Is the Film Industry a Good Career Choice?

Posted on March 17, 2024Comments Off on Is the Film Industry a Good Career Choice?

Is the Film Industry a Good Career Choice?

Thousands of people per year have the dream of working in film, being part of something bigger than them, seeing their ideas on screen one day, but what do you need to know before going down that path? I love my job as an Assistant Director, and I love working in film, but man those bad days are BAD! The highs are very high and the lows are humiliating, and humbling to put it politely. What makes working in film and pursuing a career in film so hard? Is the film industry a good career choice? Let’s see what you’re going to get yourself into shall we?

Competitive Industry:

The film industry is highly competitive, with countless individuals vying for limited opportunities in all of the disciplines that are needed to make one little show.

U.S. Film schools graduate as many as 50,000 film students a year! That’s also not including the people who graduated with media production degrees, or communication degrees. And let’s not forget the folks who go straight from high school and try their hand at just jumping right in and finding their footing in the film industry. It is extremely hard to break in – you have to know people to get in, but if you don’t know anyone in film at all how do you even beak in???

I get that question constantly. It’s a very long answer and I have other articles that cover how to do that. It ain’t easy!

The competitiveness alone is what kills the optimism for a lot of those bright eyed graduates within the first few years of trying to pursue their film career. It doesn’t stop there once you break in – it’s a constant thing as you grow in your career. It never gets easier.

is the film industry a good career choice

Unpredictable Income:

Income in the film industry can be irregular and unpredictable. Some years are great and some years… well you know about about the strike we just had last year where it left many film crew members losing their houses. It really gives me a good lesson on making sure I manage my money as smart as possible when my income is great to survive a year long strike at the worst if it comes again.

But also don’t forget, most everyone that works in scripted TV and Film are all freelance. Even if I was a director, or writer. There is no guarantee for a next season for the show. And even if there is another season would I be hired for that season? No guarantees.

You may be hired for a network show where it could be a 8 or 10 month long show, but once that show is over – You’re left looking for your next gig. Unless you work on Law & Order SVU those folks have been on that show forever and PAs that are on that show have grown with it. Luck of the draw for sure.

Is the film industry a good career choice? Many say because of this factor alone it’s an absolute NO! Not at all! There’s no job security.

If I’m being honest though it’s what keep me in this game – I never know what kind of gig I’m gonna land next year, or next month and that’s pretty exciting. For some it would bring on a lot of worry and anxiety.


Long Hours:

Film production often involves long, irregular hours, with days stretching into nights and weekends. This can lead to a challenging work-life balance and takes a toll on physical and mental health.

This is the number one reason why people leave the film industry. They endure for a maybe a decade, end up getting divorced, and not knowing who their kids are. They end up reevaluating and calling it quits.  Working in the film industry isn’t worth it to them to lose their human connection to the family and life they wanted around them.


Rejection and Criticism:

You will face constant rejection and criticism, and it comes from all everywhere! Dealing with rejection and maintaining confidence can be emotionally taxing.

You will get A LOT of No’s when you’re trying to break in. But also while in your career you’ll be fired. Probably more than once. It happens to all of us. And most likely over something so petty and silly.

You’ll constantly get feedback, critiqued a ton, corrected non-stop, and just overall you’ll start to think you’re dumb, not cut out for the film industry, and just overall doing everything wrong.

You MUST take it all with grace, and some people simply can’t. Their ego can’t take it, but also feedback and critiques don’t always come with niceties. It can be humiliating and embarrassing. And who likes experiencing that?

There have been many tears on my way up to a DGA AD that’s for sure.


Financial Risk:

Producing films involves substantial financial risk, as budgets can escalate quickly, and there’s no guarantee of box office success or recouping investments.

If you’re in the high percentage of people who want to be directors, and producers financial risk is going to be a big part of your life. Millions and millions of dollars are sunk into projects that go absolutely nowhere. You’re trying to tell your stories, and all you want to do is make enough money to make the next one. That’s always the goal.

To just break even all the stars have to align.

