Careers in the Film, Music, and Digital Media

By Phill Powell

When considering future employment opportunities for their children, many parents look at the music and film industries and don’t see many career options. Like most people, they tend to focus on the most celebrated workers in those industries—movie stars and musical performers. And, frankly, those glamorous jobs are usually pretty hard to find and difficult to keep. For parents trying to chart a successful future for their kids, a performer’s unpredictable life can seem like a gamble.

Sound-designer-Walter-MurchSound designer Walter Murch won his first Academy Award for his masterful use of sound in Francis Ford Coppola’s war masterpiece Apocalypse Now.

But, of course, those aren’t the only jobs in the entertainment industry. Both the film/television industry and music industry are enormous production systems that require the talents of many diverse professionals. Once you take a closer look, you realize that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than we see.

The Talent Behind the Scenes
Here are just 15 of the many high-end creative jobs associated with the music and film industries:

  • Art Designer: The Art Designer uses visual arts skills that can be applied to work in different media, such as creating movie sets, designing game backgrounds or conceptualizing photo layouts.
  • Assistant Director: The Assistant Director (or AD) aids the Director in executing his or her artistic vision. The range of duties can vary widely, and may include actually directing certain shots or scenes if the Director is unable or the production’s schedule requires simultaneous shooting.
  • Assistant Editor: Similar to the AD, the Assistant Editor helps the Editor organize the various shots and sequences of a film or program. The Assistant Editor may perform some portion of the actual editing of a project, depending upon production needs.
  • Audio Engineer: The Audio Engineer supervises the technical aspects of sound recording, including the placement of microphones, the setting of audio levels and other variables. The Audio Engineer’s duties require a working knowledge of acoustics, electronics and music.
  • Audio Producer: The Audio Producer oversees the entire recording process and is responsible for delivering the final product according to budget and schedule, and in line with the desired creative vision. The Audio Producer also works with the talent to help them achieve their best results.
  • Director: The highest-ranking professional on a movie/TV production, the Director uses the medium of film to connect with an audience and communicate a story or message of some type. The Director is the central hub of a production—working with technicians, performers and producers.
  • Director of Photography: The Director of Photography (or DP) supervises the work of camera operators and lighting crews, and controls the overall look of a production’s footage. The DP relies on technical knowledge to select the film stock and decide what lenses and filters will be used.
  • Editor: The Editor takes the various shots and sequences and assembles those pieces according to the Director’s creative vision. Some Editors are trusted with great power, controlling a scene’s rhythm by deciding exactly how long each shot will be held, and if transitional devices are to be used.
  • Executive Producer: No production gets made or distributed without financing. The Executive Producer handles various responsibilities usually related to managing a production’s budget, although this can also include legal matters such as securing copyrights or negotiating royalties.
  • Make-up Artist: The work of the Make-up Artist varies by production, but has become increasingly complex, along with all other visual effects. The Make-up Artist’s medium is the human body itself, and the Make-up Artist applies makeup and prosthetics to actors and actresses.
  • Producer: The role of a Producer differs greatly between the music industry and the film/TV industry. An audio producer is considerably more hands-on during the production process. A film producer is typically involved with acquiring financing for the project and hiring the creative talent.
  • Songwriter: A musical production can’t exist without the songwriter’s efforts, and neither can most film/TV productions. Songwriters work alone or with others to mentally imagine a particular sound or song, then document that sound for other musicians to reproduce and record.
  • Sound Designer: Just as the DP is responsible for the overall look of the footage, the Sound Designer shapes the overall sound of a film/TV project, including everything that winds up on the final audio track: dialogue, music, sound effects and the final recorded mix.
  • Sound Mixer: The Sound Mixer comes to the film/TV set with microphones, booms, headphones, radio systems and any other audio equipment he or she may use to actually record the sound in film scenes. The Sound Mixer also oversees the work of boom operators and utility sound technicians.
  • Visual Effects Artist: The Visual Effects (VFX) Artist is responsible for making the special effects “movie magic” that go into a film or TV production. The VFX Artist may work with digital effects, digital animation, greenscreening methods, models or matte stills to achieve desired effects.

    Film-editor-Thelma-SchoonmakerFilm editor Thelma Schoonmaker has won three Oscars, all for films directed by her longtime associate, Martin Scorsese (shown here with long hair and minus a shirt). She has edited every Scorsese movie since 1980’s classic Raging Bull.

    Get into the Business…Now!
    Keep in mind that these are just some of the many behind-the-scenes positions that help make the entertainment content that the film/television and music industries depend upon.

    One great way for kids and teens to learn about these dynamic industries is by attending a summer tech camp, such as Digital Media Academy. DMA tech camps feature concentrated courses, delivered by instructors who have worked within the industries they teach. At DMA, students discover cutting-edge digital arts technology, and also learn about the industries that will be hiring creative professionals in the years and decades to come. DMA turns creative passions into career realities.