By the time viewers see a blockbuster film in theaters or binge-watch their favorite television show, it has been touched by countless professionals, including writers, editors, producers, directors, studio executives, and agents. The film industry is the largest of all entertainment media fields, and it mainly employs people in three fields: creative, production, and business. Like film, television is a huge field, with positions in content, production, and business.

Television Overview

  • The National Association of Broadcaster’s offers an excellent breakdown of roles in television.
  • Positions in content creation and development include researcher, writer, editor, development executive, producer, director, camera operator, lighting and set design, and engineer. Production assistant or an assistant to an executive are common entry-level positions. 
  • On-air jobs in television, on the national or local level, include reporter, meteorologist, sportscaster, and anchor.
  • There are also many business opportunities behind the scenes in distribution, marketing, advertising, scheduling, trafficking, human resources, finance, and accounting.
  • Many employees of cable and broadcast television stations are part-time or freelance, so employees are often moving between different projects and fulfilling a variety of roles.

Film Overview

  • The New York Times has a great resource that explains the “billing block” at the bottom of movie posters. Learn about the positions of cast, crew, editors, producers, and directors.
  • Development: In this stage, the project producer selects a story and tries to make its production a reality. Lower level positions such as a Writer’s Assistant or a Script Reader are good first jobs in finding and creating content. Other, more advanced development positions include Agents, Attorneys, Producers, and Screenwriters.
  • Preproduction: This is the process of preparing all the elements involved in a film that is set to be produced. Common positions in preproduction include Casting Director, Costume Designer, Production Designer, Set Decorator & Designer.
  • Production: During this phase, the film is shot and created. Production Assistants/Coordinators are common entry-level positions in this area. Tasks may include running errands, ordering catering, assisting with lighting, sound, and so forth. Producers, executives, agents, and some directors and writers also have assistants. Sometimes, large studios, agencies, or production companies transfer assistants to different executives to find the right fit. If you’re interested in working in television or film, getting an assistant position is the best way to get in the door and begin networking and making contacts.
  • Post-production: After the filming is over, Audio Recording Engineers, Composers, Editor/Editor’s Assistant, and Sound Designers help to get the product to its finished state.
  • Distribution: This is the final stage of the film process, where it is distributed and released. Roles in marketing and public relations are incredibly important at this stage in order to get the word out about the film.

Radio Overview

In the United States, there are two types of radio: public broadcasters and commercial broadcasters. Public and community radio stations receive all or some of their operating revenue from underwriters and their listeners, while commercial broadcasters receive their funding through advertising and parent companies. Internet radio (i.e. Pandora) and satellite radio (SiriusXM Satellite Radio) are two newer, emerging forms of radio.

Like other media fields, jobs in radio are split between content and production. Common content positions include desk assistants, writers, producers, assignment editors, news directors and commentators. These employees write sound bites, written copy and reporter packages, which are then passed on to the production and technical staff to tie the content together into a seamless broadcast. While some reporters will edit their own packages, larger stations may still use editors. Technician work includes operating the transmitters, overall maintenance of the broadcast signal and taking in feeds. Those working on the business side are responsible for driving revenue for the broadcasts through the sales of advertisements, and maintaining the overall financial health of the station. This involves identifying sales targets, as well as developing and monitoring budgets.

Television, Film, Radio Job Search

Entry-level positions require long hours and total commitment.  However, once you’ve got a foot in the door, there are many paths to move up. While you can enter the field from just about any academic discipline, demonstrated interest in and work experience in the field is absolutely essential. You can gain relevant work experience through campus media or even personal projects. Internships are a great, and essential, way to break into these industries, and networking is absolutely key in getting hired. These industries generally hire on as “as needed” basis for full-time jobs, and a semester prior for internships. Be sure to use CCE’s resources, company web sites, industry job boards, and tap into your own network and Columbia’s alumni network to start talking to people in these fields.

Columbia Resources

  • LionSHARE: Hosts a wealth of opportunities for students and alumni. In addition to using the Job/Internship search tab, you can also use the Employer Directory tab to search for lists of organizations that have posted in the past. Many might have open positions on their web sites that they have not publicized on LionSHARE. Examples of organizations that have recruited through LionSHARE for positions include Filmus, Inc., Film Forum and Florentine Films, ABC News, 21st Century Fox, Turner Broadcasting System, and Univision.     
  • CCE Career Fairs: Our Undergraduate Career Fair and Spring Career Fair include organizations each from many industries including media organizations like Viacom, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO, and Brunswick Group.
  • Vault and WetFeet Guides: CCE subscribes to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers, such as Vault’s Career Launcher: Film, the Vault Guide to Media, Entertainment, and Journalism Careers, and Wetfeet’s Careers in Entertainment and Sports.
  • The Film Department of Columbia’s School of the Arts offers resources regarding career opportunities in film.
  • Columbia’s Artists Resource Center
  • The Ferris Reel Film Society
  • WKCR
  • Columbia University Film Productions
  • Columbia University DKA
  • Society for the Advancement of Underrepresented Filmmakers

External Resources

Job Boards

  • Mandy: A film and TV job board.
  • Stage 32: A social network and educational hub for film, television & theater creatives.
  • Mediabistro: Browse thousands of jobs according to industry, keyword, location, and date. Additionally, it provides quick shortcuts to media/communications blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter users, related training programs and courses, upcoming events, and anything else you could need during your communications job-search.
  • Entertainment Careers: Click on an industry of your choice and be directed to a list of jobs.
  • Internships: Begin a simple, step-by-step search for your college internship.
  • New York Foundation for the Arts: Provides information and job postings in the arts.
  • City of New York: Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting: Offers information about the Made in NY PA Training Program and the Reel Jobs list.
  • ProductionHub: Job postings for film production.

Industry Resources

  • This New York Times blog offers “a guide to the media industry,” as it publishes both news and opinions on the media industry, daily.
  • Film Society of Lincoln Center seeks to recognize and support new filmmakers. It premieres new films from established and emerging directors, provides retrospectives, and offers in-depth symposia.
  • Center for Communication, a non-profit focused on preparing college students for careers in media.

Professional Associations

  • Directors Guild of America (DGA) is a union and professional association that protects directors’ legal and artistic rights.
  • IFP.org is set up to support the independent filmmaker. Since its inception in 1979, IFP has supported the production of 7,000 films and provided resources to over 20,000 filmmakers.
  • Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is primarily a union, but it also offers many of the benefits of a professional association, such as educational events and a quarterly publication, Screen Actor.
  • Writers Guild of America (WGA) is a union and professional association with over 9,500 members provides a wide range of services.
  • Entertainment Industry Associations, Guilds and Unions : Lists compiled by the California Film Commission.