Here’s what not to do if you want a job in film

Last week I talked about how I’d expanded my team. This week, I want to focus on some of the biggest mistakes I see people making when they’re trying to get a job (yes, I’ve made a lot of these mistakes too).

Think about exactly who you’re emailing

Nothing is more depressing than getting an email from someone who has no idea of who you are or what you do. If you’re emailing, or contacting someone in general, and it’s clear you don’t have an understanding of them you’re never going to get what you want.

You also have to consider things from the other person’s point of view. A good place to start is to consider how busy the person is and how many emails you imagine they get.

Mistake #1: Not realising how busy someone is. They don’t have to make time for you, so appreciate it when they do.

Know what it is you’re asking for

Research it beforehand. Do you want a job on a film set, or in the production office? Which job could you feasibly get, and which is your dream job? Do you just want advice? Come up with a list of questions in advance so you don’t waste anybody’s time or energies.

If they can’t offer you what you want, or a pathway there, then ask if they know anyone that does. You’ll be surprised by some of the connections you can make from this.

Mistake #2: Not having a clear goal.

Contact them at a reasonable hour

I wish I had £1 for every time someone emails me in the middle of the night. I may work freelance, but that doesn’t mean I run a 24 hour operation. The privilege of emailing whenever you want is reserved only for people you already work with, when it’s urgent or when one of you is aboard and there’s a time difference.

Don’t email someone you’ve had next to no contact with in the middle of the night. I get it, we all scroll through the internet late into the evening, we suddenly get a burst of motivation, find someone we want to work with and quickly send them an email. But think about it from their point of view. If your phone buzzed at 00:47, you wouldn’t be very happy.

Because I work with people who are often in the US or the Caribbean, I always check my emails if I’m awake. So that means if I’m awake at 00:47, I’ll see that email. It doesn’t set a very good tone and I’ll most likely be irritated by it when I look at it again the next day.

Mistake #3: Not being professional by not sticking to usual working hours.

Realise that you are one of many

Okay, this one is harsh, but it’s true and it would be wrong to leave it out. There are so many people that want to get into filmmaking. There are thousands of us out there and none of us are particularly special, we just get different opportunities at different times. So when you’re contacting someone or applying for a job, sell your skills, sell your expertise, sell your passion, but don’t be so OTT that you think you’re especially different.

I have been naïve enough to contact huge, busy production companies thinking they’ll be able to just offer me a PA job on their next film. Boy was I wrong. That’s not how it works at all, but I was lucky enough to get work experience in their offices which was invaluable, so don’t discount something just because it’s not what you were hoping for.

There’s a lot more that goes into it of course. Personality, sense of humour, knowledge base, mutual connections – it all plays a part in getting to work with someone. Fundamentally that’s what will make you stand out.

Mistake #4: Don’t be arrogant. (It’s a surprisingly common mistake).

Be open-minded

Following on from that, try and take in everything from whoever it is you’re contacting. If you’re there to get advice and to learn from someone, don’t disagree with them outright. There have been a few occasions where someone has gotten in touch to ask me for advice, we’ve gone for a meeting, I’ve started talking and advising, and they disagree with me. Or else they critique what I’ve done. This is a real bone of contention for me, because not one of these people have produced anything. They don’t do my job, and they came to me, often for producing advice. Don’t interrupt, disagree or argue with someone – particularly if they’ve made time to give you advice and you don’t have the experience that they have (presumably that’s why you went to them for advice?). It’s about manners and common sense really.

Mistake #5: Forgetting your manners (they don’t just matter to your Mum).

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