How to Get Hired on a Film – A Writer/Producer Has Some Awesome Advice

Can you spot the typo in one of these resumes? Do check yours for spelling!
Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay

The other day I saw this incredibly detailed and helpful post on an email list that I am a part of. Writer/Producer Sarah Bullion, whose links appear below, was hiring and put out a call for people to work on her upcoming project. She was dismayed by some of the basic errors that people committed when applying to work for her and put forth these suggestions.

Naturally, what I love most about her post is how many of her ideas mirror exactly the kind of things I say here on this blog, and also offer to my clients. Perhaps this is because she also began her professional career in the Art Department. Here is her post, and at the bottom, I’ll come back with some more takeaways. I’ve added some emphases in bold.

“Hello, wonderful people.
I’ve been so amazed and pleased by the responses I’ve gotten to a couple of my recent job postings.
I’m also a bit confused. I wanted to offer a couple of suggestion of things I look for when going through applicants/referrals. There are for sure a few things I look for and things that move applicants down the list.
When you reply:

Tell me something about yourself. It doesn’t need to be long and drawn out, but in a few lines, what about you would make you a good fit for the position?
I can’t tell you how many responses I got that just said, “Here’s my resume!” That’s all well and good but who are you?
This also makes me know you read the post and are speaking to it, not just shooting out resumes.

Resume: Personally, I wear a lot of different hats so I have about 6 resumes tailored to different positions I might submit for.
Mostly they’re just the same info moved around in a different order/priority, the least applicable stuff left off, but each presumably tells the recipient what they need to know regarding the specific position. They can just scan the page.

Make sure it’s a .pdf. Don’t send me a .docx.

Put your name in the file title, even if it’s just your last name. It’s more work for me to keep track of you if it just says “RESUME” or, worse, like I recently got, “RESUME TEMPLATE.” Ouch.

Today I got a resume for the Production Designer ISO that had no Production Designer experience listed.
If you don’t have the experience listed on the resume, use the few sentences in the reply email to tell me why you’re right for it. I’ll appreciate the effort.
This applies to reels too. If I’m looking for a DP or Editor who specializes in dark, moody stuff, send me a link or clips (better!) of that, not blown out footage of a trip to the park on a sunny day (also got this).

Make sure the position your submitting for is in your subject line. If I’m crewing up, I’m looking to fill different positions. This can be very helpful.

Make your contact info easy to find. Don’t make me hunt for it.

I’m dyslexic, watch your fonts, some of them are indecipherable.

Websites/ID. They’re great aren’t they?
You know what’s better? Throwing me the link to something specific to what I’m looking for.

If I specify tones like “stylized” or “wounds” show me how you do that. I once was looking for a hair/makeup artist who was excellent with dark skin tones and textured hair. Someone sent me to her IG which featured zero people of color. When I suggested she point me toward applicable images she got snippy with me and told me I just needed to look for it. Don’t do this, I’m not going to.
This is just cursory, and I only speak for my own experience, I’m SURE people will disagree with me about something. Results may vary and I don’t mean to bum anybody out, I just want to give some pointers as
I really, really want to hire you so make it super easy for me to get to know you and make sure we’re a good fit.”
Sarah Bullion
Writer | Producer
MFA TV/Screenwriting, Stephens College
Chair, Ally Partnerships Committee
Alliance of Women Directors 
IMDb  | Twitter  | Facebook


My key take-aways are:

  • Customize your resume, including with the document title
  • Make it easy for the hirer to want you and find you – good, clear links, clear contact info, clearly express your job title
  • Focus on what the hirer wants – read their listing – not what you want
  • Target your job search to gigs that you have considered thoughtfully, and that you will actually fit and make it more likely that everyone has a positive experience

I also like how Sarah gives some hints about including a customized, specific and brief cover note. The idea is make yourself memorable in a good way – especially if you have a “hole” in your resume, but have other reasons to believe you are a good fit for the project or company.

I suspect that many people fall into a trap of conflating activity with achievement. Just because you have sent out a bunch of almost random resumes, does not mean you are actually closer to being hired on projects that will move you forward in your career.

Thank you so much, Sarah, for allowing me to share this post and great actionable advice with my readers and entertainment job seekers everywhere.

Need help with a resume and cover letter, that would make Sarah and people like her smile? I am currently scheduling new clients for March.