The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry – Part 2: Unions and Film Commissions

Here is Adrien’s follow-up-to-his-follow-up article about contacts in the film industry. Which followed up my article for the animation industry. This is part 4 of a 5 part series of articles about “Getting the J-O-B”. You can find the rest of the articles at the end of this post. – KJL


Don’t take this the wrong way everyone, but if you want to seriously work on Hollywood productions, you have to be where the action is. (Editor’s note: There’s an AWN article on that very thing here. – KJL)

At least for a little bit (I’ll talk more on that later). Unless you’re in LA, Vancouver, New York or Toronto the only way to get on Hollywood productions is to have them come to your city. Of course, to get on them you have to be in the Union.

Here are some steps to take in that direction:

Every community has a film commission. These are the organizations that productions use in order to facilitate a location shoot. All of the resources (and budget needs) that a production requires can be obtained through them. The first thing you need to learn from the film commission is the list of the Film and Technicians Unions that serve in your community.

As a storyboard artist, you need to know this. Once you learn this, go to the Union office (don’t phone) and inquire as to whether the Union includes storyboard artists or illustrators. Don’t be surprised to find they don’t. Sometimes this is the case. If they do represent storyboard artists, then inquire about the process of applying for membership.

Remember, you must be a permittee to work on a Union shoot no matter what city you’re in.

Often, film commissions have a list (or access to a list) of the film productions in town, complete with fax numbers and contact info. Sometimes, it’s the Union website that has this info, and sometimes it’s other local film resources that carry this info. Get this list and start sending out samples along with a CV and short cover letter to the Production Designer. It’s good to find out who this is, and most film lists carry this info.

A good example of a film list is in the back pages of Variety magazine. Although you probably won’t be working with the Production Designer, it’s his/her department that does the hiring of storyboard artists and it often comes out of the Art Department budget.

Regardless of Union membership, send out your samples. If they like you enough, they will find a way to get you on the show.

Most importantly, all Unions protect their own.

This means that if a Hollywood production comes to your town, there will be Union regulations that stipulate they hire local talent. Or at least match the local talent to Hollywood people they’ve brought in. This means that if they want their storyboard artist, they have to hire a local whether they need them on the show or not. All of this is dependent on the Union Master Agreement. So this is going to vary from city to city.

Productions that come to your city are going to be Union productions. The only exception will be independently produced lower-budget productions. A Union production that hires outside of the Union can be heavily fined or even shut down if it’s a rampant problem. So you have to understand, that if you’re not a member or a permittee, you’re not going to get on.

So, what if your city has no Union representation for storyboard artists (like Toronto)?

Well, it’s a lot harder to find work, that’s for sure. It will require a lot more networking and phone calling to get your info. This goes back to the film commission. Every production that comes to town has to contact the film commission to begin scouting locations. The commission will recommend a Location Manager to help the production in finding the cool, film friendly place to shoot their movie.

This mean that Location Managers are your best friend.

These people, before anyone, are the people that know who’s looking at what in town. These people know when the movie is coming, or may be coming, or is gone.

How do you meet these people?

Well, working on small independent films is a good start. A lot of cities, like Vancouver, now require you to have a certified Location Manager no matter how small your budget is. This is to prevent film crews from ‘burning’ a location and to give the poor people that happens to, a venue for recourse. On these smaller films, you’ll want to start relationship building with the Location Manager.

Like I said in the previous post, relationship building is the key.

The last posts of this series will be about the right Attitude. I’m currently in ‘Hell Week’ so it may not be up till late this week or early next week. Subscribe to the RSS feed or by email if you don’t want to miss it.

Here are the other posts in this series:
Getting the J-O-B Part 1: Five Key Things You Need to Storyboard Professionally
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Training
Getting the J-O-B Part 2: Building a Storyboard Portfolio
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Portfolios
Getting the J-O-B Part 3: Professionalism in Animation…or Anywhere
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Professionalism
Getting the J-O-B Part 4: Contacts in the Industry
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry
Getting the J-O-B Part 5: The Right Attitude
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on the Right Attitude

3 thoughts on “The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry – Part 2: Unions and Film Commissions

  1. Debi

    Wow, that’s a lot to take in. Great info. Thanks!

    I gotta say this blog is a life saver. There is such a void of information out there for storyboard artist, it’s such a relief to find information finally!
    This website looks like it also has some good information on film commissions.

    And one question: If you live in an area that is close to several states, should you contact all the state’s film commissions or just the state you live in?

  2. Adrien

    Remember, all you’re asking the Film Commission is what Unions rep the film industry. So, yes, you can approach all the states in your area. Whether or not you can be a member of mulitple unions remains to be seen. Some don’t let you. Some have Master Agreements that stipulate that they hire within the state. Only after all members are employed or interviewed are they allowed to look out-of-state.Some have exclusivity deals (which aren’t really legal). For instance, I’m not supposed to work on non-union shows. Period. But I do. You can’t prevent someone from earning a living. Don’t forget to check out the websites BEFORE you call. Sometimes, everything you need to know is there. I checked out the Maryland Film Comm. and all the info you need is on the site.

  3. KJL Post author

    Thanks Deb. I hope it’s helping a few people out there at least…so hard to know for sure. That’s why I’m so grateful for you guys who leave the comments. It’s helpful to hear any feedback and if I/we’re on the right track.

    So thank you too for keeping the communication open!!


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