A career in film can take on many forms. Millions of people dream of working in Hollywood, so expect plenty of competition in any job. You may find the easiest way to break into the film industry is by taking menial jobs and working your way up the ladder. It is also essential to establish yourself in an area where film production occurs regularly. California is the place to be if you desire a career in film.

The requirements needed to meet each career differ due to the diversity of film industry careers. While a college education is not always required, it can help you land higher paying positions.


Becoming an actor or actress takes time and patience. The key is being known. You will spend months handing out your portfolio, building up your portfolio, and scraping enough money together working other jobs to pay the bills. As most auditions are held during the day, it is often necessary for aspiring actors to work at night. This is why so many actors fill in gaps by waiting tables.

While no college degree is required in order to be an actor, it can help prepare you for auditions, public speaking, and working under pressure. Typically, an actor starts out in television commercials and slowly climbs up through the ranks. Few actually make it to the big screen. In addition, you can go for months between auditions. No auditions means no pay!

An actor will need to join the Screen Actors Guild if they plan to go into commercials, television, or motion pictures. Membership is granted to those who have gained a role in any SAG approved acting project. You can visit their website, www.sag.org, to find out if you qualify.

The pay scale for acting varies greatly. A famous movie star might earn millions per film, but starting out you will never receive that kind of pay. According to statistics, actors can earn anywhere from $6 to $50 per hour. The pay depends solely on the work involved.

Extras are “actors” who appear in a film but do not speak any lines. Becoming an extra in a film is often easy to do, but the pay is minimal. Extras who work regularly will earn approximately $20,000 per year.

Camera Operators

Camera Operators do not always need a college degree. Higher paying jobs, however, are often given to those with a degree in computers or years of skill. A strong knowledge of computerize camera control systems is integral to success as a camera operator in film.

Camera operators run the cameras that film movie or television scenes. Camera operators must be able to run their equipment efficiently and handle taking orders from both a producer and a director. Camera operators earn between $45,000 and $98,000 per year.


Once a producer has hired all of the staff for a film, the director comes in and creates the artistic flair that movie will impart. A director helps break the script down into emotional scenes. He or she works with actors to ensure each actor is achieving the correct emotion in all scenes. Directors also get a say in which actor fills which role. While a producer has the final say, directors help urge producers into certain selections.

Directors usually hold at least a two-year college degree in the arts, especially theater. They also must have five years of experience before advancing up the career ladder. Starting out, a director earns approximately $20,000 per year.

Fashion Designers

Any movie needs costumes that meet the film’s setting. If a movie is set in a historic setting, the clothing of all actors and actresses will need to match clothing used in that setting. Fashion designers are hired to design the outfits and then oversee the seamstresses who create the actual outfits and then design or select suitable accessories. Fashion designers need a college degree in fashion and are usually required to have at least five years of experience before working on a film or television show.

An established fashion designer earns upwards of $65,000. The salary can be increased if the fashion designer has earned awards for his or her fashion.

Film Editing

Once filming has been completed, a film editor watches all of the scenes and splices the final scenes together to create a seamless picture from start to finish. A film editor will cut unimportant scenes and make sure that the remaining scenes fill the movie’s pre-established length restrictions and meet all rating guidelines.

A career in film editing often requires an associate’s degree in video production. You can expect your starting salary to be $30,000 per year.

Read more about becoming a film editor in California.


A producer is the man or woman who sets up every aspect of filming from start to finish. A producer chooses the actors, approves the set design, finds financing for the project, approves the script, and hires all of the necessary staff to create the film from start to finish. Producers need a four-year degree that focuses on marketing and entertainment.

A producer hires a production assistant to handle a good portion of his or her duties. Production assistants arrange advertising, promotions, and other important announcements. Production assistants often have an associate’s degree in marketing or business. The average starting salary for a production assistant is $25,000.

Starting out, a producer earns approximately $50,000 per year. Obviously, a producer who is high in demand will earn millions, but it can take years to get there and very few ever make it that far.

Screen Writers

Screenwriters usually are required to have a degree in screen writing or English. A strong grasp of grammar and writing are needed to succeed.

Screenwriters create the scripts for films of all genres. Statistics show that less than 50% of all screenwriters earn more than $80,000 per year. There is so much competition that many writers receive minimal pay just to be noticed. The key to success is creating a script that leads to a blockbuster movie. It is also important to understand that a producer or director will probably ask for numerous changes to your script before they accept it.

Set Designers

Set designers create the settings for films. It is important for any aspiring set designer to have a degree in art. Settings contain many artistic elements including backdrops, buildings, and even the food placed in certain scenes. Set designers must have a strong grasp for researching, as historic sets will require precise detail.

The national average for a set designer’s salary is $34,000 per year. Those who have made a name for themselves will find the average salary runs upwards of $58,000.

Talent Agents

Talent agents must have a degree in marketing. Talent agents interview actors and actresses to find perfect matches for a producer. Talent agents go through lists of possible actors to match them to specific movie or television roles. They then offer their suggestions to the producer who has the final say.

Talent agents earn between $30,000 and $80,000 per year.


View a list of film programs in California >>