The “How To Prepare For An Interview” series is supported by Gillette.
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There are several ways to enter the film business if you’re interested in production — directing, editing, lighting, set design, costume design — and room for skills from techies, artists, and writers, and managers.If you don’t have any experience in the industry but would like to start, don’t be discouraged, UCLA professor Richard Walter says. The most important step is to make a personal connection with someone in film and land a position anywhere doing anything — and gain experience. However, if you’re applying for a highly technical job, it’s important to know the “nuts and bolts,” according to NYU Tisch Director of Career Development Melissa Brodsky.
When applying for a job in film production, you’re asking that employer to “take a chance on me,” Walter says. You’re asking for the opportunity to deliver on the job. So what happens once you land the interview?
Here are some tips to keep in mind.
If you don't have a lot of experience, don't expect to direct on your first job. It's important to to get involved somehow -- even if you're doing something you feel is beneath you -- and gradually build connections and expertise.
Tell your potential employer: 'All I'm looking for is a place to hang my coat and hang my hat and a corner of a desk,' Walter says.
As with any interview, it's a good idea to dress professionally even though you may dress down on the job.
Show that you're able to listen to others and 'engage in a give and take that constitutes conversation,' Walter says. You're going to be working as part of a team, so make sure you're pleasant, interesting, and fun.
Be prepared, but also be ready for any unexpected questions and issues. 'Stay spontaneous,' Walter says.
Highlight and showcase your people skills, and make good decisions, Brodsky says -- it's also important to be diplomatic.
Film production is being part of a creative team, and employers want to know who they're inviting to work with them. Your resume should state all of your experience, so you don't have to repeat everything that's on it during the interview.
Instead, be honest about why you're there.
'If I came in looking for a job in production, and I wanted to learn about it, I would just say that. I would use a crafty 'old truth ploy' -- tell the truth!' Walter says.
It couldn't hurt to use a little sweet-talking though, Walter adds. Tell the employer why you like their work, and make it clear you'd like to be involved in any part of the production.
Honesty is essential, but it's not always appropriate to tell your employer during the interview what you really think of their work or what you'd do differently.
'If you're someone who comes in and tells me what they think about the way it should be set up, suggestions about how to improve, there's real struggle to sit quietly,' Walter says. 'I say 'thanks for saying that,' but what I mean is 'screw you!''
Be humble. Once you get the job, you'll have enough time to give input.
Don't ask your employer questions whose answers you could have Googled easily, and don't ask your employer to persuade you to join the company. It's great to ask questions, but they have to be smart.
Find out everything there is to know about the employer. 'When I find out that people have done a lot of research on me, it reflects well on them,' Walter says.
And definitely don't begin the interview by asking what you'll get paid, Brodsky adds.
If you come in with a heavy agenda, 'you'll look like what you are -- bad news,' Walter says. Be motivated, but not confrontational -- be relaxed and laid back instead. Your interviewer is more likely to listen to you if you don't appear to have an agenda.
Because you'll be joining a creative team, you need to showcase your creativity. But if you're too crazy, quirky, and weird, you're going to appear difficult to work with, Walter says. 'Don't get too elaborate, don't get too showy, and don't look like someone who's not properly deferential in dealing with someone with more experience.'
A lot of arts students are quirky, but it's important to have a good business sense -- 'give an example of something you've worked on' to tell your employer what you've learned and your experience, says Brodsky.
If all goes well, you might land an interview with someone notable in the industry. Don't be starstruck, and don't go overboard, Brodsky says. Keep your cool and stay genuine.
'Famous actors and directors' deserve personal space and anonymity, especially in interviews, Brodsky says.
Working in film production is cyclical -- when one job is over, you have to start looking for the next one, Brodsky says. Once you've worked in the industry for long enough you'll get a reputation, but until then you need to keep searching for your next opportunity.
So if your interview doesn't go as planned -- 'keep looking, and keep practicing,' Brodsky says.
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