How do you get into film? Ask the expert Q&A part two

Oscar-winning film expert, Gareth Ellis-Unwin, answers more of your questions about getting into the film industry in a Q&A hosted by Radio 1's Ali Plumb and Get Into Film's Shanai. Missed part one? Catch up here.

How competitive is the film industry?

  • At ScreenSkills, Gareth is working to find, train and retain 15,000 new starters to the screen industries
  • The UK is a world leader for the creative industries so it's a good place to be for this career route
  • A fairly small percentage of the UK workforce currently work in the film industry so it's "quite a narrow target but there to be achieved".

Can I still get into the industry if I fail my exams?

  • Yes! Gareth says it's more about who you are as a person than just qualifications
  • The things that make applications sparkle are often activities you're doing outside of studying
  • It's definitely not over if you fail exams, just make sure you're finding opportunities that show your passion for the industry.

How do I overcome rejection?

  • Remember that if you don't get an opportunity you've gone for, it's very rarely personal
  • Stay mentally strong and really do your homework researching companies you're approaching
  • If it doesn't work out the first time, the chances are there'll be another opportunity in the future that will.

What is your advice for people looking to get into film journalism?

  • Be proactive – make your own content and talk on social media with the journalists you'd like to be
  • Practise! Read, write and watch as much as you can. As well as talent, you need hard work to hone your craft
  • Accept that you improve through trial and error – your content doesn't have to be perfect straight away!

What do you recommend for getting into film producing, as opposed to acting?

  • Do your research to really understand what the role involves – producers look at both the commercial opportunity and the creative idea and have to find a happy balance between the two
  • Good producers know what everyone on the set is there to do so make sure you understand other people's roles too
  • There are different routes into producing, not a one-size-fits-all.

How do you come up with ideas for films?

  • Inspiration for film ideas can come from lots of places – music, nature, news stories, comic books, literary sources, personal experiences etc.
  • Gareth's film ideas tend to centre around the question 'what do we consider being human means?'
  • Books can be great sources for film plots but you have to be quick as rights tend to get sold early!

What separates award winners and award nominees?

  • Awards like the BAFTAs and the Oscars are decided on by a process of voting
  • Gareth is one of the people who votes on the awards
  • Just because a film hasn't won an award doesn't mean it's not great! Winning an award is just like an added "gold star".

What advice would you give to people making short films?

  • Research your idea to make sure it's original
  • Don't get too caught up about technology, just be ambitious and bold with your ideas
  • Get your short film out there online or at places like festivals and competitions.

How do you keep the audience hooked throughout a film?

  • Keep the story progressing
  • Make sure the plot is engaging throughout, rather than just having key moments of interest
  • It's like a recipe – you can have all these great ingredients but you need to make sure they all come together well to get a brilliant end result.

What can I do to make myself more employable?

  • Always keep your CV up to date. If possible, go to a CV clinic for tips
  • Research thoroughly for any interviews and take a deep breath before you go in
  • Practise with your friends before interviews to get you into the swing of it.

What experience and skills will help me get into the industry?

  • Keep current – watch lots of content as you're likely to be asked about what you've seen recently
  • Make sure you have strong IT skills
  • Be social media savvy – make sure anything you're posting is something you wouldn't mind employers seeing and keep a professional tone if reaching out to potential contacts on social media.

What internships can you do before going to university?

  • Internships are a bit complicated because the industry is conscious of trying not to encourage free labour but there are opportunities out there, including work experience and work shadowing
  • If you're approaching someone for a shadowing opportunity, be realistic – for example, ask for a two-week placement not a four-month one
  • ScreenSkills is currently working to try to formalise the work shadowing process to make it clearer.

What would you say to somebody anxious or unsure on entering the industry?

  • Remember that industry professionals are just people. They all had to start out somewhere too and they understand the challenges
  • Remind yourself of the possibilities that are out there
  • If people tell you you can't do it, use that as fire to prove them wrong. Gareth was told he "wasn't clever enough" to work in the industry and went on to win an Oscar!
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