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1. Find your voice

This guide aims to provide useful industry insights, resources and advice that can help you get started in the screen industry.

So, why do you want to work in the screen industry? What kind of roles interest you? The screen industry is competitive, so what will make your work stand out from the crowd?

To answer these questions, you need to develop and find your voice.

A great way to get started is by making online videos, short films and web series. Digital technology means it’s now easier and more affordable than ever to make short content or work on someone else’s project. This experience will show you how challenging and/or rewarding it is to translate your ideas into a finished piece of work and will help you identify what part of the creative process brings out your passion, creativity and skills. For example, you might discover that you prefer production design over directing, or producing over writing, or that you would rather make films as a hobby than pursue it as a career.

As you experiment and reflect on the content you make, you will be finding your voice and your place in the industry. You may be drawn to a particular kind of content; you might prefer documentary content or a specific narrative genre such as action, comedy, horror or rom-com. Although the lines between film, television and online content are fast disappearing, you might be drawn to faster turn-around episodic content over feature film storytelling. Or you might find you love it all! This reflection will give you vital insights into what drives your interest in screen – which can sustain both you and your career.

Watch a lot of screen content and think about what you like and why. Research who the lead creatives are: you can use IMDB and The Screen Guide to follow careers or ‘filmography’. Check out the work of other emerging talent on YouTube and at film festivals. Know what excites and interests you and be ready to describe your favourite films, content and filmmakers – be they award-winning directors or niche social media creators. This can help you, and your potential collaborators and supporters understand what creative space you’re interested in. The Screen Guide can also help you find where to watch Australian screen content.

Tertiary education can be an advantage – not only for what you learn and the people you meet – but also to demonstrate that you are serious about a screen career. But a degree is not essential. Getting hands-on experience in the industry, developing your scripts, directing online content or doing relevant short courses are all great ways to develop your voice and skills in your preferred focus area.

Here are some examples of some recent new ‘voices’ that have been picked up and provided with Screen Australia support:

To succeed you’ll also need to be a team player open to collaboration, have a strong work ethic and approach problems as an opportunity to learn. You will need to be able to communicate your ideas and excite people with them. You’ll need a level of self-confidence, and to be able to take initiative, while also being adaptable and open to change. Above all, you will need to be persistent and clear on what drives you to survive long periods of doubt and uncertainty. It can take several years to get your ‘break’, following long work hours, disappointments and extended stretches of unpaid work.

The good news is that the industry is always looking for emerging screen creatives with fresh stories and ideas: be ready to share ‘your story’ and how you fit in the storytelling landscape when you get an opportunity. To get a better sense of what it takes to get your career started check out our Next Step series, listen to Natalie Erika James on the Screen Australia podcast, and follow up with Top ten tips from the pros.

Natalie Erika James on the set of RelicNatalie Erika James on the set of Relic