Finding employment in the entertainment industry can be tough if you don't know where to begin.

The best advice for breaking into the entertainment industry is this: be prepared to start on the ground floor and work your way up!

Interviews with prominent entertainment companies, college instructors, and employees reveal 3 strategies for getting started in entertainment.

BECOME A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Working as a production assistant (PA) gives you the hands-on skills needed to work in the film and television industry. As a PA you'll get exposure to a variety of jobs in entertainment and network with professionals who can later provide referrals for higher level positions. This is the way to launch your career whether you want to become a director, sound engineer, or editor -- it all starts here.

Where Do Production Assistants Work?

ON SET: FILMS, TV, MUSIC VIDEOS, COMMERCIALS

PRODUCTION COMPANIES

POST-PRODUCTION OFFICES

Working as a PA leads to entry-level work in the trades, production and post-production.

"The community college training I received helped me with hard skills, like working with the camera, sound and writing, and soft skills, which is getting the job while you're on set."
ERIC MARCEL JONES SET MONITOR FOR FILMLA

Entry Level Skill Sets

While PA positions can lead to many different jobs within the industry, the required entry level skills are the same. The following seven skill sets were name by interviewed employers and union representatives as critical to getting hired and performing well as an assistant:

Top Skills For Production Assistants

  • 1

    Communication
    Oral and written business communication
    skills are critical on a busy set or in an office.
  • 2

    Customer Service
    A PA's number one job is to do what is asked
    with a smile!
  • 3

    Project Management
    Keeping track of a project's moving parts is a
    key to a PA's success.
  • 4

    Microsoft Office
    Entertainment companies need PAs skilled in Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook.
  • 5

    Accounting
    PAs need to know basic budgeting and
    accounting.
  • 6

    Social Media
    Proficiency in posting social media updates
    and blog posts.
  • 7

    Ethics
    Employers need trustworthy PAs to perform a variety of tasks which can be confidential in nature

The Production Assistant Pathway

PA ESSENTIAL TRACK

The Production Assistant Essential Track is recommended for those who want to get started in the industry quickly. These students may not wish to obtain a Bachelor's degree, or may decide they will go back to school at a later time, after they have started working. Here's how to get started:

1. Take Community College courses that teach the 7 entry-level PA skill sets.

2. Get hands-on experience by attending a PA bootcamp or job training program. Work with real equipment, learn industry terminology and protocol, and how to best interact with other members of the set crew or office.

TRANSFER TO A FOUR-YEAR SCHOOL

Some students may choose to earn a Certificate or Degree and transfer to a 4-year school. Having a Bachelor’s degree can increase employment opportunities and the ability to promote within your field. There are two recommended ways for students to accomplish this.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE FOR TRANSFER (ADT)

Community college students can earn an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) for guaranteed admission to a California State University (CSU). The two entertainment-related ADT degrees offered are in Film, Television and Electronic Media and Theatre Arts. Students must also meet the CSU minimum eligibility requirements in order to be admitted.

DEGREES AND CERTIFICATES

Students may choose to earn an Associate’s degree or Certificate of Achievement in any area of interest and transfer to a 4-year school. More than 23 community colleges in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire regions offer Associate Degrees and Certificates in a variety of entertainment-related areas including Film/Television Production, Cinema Arts, Broadcasting, and more.  

WORK AS A SKILLED TECHNICIAN

Working as a skilled technician can open doors into the industry for those interested in behind-the-scenes production work. Technicians skilled in electrical, camera and grip work form a major part of the basic production crew. Skills in trades like welding, fabrication and carpentry are also needed in live production and by themed entertainment companies.

How to Get Started

  • Enroll in community colleges courses in your area of interest.
  • Apply to specialized community college programs that offer training in the trades as well as a pathway to union membership.

Program Spotlight

West Los Angeles College Hollywood Cinema Production Resources Training Program (Hollywood CPR) offers industry-specific training in marketable trade skills including Stage Craft, Set Lighting, Set Decoration and Grip.

TRANSFER YOUR SKILLS, TRANSFORM YOUR CAREER

Do you have work experience in a field outside of entertainment? Maybe you even have a degree and are currently working but want to make the switch to a career in entertainment. Here are steps you can take to transform your career even if your time is limited and you don't yet have industry connections.
The Lateral Career Pathway
  1. Identify entertainment companies hiring for positions that utilize your current education and skills; make lateral career move.
  2. Network within company to determine skills and experience required for desired position in new career path.
  3. Complete self-assessment to identify skills gaps.
  4. Take community college courses related to desired position.
  5. Continue networking with workplace colleagues to learn and/or practice new skills on the job and gain experience.

MAKE A LATERAL MOVE

Industry professionals advise those with established skills to get into entertainment whenever possible, then meet and learn from mentors on the job. One of the best ways to do this is to obtain a similar position within an entertainment company.

Move into the industry working in a familiar position, but look for opportunities to network within the company and learn new skills on the job. Enhance your skills and knowledge by taking community colleges courses specific to your desired position.

STAY PUT UNTIL SKILLED

For some, it may be best to gain entertainment-related education and experience while staying in their current job. After identifying the additional skills needed to enter the new career, take specific community college courses to acquire necessary skills and knowledge.

Use this opportunity to form relationships with college instructors, who are often well-connected industry experts. Participating in college-sponsored networking events and volunteer opportunities will help you meet industry professionals and gain relevant work experience.
The Direct Entry Career Pathway
  1. Complete self-assessment to determine how skills are applicable to desired career.
  2. Identify new skills needed and related community college courses.
  3. Network with faculty; attend college-sponsored events; seek volunteer opportunities.
  4. Get an entry-level position within desired career path.
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