It takes a lot of time and work to shoot a feature film. But even when all the filming is done, the movie is only half-way through its path to be a finished product. The other half usually happens inside a post production house, where different departments work in synergy to put video and sound together into a blockbuster.
If you think post-production is the right path for you, here are the first steps to make your way into this world.
Figure out which department you want to work in
Most post-production companies structure their organisations (hence, human resources) along three main departments: Production, Editing and Sound. The first step, which you’ve probably already taken, is deciding which one of these is the right fit for you, depending on what you want your daily job to be like. Here’s an idea:
Production: Dealing with clients, keeping track of the logistics and the workflow of projects and managing editing suites.
Editing: After starting as a runner, you will aim to be as involved in the technical process as you can, spending time in the control room and helping with troubleshooting. After you progress, you will be in charge of all the video side of the post-production, working with editing suites such as Avid Media Composer.
Sound: Even though competition in this department has been worsened by technical advancements, starting as a runner is still your best shot at breaking into Sound Design. After getting experience and demonstrating skills, you will curate music tracks and soundscapes for motion pictures. As Joe Herrington said: “Half of the storytelling ability is sound.”
Research & Prepare
After you’ve decided on your future plans, you need to find a company that’s right for you. There are post-production facilities specialising in features, factual, entertainment or commercials. Many of them have apprenticeship schemes, but the turnover for entry-level roles (typically post-production runners) is fairly high and demand is consistent.
So do your research and make sure to apply to all suitable opportunities. Prepare in advance: competition is stiff and selection processes can be long – it never hurts to be among the firsts to send a CV.
However, that doesn’t mean you should rush and end up sending a CV that doesn’t look perfect: preparation is the key, check your CV for mistakes, ask other people to check it and make sure it reads well. If possible include a portfolio of your previous work, show all of your skills and, even if it may seem irrelevant, add any experience in customer service as one of your duties as runner will be welcoming guests and making sure they are comfortable. Keep your CV to one page, two max.
Finally, be persistent: it might take you many rejections before you get to the job that starts your dream career, so keep sending emails, calling and looking for opportunities.
Work hard and learn on the job
Your first job as a post-production runner is just your foot in the door: from here on, you will have to earn your promotions by constantly balancing learning and demonstrating skills.
Your duties as a runner will vary from fetching coffee and refreshments to liaising with clients, from handling raw footage to keeping editing suites tidy and clean. Always carry out all of these tasks with enthusiasm and professionalism, and seize every occasion you get to learn something new.
Situations that require quick troubleshooting are the ones that will get you noticed, and could help get you a promotion if a higher position becomes vacant. So always stay alert and be proactive, offer to help if help is needed and always be a team player.
If you make yourself available to your colleagues, they will probably be keen on teaching you about equipment and processes involved in post-production, and those are the sort of learning outcomes that you will need to progress in your career!