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23 5. Working for Others DECISION TIME HAS COME. Take off for Europe? Go into your father ’s furniture business? Try to get into a Wall Street firm? No, maybe not after the last crisis. Or continue with film? Finally, you decide to bite the bullet and devote yourself to professional documentary filmmaking. In practice, this means you have three options before you: • Teaching • Working for others • Making your own films The first option, teaching, probably includes the possibility of your continuing filmmaking, which is fine. The second choice may offer you a full career or more often may be the path that ultimately leads you to go independent. This chapter deals with the first two career possibilities. Teaching Almost every major city boasts of a film department. If a town doesn’t have a film program, it’s just not hip, not with it. And even in those universities that believe themselves to be above the fray, film or TV studies normally creeps into communications or English departments. All of which means there is a fair demand for film academics. Once, you could find an academic film job if you roughly knew one end of a camera from the other. Times have changed. Today, most serious academic institutions will demand a terminal degree from those applying for a full-time job. This means a PhD if you intend to teach the more academic film studies and an MFA if you are going to teach practical courses. If looking for employment as a part-time adjunct documentary 24 / Working for Others teacher, then you can sometime get away without possessing the MFA. The problem with adjunct teaching is that it’s demanding, is badly paid, and usually offers few welfare benefits, if any. However, it may be a tad better than waiting on tables and keeps you in touch with the profession. You can, of course, look for a teaching job immediately after getting a degree, but I’d wait a bit. Most places will want to see that you have made a few films and have gotten a little bit of experience before employing you. So time usually increases your chances. Schools and departments vary, so it’s wise to examine very carefully what’s being offered before accepting the job. Find out what courses you’ll be expected to teach. Are you really qualified to teach them, or will you be able to teach them after a little bit of homework? Equally important, does the department encourage its faculty to make films? Will it allow you to use its equipment and facilities when you want to make your own films, and does it allow you time off or a sabbatical to get back to filmmaking ? These are important questions because unless they are answered positively, you may find yourself getting farther and farther away from filmmaking. If the department does support faculty filmmaking, then you’ve probably come to a good place and can join the ranks of the best of the teachers, those who teach from practice and experience. In terms of getting to know the academic market, it might be worth your while joining the University Film and Video Association (UFVA). This is basically an American umbrella organization linking most people interested in teaching film and television. The UFVA holds an annual conference in August that besides offering screenings, discussions, wine, and a lot of fun also provides an opportunity to meet academics, talk to them, and find out informally what’s going on in the teaching world. The UFVA also publishes a bulletin that often advertises the latest filmteaching jobs. Another worthwhile organization to join is the Broadcast Education Association (BEA). Both the BEA and UFVA support documentary groups for their members. Working for Others If you decide to start your film career by looking for a full- or part-time job, you first have to think about what jobs are out there and how to locate them. Second, you have to consider how best to get your foot in the door. Lastly, once you’ve got the job, you have to consider how to maximize all the opportunities it offers you. Working for Others / 25 Job Opportunities In looking for a job, you may want to cast your net very wide and start thinking outside the usual parameters. It helps to take a moment to quantify your talents. What can you do? What are you capable of? How would you describe yourself? You are...


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