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Break Into Digital Filmmaking with These Jobs

By June 13, 2022January 26th, 2024Digital Filmmaking

WNY’s film industry is expected to grow in the coming years and will need talented, qualified individuals with film degrees to fill roles, from entry-level jobs in the film industry to more advanced filmmaking positions. Additional entry-level jobs for filmmakers are available in other areas of media, including working for an advertising agency or brand creating promotional videos.

A career in the film industry often begins with a degree or other qualifications from a film program focused on developing the creativity and industry knowledge needed to succeed in filmmaking. Aspiring filmmakers can prepare for a variety of entry-level jobs with a B.F.A. in Digital Filmmaking or a certificate program in the field from Villa Maria College.

Some of the following job descriptions include insight from a graduate of Villa’s four-year digital filmmaking program, Romone Reeves. Romone earned vocational certifications through Villa in addition to his degree. His education, along with hands-on experience performing several on-set jobs, has made him “more versatile on set” and prepared him for life as a filmmaker.

Visual effects assistant

Visual effects assistants are often creative professionals whose primary duties are to assist visual effects teams in their use of digital and computer generation software to render animated and simulated visual effects. These assistants also help create and manage digital assets or collateral inserted into video footage for films, TV shows, commercials, and other digital media. They also have a hand on set in integrating visual effects into live-action scenes, which often requires problem-solving.

Key job responsibilities include:

  • Work with VFX team to prepare assets for visual effect shots
  • Organize and maintain a library of visual effects and assets for production
  • Assist with rendering setup and monitoring
  • Perform quality checks on completed visual effects shots for accuracy
  • Coordinate with other departments to ensure seamless integration of visual effects into production

On-set grip and electric

These skilled technicians are essential to a successful film set. In addition to providing set electricity and lighting, on-set grip and electric staff also master the mechanical proficiencies needed to rig a camera dolly—the equipment camera operators use to safely shoot dynamic live-action scenes.

Grip and electric teams often work closely with the film’s photography and cinematography teams, including the director of photography, to coordinate and execute complex camera shots according to the director’s desired angle, depth, and tracking. On-set grip and electric professionals can climb the career ladder to become a chief lighting technician or a key grip.

Prepare with Villa’s On-Set Grip and Electric Certificate

Build these skills in Western New York’s only professional grip and electric certificate program:

  • Basic equipment terminology
  • Proper function and operation of film equipment, including stands, lights, and flags
  • Basic rigging of camera and lighting equipment
  • Common lighting techniques used to light film scenes
  • Tools used to assemble on-set equipment
  • How to coordinate equipment to support great camera shots
  • Set safety

Villa graduate Romone, a recipient of this certification, describes the seminar as containing “99% of it takes to be a grip.” Enrollment in this certificate program is ongoing! Register today.

On-set production assistants

Working as a production assistant is a great way to learn about film production and break into the vibrant local film industry. Production assistants can take on a range of creative, administrative, and clerical tasks, with specific duties largely defined by the film set or media environment they work in.

Important on-set production assistant skills include:

  • On-set communication flow and chain of command
  • On-set protocol and etiquette
  • Basic film set terminology
  • Set safety

Enroll in a certificate program to learn the essentials of being a production assistant. Villa’s On-Set Production Assistant certificate program can be completed by film majors or independently of the four-year digital filmmaking degree program.

Sound assistant

Sound production involves the technical setup and configuration of sound equipment to capture and process the audio elements of a film. An assistant may help with the physical and technical setup of equipment and software. These assistants play an important role in helping the production sound mixer capture dialogue, background noise, and sound effects generated on-set.

A sound assistant’s main roles include:

  • Capturing and producing sounds for films
  • Working with special effects, sound mixers, and engineers to ready sounds for final versions
  • Planning, setting up, and operating sound equipment like microphones, receivers, acoustic materials, and mixing consoles
  • Working as boom operators during film shoots

Video production assistant

Video production assistants often work under first or second directors to develop and maintain video technology inventory and ensure the right equipment gets into the hands of the right people while shooting. Degrees are not always necessary for a production assistant specializing in video but it is a field where a person’s background can make a big difference when scoring a job. Some college programs will combine classroom learning with hands-on internship or work program style opportunities, where video production assistants have an opportunity to further their organization, planning, and communication skills.

Some day-to-day job tasks include:

  • Transporting gear to set, configuring equipment, and working lighting
  • Operating the camera and related audio equipment when necessary
  • Working with directors to help orchestrate shoots and keep film production teams on task
  • Assisting a director or other creative person on a film set with substantial and often vital administrative duties
  • Processing and preparing film recordings for post-production editing, detailing and communicating specific requests and requirements from film set leaders, including directors

Assistant cinematographer

These professionals assist the director of cinematography or a film’s director in giving a film its visual style. It is often a creative or technical position to develop the approach necessary for capturing the aesthetic feel of a film. These individuals must be aware of notable updates in cinematography and the use of advanced techniques from film history. Assistant cinematographers provide input to teams that are responsible for realizing a film’s creative vision. Assistant cinematographers are also sometimes called “first” cameras, referring to their role in executing great camera shots.

