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How to get paid to review films

If you were to ask my ten year old self what he wanted to pursue as a career he would most likely answer that he wants to get a job that has something to do with film. This idea that film was where I wanted to be is one that has followed me throughout most of my adult life and it was the deciding factor behind me choosing to study a Bachelor of Media (Hons) majoring in Screen and Writing at Southern Cross University.

Throughout most of my time at university I was content to follow this lofty notion that I would one day graduate and find a cool job where I got paid good money to review films and interview my favourite actors. Upon graduating I was no longer in the bubble of being a student and my fantasy of finding a career as a film writer was brought to a screeching halt when I finally had to ask myself that dreaded question that I had been avoiding for four years- what the hell do I do next?

It was not until I sat down and really thought about the steps I needed to take to achieve my dream that I realised how woefully unprepared for the realities of the working world my university had left me. Once I made my peace with this fact I started to research ways in which other people have found employment in media fields and I sought to emulate their methods. The first and most valuable piece of advice I found was that potential employers look very favorably upon applicants who have had real world experience and have had their work published. I heeded these words and since I had zero contacts within the media industry I started researching film publications online that ran internships and I eventually found one at FilmInk Magazine which offered the opportunity to get first hand experience in how a professional magazine is run.

This internship provided me with some invaluable real world experience and it also gave me the opportunity to get some of my work published in an internationally renowned publication. Once I finished there I resolved to use my new skills as leverage to find some paid work. My film reviews eventually found a home at a creative arts magazine in Brisbane where there was a promise of payment after a few months of unpaid work to prove my skills. I agreed to this plan but after months of churning out weekly reviews and articles, excuses were made about funding that hadn’t come in yet but they assured me that the money would be available by the end of the year. Being the novice that I was I accepted their version of the truth and continued to work for free but when the end of the year arrived and once again they declined payment I decided I had had enough.

In my experience there are two key pieces of advice you should follow in order to have the best chance of success in the media industry.

The first is being humble enough to know that you will have to work your way up from the bottom and that means being the guy who gets the coffee and does all the jobs that nobody else wants to do. As a recent graduate you must prove yourself by showing that you are a diligent worker and this often means being willing to forgo a paycheck in order to get your foot in the door. Potential employers have probably hundreds and even thousands of applicants wanting to work for them so if you can show that you will accept any job with gusto you will distinguish yourself from the pack. It is also prudent to remember to never sell yourself short. If you are willing to continually work for free then many companies are happy to abuse your generosity so be shrewd about who you work for and if you feel like it isn’t leading towards a paid position then take your skills elsewhere.

The second piece of advice is to learn how to network and develop contacts. When it comes to finding that illusive paid job, having a list of contacts who know your name and are familiar with your work is priceless as many positions are never advertised, so if you are on a potential employers radar at the right time then you never know what can happen.

For those of you who are planning to do a similar degree to what I studied do I would recommend that you do your homework first. If the university you are considering has a good track record of guiding students on the path to finding employment once they graduate then it is worth the money. If you are looking to walk into a great paying job your first year out of university then you are in the wrong field. Expect to be working for little to no money for your first few years but with persistence, networking, a lot of luck maybe, and maybe a loan from your parents, you may be able to achieve your goals. Good luck.


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