Internships: An Overlooked Way to Get Into Show Business

Updated on April 20, 2020
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna wrote, and directed several plays, taught acting for kids. She is a former talent scout and directs or performs.

Instant Internship

You may have heard about the old irony and difficulties of breaking into the film business.

No film experience? You can't get an interview.

No Interview? You can't get the job.

No Job? You can't get the experience.

You need the experience to achieve the experience. Trying to break into the business of film can go on and on—around and around. Despite all, people do break into the film business, and you can, too.

It takes a simple film business plan.


Film Business Plan

The film production companies look for people who are willing to work for free because they are new to the business and need experience. They're called internships, and they are often part of a formal course of study at a four-year college.

Among the colleges and universities that offer such internship programs are UCLA, USC, San Francisco State University, University of Texas, and New York University. If you are interested in pursuing this path as a career choice, you contact the admissions offices of the colleges for more information. Or, you Google "film internships NYC" if you want to work in NYC.

Going after film production internships are considered by some in the business a noble action because it suggests that you're committed to the industry. You are strongly committed enough to work for free.

The fact is, though, that many film industry jobs require training and a certain number of years of work experience. That is where the film production internships apply. Most professional industry jobs do not require a college degree. They need you to be an intern for a time to gain the technical, creative, and managerial skills necessary to function effectively in your chosen film career.

If you are thinking about interning in the industry, it would be advisable to give some thought to your specific area or areas of interest so that you can prepare. If, for example, you're thinking about interning as an editor, it would be a good idea to take a few editing classes at a film school. Such experience will not only make you more attractive as a candidate but will also make you more valuable once you've begun your training on your internship.

Film Business Jobs

Make sure you have business cards.

Sometimes people get lucky in the film business and fall into jobs, but it doesn't happen very often. As a rule, if you want it, it will happen, and you're going to have to make it happen.

One way to make it happen is to arrange for an internship with a production company connected to a film school. Or, you can approach other film organizations like marketing, law, digital media, or social media. A film production internship is an unpaid position that helps you build your resume, gain experience, and develop industry contacts.

Internships, however, can be hard to find and nearly impossible to land because of the intense competition in the field.

Offer the production an internship for yourself. This technique works because film production companies are amenable to accepting free help during peak "rush" periods. Some gained employment and kick-started to their careers by approaching a production company in the production and asking for work.


  • To build your career, the contacts you develop during such "unofficial" internships are invaluable.
  • Before you start approaching people in the film business for work, you have to have film business cards with reliable and up to date contact information.

Contacts Lead to Contacts

There are several ways to arrange an internship. Sometimes, people approach film crews while in production and offer to help. While the offer gets refused, it doesn't hurt to ask. If you're persistent, the chances are that eventually, they'll give in and let you do some work on the shoot. It may not be the kind of work you had in mind, but once you get on a set with a production company, you have the opportunity to meet people who can help you get a "real" job in the film business. And then, pass out your business cards.

Whatever tactic you choose or however you try to get your first job in the film business, make sure you keep at it with the right attitude, odds are you will eventually run into someone who will take you up on your offer.

Once you get an internship, get to know as many people on the production as you can.


  • Contacts lead to contacts, and eventually, the job you want in the business.
  • In the film business, it's all about networking, and the more people you get to know, the more likely you'll find work in your chosen field.
  • People make it in the business because they asked, searched, persisted, and finally landed a job on the set.

Where Crews are Hired

In addition to full-time and freelance jobs, there's a third way you can work in the film industry—free. It doesn't sound like a good idea and certainly not something you want—or be able—to do for too long, but it is a way to get a foot in the door.

There are, in fact, film productions where crews are "hired" for no pay at all. In such instances, the producer may offer the crew shares in the film or some other form of deferred payment—the chance to make money if and when the film itself makes money. If nothing else, the opportunity to share in the profits of the film serves a considerable motivation for the crew to do its best and help maximize the film's chances for success.

Although the arrangement looks like exploitation, it benefits both producer and crew. How else can a filmmaker with little or no money for production get a team? How else can inexperienced crew members get experience? Ultimately—whether the film is a success or not and to at least some extent—both sides get what they want: the filmmaker gets his movie made, and the new crew members get some valuable experience that they can put on their resumes.

What Do You Think?

Would you work for free to break into the film industry?

See results

Working on the Film Set

Making a career in film requires patience and perseverance. The production manager says, "No," don't take it personally. Keep working at it until you find a crack in the door, and you get your big break.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2007 Kenna McHugh


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    • profile image

      Shari Jane Millangue 

      9 years ago

      This was satisfying. Good for whatever piqued your curiosity.


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