On-set responsibilities include:

  • Using a camera’s focus ring to maintain focus throughout a scene or live event’s shooting
  • Organizing, cleaning, and maintaining camera equipment
  • Overseeing camera testing after setup
  • Coordinating lighting, grip, electric, and other support crews
  • Supporting cinematography teams

Assistant film editor

Film editors and their assistants are important, in-demand film crew members. Their primary role is to perform post-production video processing to bring together all the film elements and prepare them for publishing. Editors and their assistants have a major impact on a film’s final product and can help execute the creative vision for a film and meet the expectations of the intended audience. Editors often employ their craft under tight parameters and deadlines, helping a film meet commercial and practical objectives in addition to artistic ones.

Some of their core duties include:

  • Organizing and managing video and audio files for the editing process
  • Helping select the best takes and shots for editing based on the director’s and editor’s instructions
  • Trimming, cutting, and assembling footage
  • Adding transitions, effects, title sequences, and other techniques to rough cuts

Creative assistant

The creative assistant position includes many different creative aspects of filmmaking and can refer to several roles within production and support teams. Generally, creative assistants help develop creative ideas and facilitate and monitor the flow of information between teams. They may have a hands-on role in the creation and execution of new content as assistant writers, editors, and directors. Sometimes, the creative assistant role involves clerical and administrative duties; they may even manage social media and other community relations functions for production companies or media outlets.

Daily tasks include:

  • Coordinating schedules, location logistics, and equipment and prop setup
  • Working closely with creative and technical teams on set
  • Ensuring key scene and performance elements are captured during filming
  • Supporting the development of visual and audio elements in post-production
  • Assisting with on-set location needs

Assistant camera operator

Assistant camera operators are often charged with packing, unloading, and setting up camera equipment based on industry best practices and the requirements of the shoot. Assistant camera operators will learn how to execute shot plans based on scripts and react to opportunities to capture important scenes that unexpectedly occur during live events. They often have opportunities to learn from their more experienced counterparts in a variety of indoor and outdoor work environments. Such environments could include film sets, television productions such as sporting events, and other live events aired or streamed.

General duties include:

  • Managing a film production’s slate or clapboard to inform and streamline editing
  • Communicating with the camera team and cinematographer to coordinate camera movements and focus adjustments
  • Keeping the camera and accessories clean and ready to operate
  • Performing routine technical maintenance tasks, such as cleaning lenses and changing camera batteries

Assistant screenwriter

Screenwriters are creative writing professionals who write or adapt scripts for video, including film and television. Entry-level screenwriting jobs and jobs that support the script development process include assistant screenwriter and studio reader positions. The responsibilities of this position depend on the role but generally consist of research and organizational and clerical tasks, with some creative duties. Screenwriting assistants get great exposure to the dynamic process of script writing and having scripts approved by entertainment and media organizations.

Assistant screenwriters are tasked with:

  • Researching various film concepts, topics, themes, subjects, and settings related to a film idea
  • Interviewing experts in a time, place, or event related to your film’s subject matter to identify authentic details
  • Supporting the script writing process including drafting, proofreading and editing various versions of a script
  • Using screenwriting software to manage and organize the writing process

Assistant casting director

Casting directors find and select actors for a film. They work with film directors, film producers, and other members of the scriptwriting and production process to match a role with an actor. Casting directors are now integral to the film industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts, working hard to find unknown talent to authentically represent roles.

Assistants support the talent discovery and acquisition process in several meaningful ways. Assistant casting directors on larger productions may conduct screening auditions and perform entry-level negotiation aspects of the production-talent relationship, filtering out those who don’t meet a role’s specifications.

This job entails:

  • Scheduling, coordinating, and overseeing audition schedules, managing scripts and other pre-production materials
  • Checking in actors on the day of auditions, conducting interviews, and overseeing auditions when casting directors are unavailable
  • Maintaining actor communications on production schedules
  • Working alongside the casting director to analyze audition films, making recommendations about backgrounds and other relevant actor-related information

Associate documentary producer

These professionals help devise the message or theme of a documentary at the beginning of the documentary filmmaking process. They work as part of the team to formulate the structure, format, and overall tone of a documentary. Associate documentary producers conduct research, assist with budgeting, and work directly with documentary subjects to prepare them for shoots. Overall, these film professionals often act as a central point of communication between the creative, legal, and finance teams creating documentary films.

This role includes:

  • Supporting creative and production teams in the research and development of the documentary’s story or theme as well as existing information available about a person, event, or idea
  • Helping with set logistics, managing interviews, documentary b-roll, sound (such as voiceover audio), and lighting
  • Scouting film locations for filming and subject interviews
  • Assisting with the logging and inventory of interviews, film recordings, production notes, and internal documents such as employee data and equipment

Assistant location scout

The primary responsibility of a location scout is to search for and secure suitable locations for shooting film scenes. A lot goes into choosing to make a location into a film set. Location scouting is a varied, dynamic role, that Romone describes as being “[one of my] favorite things in film.” An assistant supports a location scout’s professional process. The scout’s opinion has a heavy bearing on where films are filmed.

Many factors go into choosing a location. Location scouts should consider public and film staff safety above all else, followed by a location’s utility, and whether it is accessible by film crews and creative talent, as well as reflecting a film’s aesthetic and message.

The key responsibilities of a location scout include:

  • Overseeing film production recces, making sure trips to locations from film production headquarters meet objectives and stay organized
  • Documenting locations and providing production teams with comparisons between locations
  • Collaborating with location managers to handle logistics and negotiations related to the selected locations
  • Determining what a location’s visual appeal will be on film, considering factors such as weather patterns, nearby structures, and natural features