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Jobs in Film and Television: Career Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a film and television producer, director or camera operator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about the degree programs and job duties to find out if one of these is the career for you.

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There are many career options for those interested in working in the film and television industry. Some common film and television careers include being a producer, a director, or a camera operator.

Essential Information

A bachelor's degree is necessary for most positions. Degree programs for film and television generally include film history, editing, lighting, writing or acting. Other degrees such as business, arts management and nonprofit management are helpful when looking for a job in the film and television industry. Education and training requirements vary by career type.

Careers Producer/Director Camera Operater
Required Education Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree
Other Requirements Work Experience in Film or TV, Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) Knowledge of Digital Cameras and Editing Software
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% 2%
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $68,440 $49,080

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Career choices in the film and television industries abound. Options include technical, creative and managerial positions such as producer, director, and camera operator. Education and training requirements vary by career type.

Producer

Producers are key players in film productions and television shows, playing a vital role from beginning to end. A producer may come up with the idea for the show or movie, hire writers, choose directors and select scripts. The producer and director may work together to determine the cast and filming locations. The producer is in charge of the production and film crews, determines the film's budget and arranges financing for the film or television show. Producers also ensure that each production stays on schedule.

Large productions may have associate producers who perform specialized tasks. Each producer's responsibilities are described by the producer's title. For example, a segment producer is responsible for all of the criteria for a particular section of a production, and a visual effects producer is responsible for all of the special effects used in the production.

There aren't specific training requirements for producers, they often have diverse backgrounds in arts or business management. Arts management degree programs combine business and arts classes, and producer degree programs are available - usually through a Master of Fine Arts program. Producer degree programs focus on the development and strategy of creating film and television productions. Classes teach aspiring producers contract law and business negotiations, financing, pitching show or movie concepts, production management, and marketing and personnel management.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted employment would increase for producers and directors, by about 9%, between 2014 and 2024. In its May 2015 salary report, the BLS noted the median annual salary was $68,440 for producers and directors.

Camera Operator

Film and television camera operators use specialized cameras to record motion pictures and television shows and broadcasts, like sporting events, news and entertainment shows. Camera operators who film motion pictures are called cinematographers. Camera operators manipulate the camera and equipment to achieve different lighting, focus and exposure effects.

They compose the physical placement of the camera according to the director's preference. Camera operators may sit in cranes while a crane operator moves them accordingly, or use harnesses to mount cameras on their shoulders so they are mobile. Camera operators are normally responsible for the maintenance of the camera equipment. They perform tests before recording, clean the equipment and make sure it's stored properly.

Good eyesight, endurance (for holding cameras for long periods), coordination and attention to detail are some of the characteristics camera operators should possess. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some type of postsecondary training is required to properly operate a camera and it's accessories (www.bls.gov). Trade schools, colleges and universities offer training in camera operation. Students learn the technical aspects of using camera equipment, filming methods, how to set up lighting and other techniques.

Entry-level camera operators sometimes start their careers as production assistants or in small markets to learn the inner workings of the job and industry. Building a good reputation and a collection of work examples may help camera operators move up in the industry.

Television, motion picture and video camera operators had a median annual salary of $49,080, the BLS stated in its May 2015 report. These workers were expected to see only 2% growth in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Director

The director often works with the producer in the overall creation of the film or television show. They read scripts and interpret how the material is portrayed on film. The director meets with the camera operators to convey his or her desire for composition, sound, lighting, movement and framing. Actors audition for the director and other members of the casting crew, and they have a say in the selection of the cast. Directors also approve sets, costumes, choreography and music.

Industry experience is key to creating a lucrative career as a film and television director. The BLS stated that some directors start out as actors or writers, and some begin by assisting established directors.

Programs such as the Directors Guild of America's New York Assistant Director Training Program, offer special training for those interested in jumpstarting their film and television directing careers. Programs such as these contain seminars, special projects and on-the-job training, which allow aspiring directors to gain experience.

The BLS doesn't separate its salary and employment data for directors from that of producers in its reports. Therefore, the data for directors is listed above in the producer section.

A career in film and television usually requires a bachelor's degree, and the specific degree may vary, depending on which career path is being pursued. Directors and producers benefit from studies in arts management, business, film and theater arts. Those interested in working as camera operators may consider a course of study that includes photography and using digital editing software or pursuing studies in camera operation at a trade school.

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