How do I get an entry level position?


Hi all,

I have just completed my first project, a documentary, which was a solo project on a very small budget. I really enjoyed the experience and can now appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to get an idea from paper to production.

I need some more experience in TV and film and would absolutely love an entry level position: runner, locations marshal, receptionist, anything really! I'm willing to work for free because I have no prior experience and I just want to get some experiences behind me to put on my CV.

The problem is I have no contacts in the industry, and I don't live in a major city where lots of productions are taking place. I have tried looking into local universities to see if their media departments need anything, and have trawled student film makers websites, but I just cant seem to find anything. The Facebook groups all seem to be offering paid positions which experience is needed for.

So basically, my question is, how do I get into this? I'm enthusiastic, motivated and willing to work for free, but where do I find someone willing to give me a chance?


Not sure how it works in the UK, but in the US, the short answer would be "apply for production assistant and/or join the union (probably IATSE or the Director's guild)". You do have to be in a locale where SOME production is taking place for this to work.


IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Could you post your doc or the trailer? By completing a project it sounds like you have some experience.


Staff member
in Washington DC there is a mailing list I subscribe to for people looking to recruit actors
just independent stuff ya know, it's hit or miss if it's high quality

I never recruit on there for crew because I can't pay them, but if someone emailed me looking to help for free I would absolutely take them up on it!


Staff member
Call up productions companies every day. Find out what’s shooting and send emails every day. Find out who makes commercials near you and call them up if that’s all you can find locally. Find people on LinkedIn and message them on there.

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in the film industry, you may need to move to where the industry is... Whilst you can write wherever you want, and you could make a short film wherever you want - getting onto larger sets as an intern or volunteer or runner or whatever kinda requires you to be where the larger sets are, or at the very least willing to travel every day(which may or may not be possible depending on where you are).
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Hustle. Hustle. Hustle. Send emails. Offer to work for free. Reach out to friends. Usually jobs / lower jobs are given by relationships. Then work your butt off on every set your on!
How I would do it, finances permitting, is to learn a trade like being a grip or other technician, and get a job. Most trades, as far as I know, are always in demand, and, if you're good, you can get a job.


If your city has any production companies at all, call them a lot, and ask to be a production assistant or intern. If you are thinking about moving to a city where there is more production, same thing. Research every production company you are interested in, and call/email them asking if you can intern or PA.

Also, you can purchase production listings from websites like
and google other sites that have production listings or production directories. Then email/call shows you are interested in, and ask to PA or intern. You could also call service based companies like camera houses, special FX houses, or any other equipment rental type place that serves the production world, work for them on entry level, then meet crews that do business with them.

Most of the time, it's all about meeting another production assistant, and becoming friends with them, or even better, becoming friends with the production coordinator or production manager, and then figuring out who you have to know to get into the department you want.

Don't let anyone fool you: in order to get into a union, you have to know someone already in the union, and get them to take you under their wing. That's when the finagling starts: getting you on union jobs, in the department, while you are not union yet, so you can get union days built up, etc. It's a big catch 22, and unless you court a union person to help you....good luck.

One thing that's cool though, if you become a good enough director, you can direct up to 9 commercials (maybe 6 or so) before you have to join the DGA, and it's similar with TV and film, different limits, but basically you get grandfathered in, if someone hires you on a union job as a director.


Find the top people in your city. Offer to help for free. Once you have connections, it'll be easier to get paid jobs!


Find the top people in your city. Offer to help for free. Once you have connections, it'll be easier to get paid jobs!
Just some insight from someone who has tried this approach. I was working for the top people in the commercial industry in Los Angeles for a while, and I started as a production assistant. These are people that worked with my aunt and uncle in the 80s and 90s, when they were working at the zenith of the commercial world.

Over the years I have poured resources and untold energy into producing my own work, and a lot of that was creating spec commercials, commercials that are made purely for proving yourself. Even though I knew the directors/producers/PMs and 1st ADs I was working for very well, and had worked loyally and tirelessly for them for years, they had ZERO interest in seeing my work. When they did, they were impressed by the production value and the execution, but gave me no advice and even tried to put me in my place with a line or two about how long other directors had been in the business, etc.

