every other production job. PAs are essential in ensuring a production runs smoothly and handle everything from making coffee and copies to picking up equipment and helping with talent. PAs can be designated to assist on-set, in the field, or in post-production. It’s not uncommon for PAs to be even more hands on and assist with writing or editing in certain realms of reality television.
2) Associate Producer (AP)
An AP is essentially a junior producer and a producer’s right-hand; and their job duties can include both logistical and creative. An AP can conduct pre-interviews, set up shoots, assist with research, oversee PAs, pitch ideas, and even contribute to scripting in certain film jobs. On smaller productions, an AP may assist with clearances, oversee edit sessions and work directly with senior level talent, publicists, and agents.
Every movie or scripted TV show starts with a first step, and that first step is a script. The writer / screenwriter is the architect of a film, designing its characters, locations, and most importantly the plot. A writer can also spend months or years researching their source material for fictional or non-fiction based storylines. A scripted TV show writer usually works alongside other writers in a writer’s room. Typically, a Showrunner or Head Writer will collaborate with their writers to map out a full season story and various plot-points with an outline. From there, certain writers are assigned individual episodes to helm, including all dialogue. Writers for reality television script (yes, reality television utilizes writers) draft voice-over copy, host monologues and can even assist the Producer with crafting and suggesting various story beats.
4) Writer’s Assistant
The gateway into the Writer’s Room: The Writer’s Assistant. A Writer Assistant helps the Head Writer with reading and typing scripts and making sure revisions are added—line-by-line. With so many deadlines, a Writer Assistant will also takes notes, conduct research and provide all supportive materials for the main writers. (Side note: A common question is, can I pitch stories to the main writers? NO. You’re crossing a fine-line. Only pitch if asked.)
The Director is the boss on film jobs, or the foreman on the construction yard, an accurate metaphor for a set. The Director interprets the script and leads a crew on a mission to bring it to life. The Director may sometimes use storyboards to illustrate his vision and to help with the blocking of camera angles. The Director’s biggest job however, is to coach the cast in giving the best possible performance. Directors also handle the tender balancing act of managing studio expectations (read: politics) without compromising the story.
6) 1st AD (Assistant Director)
The 1st AD is the right-hand to the Director and breaks down the script into a manageable shoot schedule and helps manage the scheduling of the entire production, plus equipment needs for each day of shooting. They also work with the Director to determine the sequence of filming scenes and liaison with all other department heads to make sure the Director’s artist ambitions are met. A 1st AD can also direct background extras.
7) 2nd AD (Assistant Director)
The 2nd AD is the right-hand to the 1st AD and creates call sheets and manages schedule changes, talent and background extras. The 2nd AD also oversees the principal cast, ensuring they are camera ready (make up, wardrobe, etc.) and report on set according to the call sheet.
8) Background Extra
An actor who has a non-speaking, non-singing, non-dancing role in a production and simply performs in the background. This position can be paid or non-paid. Background extras can be that person jogging through the park, walking their dog, or an extra / “walker” on everyone’s zombie favorite, The Walking Dead.
A Television Showrunner is the man/woman responsible for the day-to-day operations on a set, including logistical and creative. A Showrunner typically also serves as Head Writer, if not writing in some capacity. The Showrunner has the difficult task of not only managing their entire creative team, but also managing the expectations of a network without compromising the execution of the show. The path to becoming a Showrunner is typically preceded by Executive Producer, Co-Executive Producer, or Writer. Shonda Rhimes and her “TGIT” ABC lineup of highly-rated Thursday night dramas represent the extraordinary heights of a gifted writer turned powerhouse Showrunner. This phenomenal feat in television garnered Rhimes the prestigious Sherry Lansing Leadership Award in 2014. Watch her empowering speech below:
There are many types of producers, including: Executive Producer, Show Producer, Producer, Consulting Producer, Field Producer and Associate Producer. A Producer is typically involved in all aspects of production from conception to picture lock. The Producer can hire key members of the crew (including the Director), contribute story and creative. In film, the Producer may also raise money, bring on investors, and find distributors.
11) Post Producer
In one facet, a Post Producer sifts through hours of raw footage or transcripts and crafts the story by creating a rough cut for an editor. A Post Producer may also assist a Showrunner or Producer with bringing a show “to time” by providing notes that preserve the best content, while also making sure other crucial elements (such as chyrons, graphics, credits, etc.) are implemented into the final cut.
