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Recent grads discuss breaking into the video production and post-production industry

Ashley Kennedy

Breaking into the video production industry is hard to do…

Remember what it was like to be freshly graduated from college, navigating the murky sea of the production and post-post industry?  Now, imagine that you’re trying to break into it in today’s economic climate.

I was curious, so I asked several of my former students what it was like getting a job after graduation.  (These are students that graduated from Columbia College Chicago within the last two years.  About half of them moved to LA to find jobs; the rest stayed in Chicago.)

How easy was it to find a job in the industry?

The market seems to just want freelance workers, but nothing salary or full time. Persistence has always landed me the job in the end however. –Rob

Depends on what you want and how little you’d be willing to pay. Out in LA there are bunches of PA listings for short shoots that are $50-200 for a day or two. I’ve found it incredibly hard to find anything semi-permanent or worth my time. It’s highly competitive out here.  -Caitlin

I don’t have a job in production. I did freelance work for some time, but went into retail to pay my bills and haven’t re-emerged since.  I go out of my way to accommodate the freelance work over my day job, but I can’t do that in every case, however.  –Ivan

It seemed fairly easy only because I was hired by the company I was interning for at the time. I would probably be in a very different place right now had it not been for my internship. The timing really helped. -Megan

It was easy for me straight out of college to get a job—I began working at a post house for $400 dollars a week non-taxed. So you can imagine I was working almost 60 hours a week for crap pay.  -Mallory

What were the greatest challenges in finding work?

Morale! It’s so hard to continually send out resumes into that abyss everyday. Sending your resume out here is like that LOST station where they send in the composition notebooks of research and they end up in that pile out in the jungle. -Caitlin

The greatest challenge in finding work is that every place seems to promote within. I have had 4 internships, but now I am beyond interning and finding an assistant editor position is almost impossible. My only hope is that I eventually become promoted to assistant editor and to full time. -Mallory

Money. Not having a steady gig in production has made me resort to working a regular job, and I can’t always fit in a freelancing opportunity. -Ivan

Knowing people. It’s hard when you move somewhere new and have to re-make all your contacts. -Vinnie

I find people are intimidated by the younger crowds. I was told many times that I was too qualified for the position, which I thought was silly, but after being hired in a few of them I found I actually was. Columbia trains their students extremely well! -Chelsea

The biggest challenge in finding work was finding a job with not much “real world” experience and marketing myself as a qualified professional against people with more experience.  Many of the jobs I applied for were looking for candidates that had two years or more of professional experience.  -Brittnee

Making good connections… making sure to have the right dose of ‘being in their face’ while ‘staying out of their face’. –Matt

My biggest challenge with finding work is putting the time into applications and hunting the “right” job for me. Also getting in contact with some employers can be frustrating while working part time. –Rob

When I was looking for a job I used the only resource that was available besides personal connections: the internet. And so was/is EVERYONE else. It was challenging because entry level jobs, like the ones I was applying to, had hundreds of resumes/cover letters sent to them. You have to see the job posting asap or else your resume/cover letter will get lost in a see of applicants. -Anne

What aspect of college prepared you the best?

The honest talk about the industry. Everything I’ve encountered so far, I expected. Also, knowing a little of everything about the business surprises people. Like how I’m a writer, but I can edit. It blows people’s minds sometimes. -Caitlin

Great teaching. Collaborative projects. Classes that focused on post-production fundamentals. Also, any encouragement/help provided for internships. -Megan

Deadlines in college as well as competing with my fellow classmates prepared me most for the real world. Also working with the newest gear and software gave me a leg up. –Rob

The hands-on work, or the availability of resources were always invaluable to me. The instruction taught me a great deal, but the ability to mess around with stuff on my free time gave me an understanding that I otherwise wouldn’t have had—of production equipment, of the facilities, etc. –Ivan

I think I was really prepared for the working world because I took advantage of the instructors around me and networked like crazy! I also feel the opportunity to intern and freelance was huge at Columbia. -Chelsea

Learning how to interact with all different kinds of people. Trust me, if people don’t want to be around you then you won’t last long! -Vinnie

One aspect of college that prepared me greatly was the variety of classes I was required to take. Even as a production major, I was required to take writing, post production and a variety of other classes. This made me well versed on a variety of subjects. I felt confidence in having a strong foundation in multiple facets of production. -Brittnee

Frequency TV [college TV station]; I can’t imagine doing college without doing Frequency. It taught me how to deal with producers that didn’t know what they were doing. I hope to translate that into how to deal with clients someday. -Mallory

I would say just the social evolution that occurred within myself during [college]. And, of course I found that my Film specific classes prepared me the best by giving me on set experience, as well as professional knowledge of the equipment that is used currently in the industry. –Matt

What aspect of college prepared you the least?

When I was hired… it was as a tape-op. This involves a lot of capturing/dubbing/exporting etc. Things of that nature. It also involves a lot of troubleshooting when it comes to decks, software issues, and file conversions. This is an entry-level position, yet based on my college experience in terms of curriculum, nothing actually prepared me for that role.  -Megan

The worst preparation I had were talking too many classes that had pretty much nothing to do with post. I think producing, directing, and writing are important to know, but when you’re a post major, you shouldn’t have to take a million classes that don’t concentrate on post. -Anne

TAPE types, VTRs, the post production world is still tape. Turning in every assignment on a DVD never happens in the industry. -Mallory

Some of my non major classes prepared me the least in college. I wish I could have spent that time focusing only on my desired career path, or something similar. I understand they want you to be a well rounded character when graduating, but I didn’t pay all that money to squander my time. –Rob

I never got a sense of what something was worth monetarily. From work, equipment, and other aspects, I never developed a sense for the business part of the business. –Ivan

I don’t know if I can think of any aspects of my college career that I can look back on and say weren’t beneficial in some way. For example, dealing with classes or people I wasn’t interested in just prepared me for dealing with projects and clients I have no choice but to deal with these days. Every day was a learning experience whether I knew it or not. -Brittnee

Nothing. You can learn something new every day in college. Embrace it. -Vinnie

What else can you share about your job-seeking experience?

I think your work speaks for itself. Finding a job is a lot easier if your good at what you do, and passionate. Those who are working towards their career every day in college will find the transition easy. Good work gets noticed. Also, don’t take unpaid internships that have you doing nothing but office work and running coffee. I think you need to fight for good internships that are willing to teach you the ropes and give you real experience.  –Rob

I think a big part of job seeking for fresh graduates is patience. Another big part of job seeking for a young graduate is being a good communicator. Even with no professional experience, if you can communicate to an employer that you have a set of skills that can benefit their company, you’ve got a shot. –Brittnee

I’ve worked regular jobs since leaving college, and they don’t leave a whole lot of time to pursue too many interests. I’d advise anyone in my situation to gun for production work hard, and not depend too much on a steady paycheck if they can help it. –Ivan