But, the real issue I had was that I just wanted to get out of being a production assistant, and these people fed me misinformation about how to get into unions, did not take my interest and wealth of knowledge in the camera department seriously, and eventually, after YEARS of working for them while pursuing my own work, they would only offer me coordinating positions AT A REDUCED RATE. These folks were tough people too, and I NAILED coordinating....was great at it. I had seen the disasters other coordinators had cause in my time as a PA, and I just was good at it....and they loved it.....but I hated it though. But they would offer my a lower rate, and turn around and give another coordinator more money. And when I asked them for a full rate, they would make up some bullshit, then would hire another coordinator at full rate if I said I couldn't do it.

I remember one time the producer I was working for was looking at another directors Indiegogo crowdfund for a movie he was making, and I asked a question about it and my producer just shut me down talking about how the guy had been directing for 30 years, blah blah blah. I've since made more impressive work than that guy....

I've realized years after, that these people had kept me in that production assistant position, for years, without helping me when I asked for it, without referring me to someone, without giving me any real advice, because I was loyal, fast, responsible, didn't complain and most important, THEY ONLY SAW ME AS A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT.

I branched out from that crew at some point, and did all kinds of impressive stuff in the industry before leaving and pursuing only my own directing work.

Those folks worked for the best directors, on super bowl spots, yadda yadda. My uncle gave them their start decades ago. They had the ability to easily refer me to someone as an apprentice, or a smaller shop as a smaller director. Never did, never would, and I've realized after talking to other professionals and family that knew them: it's because they saw the confidence in me, they saw my talent, they saw the fire in me, and they wanted to keep me back as their little production assistant because of it. They looked at my ambitions, even though I was endlessly loyal and responsible, as some sort of entitlement. They looked at what my director uncle had achieved, and thought, "this guy thinks he's gona go off and direct because his uncle did. I don't think so, ain't happenin." I had wanted to direct even before knowing about my uncle's directing career.

Anyway, working for the top folks, just do it for a year, and don't trust em.

I'll say it again, in it's own line down here: Don't trust people working at the top of the game. If you have any talent or confidence at all, they will see you as an annoyance and reinforce the idea that you need to work as an assistant for years before you can do anything serious. I guarantee you the person telling you this never worked as a production assistant in their lives.

The production manager that worked for the producer I mentioned above, she even admitted that this person had pigeonholed me into the production assistant position. As soon as I handed her a coffee or drink, or busted my ass for her, she had lost respect for me. Years ago. I had been completely pigeonholed, by a vindictive, highly successful, predatory commercial producer, who acted like a saint and savior while actually putting a person in their place.

Just watch it man. Like I said, if you work for the top people, don't trust em. Lol, I know most of you will be like "ah man this guy just had a bad experience he's giving bad advice." No, I'm giving you some insight from first hand experience. Someone like a top 10 commercial director, or whatever Big Dawg there is in your city, they don't give two shits about some other person's work, or career, unless they are an immediate family member or old friend. The only time someone like that will help you is if they are an executive or agent that sees a way to make some money from your work.

With the top guys, learn from them, analyze their career on your own, get that valuable experience, and if after a year or two, they haven't referred you to something better but are giving you wishy washy vague promises of better work next year or something, move on. Don't listen to them. If they actually have further opportunity for you, they will be specific about it.

If you can get on sets as something other than a production assistant, at any point, do it. Try to start where you want to end up. What does that mean? Well, if you want to be a cinematographer, start working as that 3rd or 4th camera operator on smaller projects, and go from there. Work as a production assistant on some big stuff to see the scale of it all, then work on small stuff in a bigger role. Start where you want to end up.
How to Get An Entry Level Position

You really have to work at it everyday. Carry business cards and resumes with you as well as create a small website or landing page for people to easily view your previous work. If you don't have very much prior work, talk yourself up hard and explain past experiences that sort or relate. For instance as a stock clerk you are hard worker and follow instruction with a go-get-it attitude, as a production assistant you'll have the same work ethic no matter what is needed.

Also the best advice is to apply, apply, apply! Send your reel and resume to EVERYONE even when they are not hiring! The turn over rate in Television stations and marketing companies is a lot higher than you might think.

I've been doing this for over ten years. You can check out my website for examples of ways to promote yourself:

Hope this helps!
Joseph Cadwell