12) Social Media Producer
A Social Media Producer produces content exclusively for the web, mobile or on-demand services, such as special interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, or writing and scripting original content for a production’s social media platforms. A Social Media Producer can work in tandem with the actual production or work autonomously. The main objective is to create online content that engages viewers 7-day-a-week. This type of viewing experience is becoming the new Hollywood norm in which the brand is expanded by using this “360” programming degree model. For example, a TV-based storyline could continue via online with exclusive bonus material or “web extras”. Social Media Producers can also Tweet, Facebook post, etc., in order to “engage” with the at-home viewing audience in order to increase ratings.
13) Line Producer
The Line Producer supervises budget on a film or TV show, as well as all production-related expenses. If you need to negotiate your contract, this is probably the first person you’ll interact with (and possibly the last if your deal-points are a “no-go”).
14) Production Coordinator
This position coordinates all behind-the-scenes logistics, including location scouts, renting equipment, hiring crew, coordinating talent and processing paperwork such as releases.
15) Field Producer
The Field Producer supervises and directs all shoots “on location”. This includes directing talent, choosing ideal locations/angles, writing up shoot reports, communicating with a camera crew and – most importantly – making sure a central story-line or story beat is authentically captured.
16) Production Manager
The Production Manager supervises the Production Coordinator and helps manage a production’s budget, crew hires, crew rates and other related paperwork that pertains to rental houses or contractor invoices. They are key in keeping a production on budget and often report to the Line Producer.
17) Location Manager
This person is in charge of acquiring all legal permits for filming and handles all fees as well.
18) Casting Director
The Casting Director works with the Director to choose the cast of the film based on their own knowledge and insight of who’s best suited for a role. He/She may also set up casting calls, interviews, and auditions in conjunction with their Casting Associates and Assistants.
19) Director of Photography
Many people think that the Director is actually the man/woman behind the camera, but that is not the case. This is the job of the Director of Photography or “DP”. The DP is the camera and lighting supervisor and recommends cameras and lenses. They are also in charge of the camera crew, lighting design and work with the gaffer.
The gaffer is the chief lighting technician and helps direct a lighting plan with the Director of Photography for the best possible picture. A Gaffer possess a vast knowledge of lights, lighting equipment and various techniques that can be used to achieve a certain aesthetic look. Since lighting can be intricate with many hours of set up involved, this exerts significant pressure on the lighting crew to get the job done correctly. Thus, the Gaffer is the “glue” that bonds the lighting crew together so that production runs smoothly.
A grip on television and film jobs is responsible for shaping light using a myriad of tools such as colored lighting, diffused lighting, and shadow effects. A grip can also build and maintain all equipment on-set that support cameras, as well as move equipment to a desired location.
22) Best Boy
Coined during the “pre-union” days (“Give me your best boy!”), a Best Boy is typically the lead electrician who maintains and balances the electrical load as well as manages all cabling needs.
23) Concept Artist
The concept artist creates 3D renderings of a set that helps the production designer determine how a scene will look in real-life. This includes every detail from camera angles and lighting to focal lengths and chorographical needs.
24) Production Designer
The production designer works with the Director and Producer to design everything that will be filmed on camera, making it one of the most important jobs on set. They decide and manage every visual aspect by first reading the script. The “creative framework” they design will then be incorporated into every aspect of production such as costumes, wardrobe, lighting, graphics, special effects, locations, etc. Check out this article from THR in which 5 Oscar nominated Production Designers talk discuss shooting in real-life scenarios.
25) Art Director
The Art Director is essentially the project manager of film jobs and works under the Production Designer to help facilitate their creative vision for all sets and locations. They carefully analyze the script for all props or particular items that may require lengthy times to bring to fruition. The Art Director is typically responsible for the art department budget and schedule.
26) Costume Designer
The costume designer supervises the design and assembly of all the costumes that will be worn by the cast in a theater, film or TV production to help create the atmospheric mood and enhance characterization. They also perform extensive research for accuracy and possess a vast knowledge of fashion and history of costumes. Check out the interview below with an insight interview with Mad Men Costume Designer Janie Bryant
27) Wardrobe Assistant
A Wardrobe Assistant helps make, find, and manage the clothing of costumes. They are extremely organized and have an eye for design, as well as possess stitching and sewing skills to make any repairs or alterations.
