Picture Yourself Making Movies
You’re a pro at taking videos of everything from your children’s first steps to family vacation adventures. If you want to take your video skills to the next level and get a film degree, a number of jobs are available in the industry, from directing commercials to supervising scripts. While you may dream of hitting it big in Hollywood, most film school graduates find work with corporations, college, nonprofits and other businesses, and, increasingly, through videos on online platforms.
Most people with a film degree earn a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts, while others continue on to get a master’s degree. Film degrees go by a variety of names that reflect their focus; for example, the Boston University College of Communication Film and Television offers seven degrees, including bachelor’s-level degrees in Cinema and Media Studies and Film and Television. Master’s degree programs include Film and Television Studies and Screenwriting.
On the West Coast, UCLA offers bachelor of arts and master of fine arts degrees in Film and Television. Additional master’s degrees can be earned in producing, cinematography and screenwriting.
Jobs in Film
Film directors bear the overall responsibility for everything that’s captured on camera, so they have a hand in all phases of a film’s production: from selecting scripts to overseeing the actors to directing the post-production editing process.
Producers’ jobs sometimes overlap those of directors. However, producers are more often involved in the financial and budgetary decisions of a film, as well as with logistics on the set.
Film editors organize digital footage with video-editing software, piecing together the best takes of scenes with the assistance of the director.
Camera operators shoot scenes as instructed by the film director. Not only are they behind the camera, but increasingly they work with drones to obtain overhead shots. Cinematographers, also called “directors of photography,” direct lighting, sound and the camera operators to ensure they get the best shots and overall look for the film.
Other jobs in film include screenwriting, set and costume design, score composing, and makeup.
Until you make it big and can command a salary with more zeroes, expect to earn an annual salary of less than $100,000. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, median salary for producers and directors is $70,950, in which half the salaries are above and half below that figure. Those jobs in advertising, public relations and related services earn the most, with an annual median salary of $93,450. Filmmakers in the motion picture and video industries make a median salary of $83,760.
Film and video editors earn a median of $62,760, while camera operators make $55,080. Set designers earn an average of $40,000 to $50,000, according to the New York Film Academy, and cinematographers make between $60,000 and $70,000 a year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that jobs in the film industry will increase faster than most, with a 12 percent increase in the demand for directors and producers between 2016 and 2026. Employment of film and video editors will jump by 17 percent during that same time period. This is due to an increased appetite by the public for TV shows and movies and a higher international demand for movies produced in the U.S. Streaming services and websites have also driven up the need for those with film degrees.
Barbara Ruben has been a journalist for over 25 years. She has written extensively for the "Washington Post" and served as editor for an international health-care magazine and a group of newspapers for older adults. She earned a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University.