It was Design Week in Salt Lake City recently, a time to celebrate our thriving design scene across all disciplines—graphic, digital, product, fashion, photography, architecture, furniture, interior, environmental, and more. One industry that touches nearly all of these areas is film and television, however, the path to exploring opportunities may not be as clear. We got to thinking, “How do local creatives break into Utah’s film industry?” Here we explore advice from the experts:
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, Utah’s film industry is responsible for 21,841 jobs, 7,061 of which are directly related to film and TV (and 2,480 of those jobs are in production). Altogether it provides $252 million in wages annually. And the number of productions coming to Utah shows no signs of stopping — in 2016 Utah issued 356 film permits, that number grew to 602 in 2017.
As a growing industry, Film and TV employs a diversity of skills and trades. From special effects technicians to makeup artists and wardrobe design, writers to set builders, actors to ticket takers, producers to directors, it takes a whole team to make movie magic.
You have these skills. You want to grow your business. So where do you start?
First, get connected with the Utah Film Commission:
- Get familiar with the current productions for crew and extra work, reach out by sending a resume or cover letter
- Find out about networking opportunities and events coming up
- Stay up-to-date on all news, subscribe to their monthly newsletter, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
If you are new to the industry, the Production Assistant (P.A.) Certification offered by the Utah Film Commission is a great place to start. It is a one day course where you can learn some of the lingo, on-set decorum and most importantly what is typically expected of a P.A. The course is taught by a local Production Supervisor and a 1st Assistant Director and offered usually once per quarter, dependent on their schedules and demand.
The Utah Film Commission provides free listings in the Utah Film Directory to Utah resident crew and locally based support services (vendors or businesses). Select from two listing types: CREW or SUPPORT SERVICES and list yourself in one or both areas. This can also be a great place to reach out to those who are already working in these disciplines for mentoring.
This helpful database will allow you to customize a search by category, name, or company. Categories range from accommodations, animal equipment/services, to locations, stunts, wardrobe, and more:
|ACCOMMODATIONS||FILM||PROP RENTAL / SET DESIGN|
|ACCOUNTANTS||FILM FESTIVAL||REGIONAL FILM OFFICE|
|ACCOUNTING / PAYROLL||GOVERNMENT & PERMITTING||RESTORATION & CLEAN|
|ADVERTISING / MARKETING / PR||HAIR & MAKE UP STYLISTS||SECURITY|
|ANIMAL EQUIPMENT & SERVICES||INSURANCE||SITE RENTALS|
|AUDIO||LEGAL||SPECIAL EFFECTS COMPANIES|
|CATERERS||LOCATIONS||STAGES / STUDIOS|
|CONSTRUCTION||MEDICAL SERVICES||STILL PHOTOGRAPHY|
|CONSULTING & RESEARCH||MOBILE PRODUCTION||STOCK FOOTAGE & PHOTOS|
|DISTRIBUTION||OFFICE / COPY||STUNTS|
|EDITING||POST PRODUCTION COMPANY||TECHNICAL ADVISORS|
|EQUIPMENT RENTAL||PRODUCTION COMPANIES||THEATRICAL|
|EXPENDABLES||PRODUCTION SERVICE COMPANIES||TRANSPORTATION|
Derek Mellus, Production Manager with the Utah Film Commission offers the following advice for support services:
“For almost every department there is an entry level position. For example, someone who wants to pursue a career as a Costume Designer might start off as a Costumer, or maybe they might work as a Seamstress. If they have great fashion sense, it helps to get to know the ins and outs of production and the people involved. After you build up your credits, reputation, and relationships you could be moved up to Costume Dept. Supervisor or a Buyer and eventually with enough experience work as a Costume Designer. Talent and the type of production and budget are both factors. A smaller budgeted show might be willing to take someone on without much experience- especially if it is a passion project like a short or a local band’s music video, etc.
It is the same with the Art Dept. Usually, people start off as Set Dressers and work their way up to Leadman, Set Decorator, and then (much later) to Production Designer. They can also get there through the Props or Construction Departments in the same way.
There are other ways that film productions can utilize talented creatives. For example, a Set Decorator may rent or purchase a local artist or artisan’s work to decorate a scene. A Costume Designer might commission a fashion designer to create the lead actor’s attire, or a Property Master might higher a craftsman to construct a prop or a special weapon, etc.
Not all creatives work in film and TV. There is a lot of “real world” knowledge that transfers to production positions. A good driver or mechanic could be a candidate for the Transportation Dept. An electrician could easily work in the Grip & Electric Depts. An organized secretary could easily become an Asst. Production Coordinator.”
A strong local economy depends on a strong creative economy—and it all starts with a story. Reach out to the Utah Film Commission. They are located in Salt Lake City at the Council Hall building at Capitol Hill (300 North State Street) or call 800.453.8824.