The Editor assembles the footage using the best “takes” filmed during a production and creates the scene-by-scene sequences that eventually make up an entire film or TV show. The Editor, much like the Director and Producer, contributes to a film’s pacing, tone, and also in finding the nuances that make for a compelling performance. Additionally, the Editor may incorporate special effects.
29) Assistant Editor (AE):
The Assistant Editor expedites the post-production process by essentially preparing, digitizing, and organizing all footage so that it is immediately ready for the Editor. This includes managing varying file formats, properly labeling all media, troubleshooting machines and file systems, and also exporting or delivering final outputs. An AE typically doesn’t assist with the actual creative process, but being immersed in an edit bay and watching down “cuts” is an invaluable learning experience.
A Colorist uses color to enhance, digitally alter, or manipulate certain scenes or parts of scenes for the final edit that can drastically affect the meaning and tone of a scene. Think of this position as Photoshop for film. They work closely with the Director and DP (Director of Photography) to balance the film’s color palette for underexposure or overexposure, or even cheating day for night (and vice versa). A Colorist can also provide digital “touch ups” during an actor’s close up shots to color unsightly blemishes.
The composer writes the original music or score that drives a film or TV show, which adds yet another textured and evocative layer that helps trigger your emotional responses to what you see unfold on screen. The Composer also supervises the recording process of the film. Click here to read a no-holds-barred roundtable discussion of being a composer in film.
32) Audio Sweetener
The Audio Sweetener balances all levels of audio for artistic reasons and legal standards from different production sources. This includes an actor’s dialogue, natural sound, music, and sound effects—all of which can have multiple tracks or channels. The Audio Sweetener may also handle voice over sessions and playback sessions so that a voice over matches picture.
A logger or transcriber types up “word-for-word” dialogue from interviews to compile a transcript using time-code. Where no dialogue exists, they write descriptions of the action and simply document the scene, rather than interjecting any editorial opinion. Loggers can also provide the service of “closed captioning”, which is the text that appears on the bottom of the screen during your favorite TV show or movie.
34) Prop Master
A Prop Master is responsible for purchasing or creating all props (or set decoration) used on a set. They typically spend hours working behind-the-scenes perfecting their creations and getting them “camera ready”. They take into consideration size, shape, color, texture, lighting, and any moveable parts that a Producer & Director should be aware of.
35) Craft Services
These individuals are responsible for all on-set / location meals, including food, lunch, dinner and snacks. They make their meal assessments based on headcount, hours and budget. Craft Services can also include a third-party vendor who may cater and provide all on-site set-up, including seats, tented-areas, and all miscellaneous supplies. Production can come to a grinding halt without craft services.
36) Food Stylist
The Food Stylist’s primary job is making sure all raw food, ingredients, or completed meals are positioned, lit and ready to be photographed for stills or video. This includes cooking and plating meals and also using a variety of creative solutions to make food most appealing on camera.
37) Make Up Artist
The Make Up Artist works alongside the Director to achieve his vision of a character’s on screen depiction, including their variety of looks. This includes contemporary or classic periods.
38) Special FX Make Up
The Special FX Make Up artist must know regular make up as it is a foundation for their work in creating prosthetics or special effects such as blood, burns, or other grotesque or fantastical creations. A variety of techniques are used to achieve these looks such as facial molds, body casts, brushes, glue, latex, foam, wires, etc. Check out MME’s exclusive interview with Special Effects Artist & Creature Creator Arjen Tuiten, who discusses how he honed his craft by being immersed in the worlds of visual effects icons Dick Smith, Rick Baker and the late Stan Winston.
The Researcher or Fact-Checker is responsible for thoroughly researching an assigned topic via credible sources for accuracy or any red flags that may cause a production to reassess or research further. A Photo Researcher finds specific images for a production through licensed photo houses and sometimes negotiates rates with the assistance of a clearance coordinator.
40) Clearance Coordinator
A Clearance Coordinator seeks out formal permission and legal clearance for any stills, video, newspaper headlines, audio recordings, logos, or other copy-protected material so that it can be used in a production and aired for broadcast. They also assist in negotiating terms and fees with footage houses, corporations, celebrities, publicists, or other individuals to use such materials.
So now you know that there are many options in pursuit of your “gold star”, and this is only a small fraction if you’ve ever checked out a set of rolling credits on screen. But like almost anything in life, the rise to the top starts at the bottom doing all the mundane, grunt work while trying to make a good impression on the people who can help get you to the next level. One last bit of advice, if you want to get ahead, work for the title you want, not the title you have.