Trades Careers in the Entertainment Industry
Lights, Camera, Action! If the thought of hearing these iconic words every day – of being part of the magic that makes them happen – then maybe a career in the entertainment industry is just the right fit for you. While people may often think “working in TV and movies” only means “being an actor or producer” there are actually tons of unique and interesting jobs within the entertainment industry, many of which fall under the banner of the trades.
The Canadian film and TV industry employs thousands of people, in careers covering a wide variety of skills. The only real requirement is enthusiasm for working in film, television, and theatre. Tradespeople working in entertainment are the ones making the magic happen – sometimes literally. From camera operators to set builders, makeup to costuming, and much more, most of what we see on screen in our favourite show or the latest blockbuster goes through the hands of a tradesperson at some point in the creation process.
If you think the entertainment industry is where you want to build your career, there are lots of options to consider.
Camera Operators use and manage the camera equipment of a film or television production, and are responsible for filming the action according to the composition, framing, and movement desired by the Director of Photography. They are familiar with all the camera equipment available on a production, including stationary cameras, Steadicams, and drone cameras, and know how to choose the right camera and settings to capture exactly what they want.
Carpenters and Electricians are responsible for building and maintaining physical sets and set pieces for a production. Carpenters will build realistic-looking sets for homes, businesses, castles, and much more including props made out of wooden materials. They will also repair, and eventually dismantle set pieces. Electricians are responsible for all the electrical equipment on a production site, including the lighting for both on-site and studio settings. They can also work on electrical props or powered set pieces.
Catering and Craft Services are people responsible for providing meals and snacks to the actors, production technicians, and other crew members on a movie or TV production site. On smaller productions, the food is often pre-prepared, but on larger productions catering full meals or hot meals may also be involved. A background in culinary or restaurant work isn’t required but can be an asset, though food handling safety certifications are necessary.
Costuming and Wardrobe roles include costume design and creation, as well as on-set wardrobe management and assisting performers with costume changes. Costume designers will design the look for all the performers in a production, and will create or buy all the necessary clothes and accessories. Costume or Wardrobe Supervisors oversee and manage all the costumes for a production, typically with help from junior Costume Assistants who will assist with research, sourcing, and purchasing costume pieces. These assistants often also help the Designer with fittings, adjustments, and cleaning costumes.
Hair & Makeup Artists create the look and feel of characters on stage and screen through makeup and hairstyles. Make-up artists will design both normal styles and more special-effects styles depending on the character and type of production, and can work with many materials outside of make-up to achieve the desired look – for example, fake blook and injuries, or putty and tape to change the shape of a face. Hair Stylists are in charge of creating hairstyles for performers, maintaining a specific look throughout different scenes. They will also style and care for any wigs being used. Professional Hair and Make-up artists typically need to complete a beauty school certificate and need to have a strong portfolio showcasing their prior work.
Sound & Lighting Technicians set up, move, and operate all the sound recording and lighting equipment on a production. Sound techs can hold boom mics and other sound recording equipment to capture the sound within a scene, as well as move and maintain sound equipment on-set. Lighting techs will set up, align, move, and maintain lighting equipment. Both roles are vital to creating the exact mood and atmosphere of the finished production.
Transportation & Drivers in the entertainment industry are responsible for operating cars, trucks, vans, and trailers to transport cast, crew, equipment, props, costumes, or even vehicles that will appear on screen – basically, anything and anyone that needs to go from point A to point B during a production. A driver’s license is the primary requirement, and some provinces may need additional licenses for driving larger trucks/vans or trailers.
These are only some of the unique and interesting career paths within the entertainment industry – there are also lots of niche jobs such as stunt work, fight choreography, animal wrangling, subtitling, descriptive video transcription, and much more.