Frequently Asked Questions

Here's some hopefully useful information we've collected and shared over the years:

How do I Break Into the Film Industry?

The number of departments in the film industry is vast. You need to first identify which area you would most like to work in so that you can specifically target that area and customize your portfolio submission to that department. Start off small. If you can't get onto a great job immediately, start on much smaller projects. Find young filmmakers in your area and team up with them. Offer to work for free. The work they get you to do will enhance your portfolio.

If you are struggling to find others:

• Approach local government agencies and councils to find out how to contact the appropriate people. 
• Look online, talk to the local colleges and universities, 
• Put an ad in the local paper. There will always be other people like yourself trying to get going in this career.

If you have no access to others, start some small projects yourself! Choose a challenge and pursue it until you achieve a result. Try again and again until you start to assemble some work you are proud of. Document it well. Take good photographs or copies of your work as these are essential for your portfolio.

What Qualifications do I need?

We don't necessarily hire people because of the degree or course they have done. The crew here are a varied bunch! All have different degrees, have done different courses (some none at all) and some have started at the bottom and learnt on the job.

Most of them however have demonstrated a level of skill, talent, passion, enthusiasm and tenacity, without having any specific qualifications. Although specific training in various practical areas can only help and further your knowledge, you should not get too hung up on whether you have a degree or not. The best way to learn is just to start.

Where do I train?

This is very specific to the field you want to get into. Also where you live in the world is going to determine whether or not there are courses available.

We suggest that once you've identified the specific area you want to train in, speak to local career guidance people and hunt out what is local on the internet, the library, publications etc. Try and talk to people that have done the course before you enrol. These courses are expensive and you want to make sure your money is well spent.
Make sure you get the course to work for you! Try and get portfolio quality shots of your work as you progress so that you finish with a lot to show for your efforts.

Also remember there is an alternative. You can buy some materials and training manuals and give it a go yourself!

What Publications Should I read?

Once again this is very specific to the area that you want to work in, but we have tried to include below some of the books, magazines etc that have assisted us. We do suggest however that all around you are an infinite source of inspiration and training opportunities.

Recommended Reading:

There are many places to find related material for model making, special effects, make-up etc. Book stores have hobby and craft sections as do libraries. Newsagents or magazine retailers have literally hundreds of publications and these vary from country to country. Starting at school with woodwork, metal work, drawing, designing, or other art related subjects are all very useful in the effects industry and a good way to start learning the basic skills.

Tech courses have a wide variety of art and building related subjects. It is important to learn the safe use of different mediums and materials as there are quite a diverse range of methods employed in the film industry. Sculpting is a very good way to develop creative skills and an understanding of shape and form which is essential in any special effects work. Drawing and design skills are also important as a means of communicating ideas. Most tech colleges have sculptural and drawing classes. Some countries also have courses on model making so you should check with your local colleges to find out what's available.

Visiting your local book shop will provide you with a wide variety of relevant research material. Most movies issue ‘making of' publications around the same time as the movie e.g. ‘Lord of the Rings', ‘Aliens', ‘James Bond', 'X-men' or ‘Spiderman'. These books are a good source of information about how the films were put together and some show a lot of examples of make-up, special effects and miniatures. If you have access to the internet, do searches for books or magazines such as ‘special effects', ‘make-up effects', or ‘model making'. Sites like e-bay sell many ‘making of' books and other film related subjects.

With the advent of DVD, most films include the making of special features and commentaries from the filmmakers. This is a very good way to get an overview of the film making process and gain knowledge on how they did it, the problems they had and how they solved them.

If you are interested in set and prop building, making models from scratch is the best way to learn and develop your skills. This does not have to be a complicated project. It can be as simple as a cardboard model of your house. What's important is that you have learned how to build and have started to develop a skill. Hobby stores often have publications on model making kits so they are a good place to go and ask. Persistence is the key.

Bibliography of References


  • "Modelling the head in clay - creative techniques for the sculptor" LUCCHESI,B. & MALMSTROM,M., Watson-Guptill.
  • "From Clay to Bronze - a studio guide to figurative sculpture" LANGLAND,T., Watson-Guptill.
  • "Atlas of human anatomy for the artist" PECK,S.R.,Oxford
  • "Modelling a likeness in clay" GRUBBS,D.
  • "The portrait in clay" RUBINO,P.
  • "Modelling and sculpting the human figure" LANTERI,E.
  • "Modelling the figure in clay" LUCCHESI,B. & MALMSTROM,M.
  • "Modelling and sculpting animals" LANTERI,E.
  • or e-mail this site has an excellent list of books and videos.

Design and Drawing

  • "Drawing on the right side of the brain" EDWARDS,B.
  • "Drawing on the artist within" EDWARDS,B.
  • "Production Design and Art Direction" (from the ‘screen craft' series) ETTEDGUI,P.

Make-Up and Prosthetics

  • "Stage Make-UP" CORSON, Prentice Hall
  • "Special Make-Up Effects" KEHOE,V., Focal Press
  • "Making a Monster" TAYLOR,A. & ROY,S., Crown
  • "Grand Illusions" SAVINI,T., Imagine Inc.
  • "Grand Illusions 2" SAVINI,T. Morris costumes.
  • "Dick Smiths Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook" Imagine,Inc.
  • "Men, Make-Up & Monsters" TIMPONE,A., St. Martins Griffin.
  • "Behind the Mask" Salisbury and Hedgcock.
  • MBP "The Art of Special Make-up Effects Volume 2 - Basic Foam Rubber Appliance" (video)
  • MBP "The Art of Special Make-up Effects volume 3 - Cable Controlled Mechanical Mask" (Video)
  • "Dick Smith's Monster Make-Up Video"
  • "The Monster Makers" video series including: "Fantastic Dentistry" volume 1&2; "Life-casting Essentials"; "Professional Mask Making" volume 1&2; "Molding and Casting with Silicone" and "Props and Body Parts"
  • "Mark Alfrey's Sculpting movie monsters" (video)
  • "Techniques of Three Dimensional Make-Up" BAYGAN,L., Watson.

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