What happens after a film or television episode wraps shooting? A lot of specialists use their skills to turn that footage into a stellar final product, that’s what.
Postproduction refers to everything that follows the end of principal photography: editing, visual effects, sound mixing, and more. It’s a different team of creative forces working in collaboration with the project’s director and producers—and an area of the entertainment industry full of entry-level, freelance, and full-time job opportunities.
Read on for a breakdown of these jobs, applying for and booking them, and how to get started pursuing a career as a professional postproducer.
- What are the different postproduction jobs available?
- What should I consider in picking the right postproduction department?
- What skills do I need to get an entry-level postproduction job?
- Where can I find entry-level postproduction jobs? And how can I apply?
- How can I network to get postproduction jobs?
Film editors are responsible for turning hours of raw footage into a concise, cohesive story. Their choices—made in close collaboration with the director—of which takes to use, and in which order, establish the pacing and tone of a project. All of the below postproduction departments connect in some way to editing. Read more about how to land an editing job here.
- Sound editing and scoring
Sound editors (not to be confused with mixers; see below) are responsible for determining a film or video’s sound. Specialists in this department (often called music supervisors) must license existing music or commission new songs. Many films also have designated composers who score the entire project’s music. Sound editing also means working with footage to add or subtract background noise, dialogue, and sound effects. Furthermore, specialists like Foley artists design and record sounds that haven’t previously been recorded and must fit the footage.
- Sound mixing
Always following sound editing, the mixing department entails the cleanup of existing audio, including automated dialogue replacement (ADR), where actors are asked to rerecord select lines for better sound quality. The sound mixer’s responsibilities also include adjusting the volumes of dialogue, background noises, and effects so everything sounds cohesive.
- Visual effects (VFX)
This department uses the power of computer-generated imagery like graphics or animation to portray things that couldn’t be done during actual shooting. In today’s digital film era, many bigger-budget films use green screens and other trickery that enables VFX artists to let their imaginations, and therefore an audience’s, run wild.
- Color grading
Following the editing process, colorists alter the appearance of existing footage to make a project look consistent and to affect the mood of different scenes. Directors and cinematographers care about the visual tones of the images they’ve created and rely on color grading and correction to bring such visions to fruition.
Technically, professionals who create deliverables, like a project’s production stills and behind-the-scenes videos for promotional purposes, also fall under the postproduction umbrella. Captions and subtitles also need to be generated, another area of expertise.
Finally, there’s the postproduction supervisor, which, as the job title suggests, supervises all of the above elements. This managerial role requires a thorough understanding of the particulars of the project, from a bird’s-eye view of artistic vision to budgeting decisions. A postproduction supervisor will be heavily involved as early as preproduction, making the job seldom an entry-level one. Most supervisors begin working their way up in a specific postproduction department, or gain experience as production assistants or coordinators.
Postproduction jobs can generally be separated into visual or audio fields. Which do you have more experience or interest in? Do you have a visual imagination? Or an “ear” for details in sound? Both your innate skills and your enthusiasm for different aspects of filmmaking can dictate which area of postproduction is right for you.
Remember that the film and TV industry is a community of storytellers whose specialized skills or interests overlap; shifting careers horizontally is common in the biz. If you begin working in one department of a film production and find yourself gravitating toward another that’s a better fit, your career path can zigzag in that direction. The benefit of an entry-level job is that the possibilities are endless!
Remember, Hollywood is a gig economy, so how often a freelancer finds work depends on what’s filming and whether their skill set is in demand. Eventually, once you’ve gained enough experience, you’ll be able to apply to full-time positions with a more stable work lifestyle and income. Research production companies who employ full-time editors, mixers, colorists, and so on.
Many of the technical skills associated with film or television postproduction are learned on the job, but there are skills you can pick up until you land your first gig:
- Proficiency in postproduction-friendly tools, like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro
- A knowledge of the latest postproduction technology, including any trends or advancements
- Diplomatic, tactful communication skills, including with other departments and clients
- Organization, dependability, and attention to detail—especially under tight deadlines
- An open-minded, collaborative spirit
Besides meeting people in the industry who can put potential jobs on your radar, searching the internet for jobs in your postproduction field of interest is your best bet. You can build a web presence, including a résumé and portfolio, and, most importantly, continue checking job sites for relevant listings as they appear.
Industry job sites include more specialized search engines and resources specifically for those looking for work in film and television, commercials, branded content, or events production. Aspiring postproducers and other behind-the-camera artists, and those looking to hire them for freelance gigs, post listings in marketplaces like Backstage and Mandy.
Print and online databases like Production Weekly and Production Bulletin are also kept up-to-date with what’s filming and where, so crew members looking to keep track of exciting projects’ stages of production should subscribe and check regularly. Online communities dedicated to facilitating networking between entertainment industry members at all levels also post job opportunities; check out Staff Me Up or type relevant terms into Facebook’s search bar to connect with crew members just like you.
Postproduction departments at film or television studios often include paid or unpaid internships, a great way to introduce yourself to particular areas of the biz.
In Hollywood, they say “it’s all about who you know.” Networking remains an essential part of navigating the entertainment industry, as it’s both a community and a business. If you’re looking for a leg up in postproduction, consider the following steps:
- Reach out to any industry contacts you may have, even if they’re not crew members. Ask to catch up in person if possible, and tell them what areas of the industry you’re interested in learning more about.
- Reach out cold to any potential industry contacts you don’t yet have. Contact information at major studios and production companies can be found online. Check out those online communities and sites listed above for potential connections, or reach out via social media. Be courteous and clear, and never demanding, in your communication.
- Maintain those relationships so they’re personal, not just transactional. Don’t only reach out to friends in the industry when you need something from them professionally.
- Attend screenings, film festivals, and premieres if possible. There’s no substitute for networking and being your charming self in person.
- Help others excel! The filmmaking industry is one where everyone is invested in each other’s future; a rising tide lifts all boats, after all. If someone reaches out to you for information, leads on a job, or potential connections, helping them can only help you in the long run.
Just as work begets work, growing a film crew network can only cause your connections in the crew world to grow. Be proactive, persistent, respectful, and patient, and the right postproduction job will find you.