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Following a career in a competitive industry like film can be hard. There’s only a handful of actors that make it to Hollywood, and even fewer scriptwriters that manage to make a name for themselves. But it’s not impossible!
And if you don’t want to be on the big screen, there are many other career options you can pursue that are just as exciting.
To help you choose a career that is right for you, we’ve created a list of the 20 most popular jobs in the film industry.
If you have a passion for performing, you can make a script come to life through your plausible interpretations. To get a head start in your career as an actor, you’ll need to first gain professional training and work on building your network of industry contracts.
Average salary: $49,000 / £37,666 (if you make it in Hollywood, though, you could make millions for a single movie – just check out our lists of the highest-paid actors and actresses to get an idea on what you could potentially earn!)
2. Location manager
Location managers are responsible for finding the perfect location for specific scenes and getting approval from the property owners to film on the premises. They also arrange for all the necessities during filming, including snacks, power supplies, dressing areas and parking. To succeed in this role, you’ll need to have a likeable personality and excellent negotiation skills.
Average salary: $49,500 / £38,050
3. Set decorator
As a set decorator, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that sets appear exactly as they are described in a script. You will create in-depth designs that may only appear once throughout a movie and will need to source all decorations (including vehicles and animals). Although no formal training is necessary, previous experience in interior design may be beneficial.
Average salary: $59,590 / £45,806
4. Key grip
A key grip manages all the equipment that is used to support cameras, tripods and lighting. Although the lighting team will take care of setting up the lights, the gripping team will ensure the light is cut for cinematic quality. To succeed in this position, you’ll need to work well under pressure and have good physical stamina as you’ll be working with heavy equipment throughout the day.
Average salary: $80,000 / £61,497
The gaffer is the head of the lighting department and works closely with members of the gripping team. A gaffer is responsible for creating adequate lighting in the preproduction phase and working to quickly adjust the lighting on set throughout the different scenes. A keen interest in electrical equipment is essential for this role.
Average salary: $50,000 / £38,435
6. Film editor
A film editor works with the director to cut down the movie after all the footage has been recorded. It’s one of the most essential parts of a movie, as the editor needs to find the best way to create a captivating story. To succeed, you’ll need to have great attention to detail, as you’ll be focused on the minute details of the overall project.
Average salary: $75,000 / £57,653
If you have leadership qualities and want to be the next Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino, then you should follow a career as a director. You’ll need to ensure that the story is being told correctly through the actors’ eyes and ensure that all creatives are correct, both post and preproduction.
Average salary: $109,500 / £84,173
A producer is to a film what a COO is to a company. They are the head of the business, ensuring that everything is in place and is running smoothly. A producer can be involved in budgeting, hiring a crew, fine-tuning scripts – whatever is necessary to produce an award-winning movie.
Average salary: $67,000 / £51,503
If you have a wild imagination and a way with words, you can become a screenwriter and create the entire concept and dialect of a film. Although this is a lucrative career, you will need to work extremely hard to get producers to pick up your script.
Average salary: $70,000 / £53,808
A runner will work with various departments carrying out administrative tasks to ensure that the running of the film is smooth. The jobs can vary from arranging props to setting up locations and getting coffee. You’ll need to have good stamina and a bubbly personality to enjoy and succeed in this job.
Average salary: $200 / £154 per day
11. Programme researcher
Programme researchers are responsible for carrying out in-depth research to ensure that the factual references that are shown in the film are accurate. You’ll also need to get copyright clearances for music used in production.
Average salary: $26,669 / £20,500
As a hairdresser on a film set, you’ll need to ensure that each actor and actress’s hair suits the era that they are portraying, as well as the age and scene that they are in. You will be required to create numerous styles throughout the day and be on standby when the actors are shooting.
Average salary: $30,490 / £22,000
13. Makeup artist
A makeup artist will need to create different looks, including special effects. This type of work could take hours, and makeup artists will be expected to work long shifts to ensure that the actors look authentic in their roles.
Average salary: $75,160 / £57,778
14. Casting director
If you think you have a good eye for talent, you could follow a career as a casting director. But there’s more to it than hosting auditions and placing actors in the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pile. Instead, you need to spend a lot of time breaking down the individual characters and understanding how they will work together before you can arrange castings.
Average salary: $60,900 / £46,816
15. Props manager
If you have great organisational skills and a keen eye for details, you should consider becoming a props manager and sourcing all the objects that actors use throughout their filming. They will need to be stored and placed correctly to ensure everything is set for filming days and reshoots.
Average salary: $275 / £211 per day
16. Costume designer
As a costume designer, you’ll be responsible for creating all the looks in the movie. As there are hundreds of scenes, this will involve many late nights. Before you begin, you’ll read the script and meet with the film director to create a mood board for approval. To succeed in this career, you’ll need a degree in fashion design and relevant work experience in a fashion house.
Average salary: $7,500 / £5,766 per day
17. Production designer
A production designer leads the art department and is responsible for the visuals of the film. This includes colour palettes, location options, lighting and costumes. The production designer will plan out all the visuals with other departments before filming begins to ensure the director’s visions are brought to life.
Average salary: $90,000 / £69,187
18. Sound designer
A sound designer manages all special effects in postproduction. They will add music to the film to enhance the feel of a certain scene and effects to increase the aesthetics. Sound designers are usually given a deadline, so they can manage their own schedule and work on multiple projects at the same time.
Average salary: $51,000 / £39,206
19. Visual effects artist
Explosions, fires, falling buildings, floods – they’re all the handiwork of visual effects artists (or VFX artists) who create effects that can’t be handled on set. So, if your inner child is calling to create cool visuals, you can succeed in a career creating captivating visuals.
Average salary: $69,000 / £53,044
A cinematographer is essentially the head of the film crew. They use both technical and creative knowledge to ensure the director’s vision is logical through careful planning and preparation. They are essentially the eye behind the camera, making all visual elements come to life.
Average salary: $64,000 / £49,367
Although it can be tough to successfully bag a film job, the good news is that you can work your way up the ranks by completing an internship in the industry.
What’s your dream film job? Let us know in the comments section below!
Salaries are intended as a guide and vary depending on employer and level of experience. Salary information is based on data compiled and published by a variety of sources, including Careers in Film, PayScale, the Bureau of Labour Statistics and the National Careers Service. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 5 February 2019.