Video Production Careers / by Larry Saavedra

Director of Photography Rick Westphal on one of his latest outdoor adventures.

Director of Photography Rick Westphal on one of his latest outdoor adventures.

By Larry Saavedra

  There is no easy answer on how-to launch a career in video production. Having family in the entertainment business does not necessarily guarantee success. Nepotism happens, yet a person must eventually prove their worth.

  It’s true though, some luck is involved in landing a job on a video production, and being at the right place... at the right time often nets results. It may sound ludicrous but timing is everything. I have a friend who is now a camera operator at NBC. He started out in the equipment department on a production I produced. After several years of hauling cable and equipment, he learned the ropes, and eventually rose up the ladder, then got noticed. Understand though, that there is a huge difference between “fake it until you make it” and being qualified for the job. Giving yourself a glorious title like Producer isn’t going to instantly buy you a real job.

  After hundreds of hours of creating video content for DVD, Web and TV, I can assure you most productions depend on the talents of the entire cast and crew. It is never a one-person job, even if you are the Producer. It takes a village of skilled people to make great video content. With that said, there is always room for new enthusiastic faces.

5 Ways to Launch a Career in Video Production:

1.     Set your goals. If you want a career in video production, learn everything there is about production work before you leap out in the real world. As tedious as it might seem, researching the individual roles of a video production team will separate the dreamers from the doers. Most producers for instance started out as Production Assistants or interns before they made it to the top of the credits, and they did it by being willing to pay their dues. Remember this as you draft a list of objectives and how you plan to get there. There are few, if any, shortcuts. Be prepared to learn the craft for several years, whether it’s on the job or in school.

2.     You don’t have to move to Hollywood to start a career.  You can gain valuable experience in video production anywhere there is a video production facility. Moving to Hollywood gets you closer to the action, but it also means you will be competing against more people for fewer jobs.

3.     Never give yourself the title of Producer on your homemade production and think that it’s going to get you recognized by Hollywood. Titles mean little. The truth is the entertainment industry wants to work with people who have a well-rounded resume, references and reels. Always be honest about your talents and skills.

4.     Search the trade hubs like the Production Hub or Mandy. These portals have ads looking for qualified candidates all of the time. If you have zero experience, then visit your local college video department, and volunteer to work for peanuts (literally) in “any capacity” in exchange for credit on a good project. A good assistant or intern is worth his or her weight in gold! Don’t be scared away just because you are fresh out of school. Some legitimate production companies will hire inexperienced assistants if they have great attitudes. The character of who you are means a lot, try to remember that as you make your way through the maze.

5.     Be prepared to serve coffee, or run out for more bagels. It happens and those determined on breaking into the entertainment field will not balk at doing errands. Remember, the work ethics of a person on a production is critical. Never show up late, and don’t bring personal issues on the set. Have reliable transportation, be respectful and listen carefully to direction. Eventually, you will find yourself working behind the scenes.