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How To Get Into The Media Production Business

Blog Post - 2008 - Kayak Productions
(Edit 2015 remove links to old laptops, update courses)

The easiest way to get into media production is to be friends or related to someone in the business. You'd be surprised how many people get into the industry that way, unfortunately life isn't fair like that.

Thankfully, because life isn't fair there are other ways you can get an edge on other people trying to get into the industry.

In fact, if you are reading this at all then you already have hugely unfair advantages in life over, say, a child in the developing world. (Unless you actually are a child in the developing world reading this your mobile phone in which case we'd love to see the films you've made with it.)

So, assuming you are not related to a producer, how do you get to know one? The answer is to do work experience to meet people and also make films that get noticed.

Assuming you're not related to a producer here is some advice that worked for us

  1. Get some money together.
  2. Do some work experience.
  3. Make your own films
  4. Enter film festivals and on-line competitions like filmaka.
Get Some Money Together

When you are starting out in the film industry you are going to have to work unpaid for a while, both on your own projects, and other people's. So you are going to need some money saved up.

This explains why so many people in the industry come from a rich background. If your parents aren't rich then perhaps, like director Richard Linklater, (The School of Rock, Dazed and Confused) you could save some money working on oil rigs or like Vin Diesel do some telemarketing. Alberta Canada, Dubai and cruise ships are all good places to work and save money.

Do some work experience
Take on some low-paid or unpaid work on Talent Circle or Mandy to get experience, network and build contacts in the industry.

Film sets are often stressful environments with lots of surprises. You may be working for free but always act professionally and be nice to people! You'd be surprised how many people fall at this hurdle. Be nice to the people you meet on set no matter how many mistakes they make - you never know, one of them might become the next Steven Spielberg.

Make your own films

Get some friends together, start making short films straight away and enter them into on-line competitions like filmaka.

There's only so much you can learn by making cups of tea and getting bossed around on someone else's film set so start producing stuff straight away. Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) made his first movie with friends entirely on weekends because they were all working at the time.

Concentrate on script writing. It doesn't matter how technically brilliant your films look, if your script sucks then so will your film. The old saying applies here "you can't polish a turd."

In a 90 minute film, a character always goes on a journey. In a 3 minute internet video they should do too.

Learn about story structure. Take a course with the london script consultancy and read up on the hero's journey. If you can find it, watch part one of Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth documentary series.

Save up some money and buy some equipment. Digital technology is cheaper than ever and it's leveling the playing field in the media production world.

If you've only just started saving money then use your mobile phone camera. South Park started out on scraps of paper.

Enter film festivals and on-line competitions like filmaka.

This is a changing business, a whole raft of new on-line filmaking competitions are springing up. Our favourite right now is filmaka.

So good luck, save up some money, do some work experience make some films and enter some competitions.

Equipment we recommend (as of May 2008):

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How To Get Into Internet Comedy

If you would like to write and create comedy for the internet, as we do, then read this introduction on how to make a comedy internet viral video.

Stand-up hones the rules of comedy.  We highly recommend taking a stand-up comedy course run by Jill Edwards, Logan Murray, Chris Head or Max Dickens.

Good books about making comedy are hard to find, these two are great:

The Comedy Bible: From Stand-Up to Sitcom... The Comedy Writer's Ultimate How-To Guide by Judy Carter

The Comedy Bible, harder to get hold of in the UK than in the US but everything you need to fast-track into comedy.

Comedy Writing Secrets: How to Think Funny, Write Funny, Act Funny and Get Paid for It by Mel Helitzer

You find yourself getting funnier as you read this book.

An for understanding new media we recommend:

Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte

Right now a lot of web sites and city financiers are flapping around trying to work out how to make money from internet video. Luckily, top MIT Professor Negroponte worked it out decades ago.

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