I’ve heard and seen many people use their life savings to finally make that feature, or put an extra mortgage on their house to make their passion project, and then ultimately lose everything.

You can hit that rock bottom real quick.

It’s either your own money or your friends and family’s money. I’m sure you’ve seen the thousands of crowdfunding campaigns. Is the film industry a good career choice? It is if you can recoup funds easily and figure out how you can keep making money off your projects. But also when you’re in the position to hire crews giving people jobs is pretty awesome too though!


Creative Challenges:

Bringing a film from conception to completion involves numerous creative challenges, including script development, casting, production design, editing, and post-production. And behind all those stages is a lot of people giving their opinion of how something should be, or how the idea can be “better.”

Some argue that the more people that get involved the more diluted an idea can get, and weakens the story you’re trying to tell. That’s why it’s important to work with people that you sync and gel with who understand what you’re trying to say.

But this doesn’t take away from the amazing collaboration that takes place! Because sometimes ideas do get better! And things turn out better than you can ever imagine.

why people leave the film industry

Networking Pressure:

Success in the film industry often relies on networking and building relationships with industry professionals. For many, navigating these connections can be daunting and intimidating.

I feel like 1% of the population when you mention networking – they’re excited to do it. Networking gets such a horrible reputation. No one wants to be used. No one wants to be a means to an end. And no one wants to reach to anyone in fear of looking like you’re trying to use someone to get ahead.

The art of networking is a VERY challenging skill to master, add being yourself while doing it? It’s damn near impossible. No one wants to be someone they’re not.

Building those connections and relationships never stops throughout your film career, and it takes time and patience.


High Expectations:

The film industry is driven by high expectations, both internally and externally. Meeting the demands of investors, audiences, and studio executives while maintaining artistic integrity can be a delicate balancing act.

Studios give millions of dollars to movies and TV shows hoping that it’s going to end up a hit or that film ends up a blockbuster at the theater.  And they’re going to assemble the best people possible to get to that goal. So mediocre is not what you should be shooting for when it comes to any discipline in film. The expectations are sooo high, and all the time from all directions.

From how you behave on set, to how you wrote an email to how the movie was received by audiences. The reviews are brutal from audiences, but imagine all the brutally honest feedback the writers got throughout the writing process, or the director when the dailies were watched. Or even the actor after every take.

This isn’t for the faint of heart folks.

If you don’t meet the high expectations – they find someone else who can.

Not only do they want to best, but they want it done in an insufferable small amount of time. But it does depend on who is running the show, some are more extreme than others.

Some studios understand you can’t have it fast, cheap, and good – but for some reason many think they can. Is the film industry a good career choice? If you can avoid the types of people who have insane high expectations, yes – but it is rare.


Constant Adaptation:

The film industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies, distribution platforms, and audience preferences shaping the landscape. Professionals in the field must stay updated and adapt to these changes to remain competitive and relevant.

Not only technically making your film, and how audiences view it, but also the people you’re working with during the whole process of making the thing.

You will meet tons of different types of people with very different personalities. Some you’ll love, some you’ll tolerate, and some you’ll try to avoid at all costs.

You also have to adapt to life on set – different locations almost everyday if you’re not shooting at the stage. One day you can be in Yonkers, NY then the next day in Harlem, the next day somewhere in New Jersey. And I must mention the timing it all. One day you can start at 630AM, but then by Friday you’ll start at 630pm!

Just this past week I had a 1230PM call on Monday, to 430PM on Thursday to a 3PM on Friday. This coming Monday I start a week of overnights, but then we have to work our way back to early mornings in the week after. Sometimes your body can not catch up!


So, is the film industry a good career choice? – based on all that I told you in this post you’d probably say “Hell no!” I get it, but I wouldn’t spend my days any other way! Maybe I like the risk of it all? Maybe it’s the fact that I can handle the challenging aspects of it all?

I wanted you to know all the challenging bits before you get neck deep into and realize “oh wait – I didn’t sign up for this!”

It’s better to know what you’re getting into and then decide. Listen, someone has to work in film and it might as well be you if you really want it! I love working in film even with all its challenges and expectations.