6 Fun Areas of Filmmaking Performed Behind the Camera
Actors and other on-screen performers often get a lot of attention for their work in film or on television. After all, they are the faces of the movies or shows they star in, and they can be vital to the artistic and commercial success of many kinds of productions. But they wouldn't have any roles at all if it wasn't for the countless other professionals who work together behind the scenes to ensure that films and TV programs actually have life.
The filmmaking sector is simply brimming with compelling ways to make use of your talents. And it's a pretty sizable industry in Canada, especially within the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. Just take a look at these extraordinary facts:
- In 2012, Canada's television and movie industry generated $7.6 billion in GDP and directly supported about 127,700 full-time equivalent jobs. But if you add in all of the spinoff value created by this industry, the economic impact across all sectors was $20.4 billion in GDP and about 262,700 direct and indirect full-time jobs.*
- BC's diverse settings, along with the province's large base of skilled talent and renowned studio facilities, attract many foreign film producers, including those from Hollywood. In fact, BC is awarded about six out of every 10 foreign-location film or TV projects in Canada. As a result, the industry supports more than 36,000 jobs in the province.**
- Ontario is where the largest share of Canadian film and TV production happens. In 2012, more than 40 percent of the nation's filmmaking jobs existed in this province. And in 2013, its share of the industry contributed about $1.15 billion to the province's economy.
Another great thing about being a student or professional filmmaker in Ontario or BC is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the industry and make connections. Top film professionals from all over the world are drawn to these provinces each year to take in new and independent films at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival.
So, as you explore your future in filmmaking, consider the many vocational options below. And remember that a lot of filmmakers, especially independent ones, get to take on multiple roles in their productions.
This is often where it all starts. Writing is the foundation upon which every other aspect of a motion picture or television show is built. In the majority of productions, you can't create anything without it. Scripts are essential, particularly if the story you want to put on screen is fictional or a dramatization of real-life events. But even many documentaries require scripts to help frame the narrative and keep everything cohesive and interesting once the research and filming has taken place.
2. Producers and Directors
These professionals are like the captains and first officers of film production. They plan, coordinate, and oversee either the whole project or one of its major components. And they have the potential to make very good money. For instance, the median pay for full-time work in this category is about $54,000, but yearly wages can go as high as $104,000 or more.**** Some of the most common roles include:
- Producer—Gets funding, consults with the director and other key members of the crew, and oversees the scheduling, budgeting, planning, and major decisions during all stages of a production
- Director—Chooses the actors and key members of the technical crew, makes suggestions to performers and crew based on interpretations of the script, directs and coordinates the rehearsal and shooting of each scene, and consults with different specialists during every phase of production and post-production to ensure that his or her vision is achieved
- Cinematographer (i.e., director of photography)—Oversees camera operations and makes choices about camera lenses, lighting, shooting angles, and other visual details based on the director's vision
- Art director—Supervises the creation of artistic and design elements such as props, sets, backgrounds, costumes, and other items to help make the screenwriter's and director's concepts a reality on screen
3. Camera Operators
Just like the job title says, these professionals specialize in operating film or video cameras. In most cases, they are supervised and directed by the cinematographer or production's director. Median annual pay for Canadians in this role is about $48,000, with some camera operators making in excess of $87,000.****
4. Production Support Specialists
This is where the roles get especially diverse. Just think of the long list of credits you see at the end of every film. For live-action movies and TV shows, many of the people listed—sometimes most of them—fall under this broad category. The pay can vary substantially between different positions, but median yearly wages tend to be around $41,600 to $52,000, with the highest earners making anywhere from about $66,000 to $83,000 or more.**** And many production support jobs are unionized. They include roles like:
- Script assistant—Delivers copies of script to performers and maintains notes about details such as camera angles, actor positions on the set, and when each scene is shot
- Grip—Sets up, moves, and disassembles equipment, backdrops, set elements, and other items
- Gaffer or lighting technician—Assembles, operates, and fixes lights and electrical equipment
- Camera crane operator—Sets up, operates, and makes adjustments to special equipment that allows the director or cinematographer to achieve distinctive camera angles and movements
- Props assistant—Oversees, constructs, places, and fixes physical props
- Costumier—Procures costumes based on what the script requires and ensures they are well maintained and fit the performers
- Makeup artist—Puts special cosmetics on performers as part of their costumes or to ensure they look good on screen
- Special effects or stunt coordinator—Designs and oversees physical stunts and visual effects like car crashes and fiery explosions
Many 2D and 3D animated films have been successful at the box office. But fully animated movies and shows aren't the only productions that require skilled digital animators. A lot of live-action film and TV projects also incorporate animation, especially those within the science fiction and fantasy genres. The average salary for Canadian animators is about $48,200, but some earn upwards of $74,000 or more.†
6. Post-Production Specialists
This category includes film professionals who perform their work after all of a project's scenes have been shot. They put the finishing touches on a production before it gets released. Like production support specialists, their pay varies depending on the position. But it's very possible to earn between $45,000 to $85,000 or more per year.**** A few examples of popular post-production roles include:
- Film editor—Cuts and arranges segments of film with the goal of producing cohesive sequences that sustain viewer interest and create the pace, tension, and conceptual effects that the director is after
- Sound mixer or editor—Works with music and/or sound effects that have been recorded, ensures that audio is clear and balanced, and fits all sound components into the film based on the director's goals
- CGI artist—Sometimes along with animators, creates computer-generated characters, backgrounds, settings, props, or other visual elements that didn't exist during the physical stage of production
*Motion Picture Association—Canada, website last visited on February 10, 2015.
**Vancouver Economic Commission, website last visited on August 31, 2017.
***Ontario Media Development Corporation, website last visited on February 10, 2015.
****Job Bank, Government of Canada, website last visited on February 10, 2015.
†PayScale, website last accessed August 27, 2014.