How to Make a Living as a Freelancer in the Film Industry

CameramanBy Alek Sabin

Working in the film industry is a wild adventure for any type of creative professional. Did you know that the film industry is also alive and well in the Rocky Mountains? Between beautiful sets that directors from all over the world travel for, and great cost-efficiency, the mountain west is home to a lot of film production.

It’s a wonderful industry for people who enjoy the idea of working at a different place every day and facing new challenges on every project, rather than doing the same routine, over and over again.

However, there are also a lot of challenges that come with working in the film industry. First of all, there’s always 20 other people gunning for your job and waiting for you to fail, and working project-by-project means there’s always uncertainty about when the next job is going to come around. However, working in the film industry can be wildly fulfilling, if you find a way to make it work. Here are some tips on how to make a living as a freelancer in the film industry…

Be a specialist at what you do

Freelancer film

Many people get into the film industry thinking that they’re just going to do everything and are eager to try their hand at anything that someone lets them do. This is a great attitude for when you start out, but eventually you’re going to want to find your discipline. If you really want to make money working in the film industry, then you need to pick something that you’re a specialist at, and stick with it. Have you found that you have a good ear for production audio? Perfect, there’s always a need for good sound engineers. Do you have a good eye for how the physics of light work? Great, a director of photography is usually only as good as their gaffer. Becoming known as a specialist in a certain department is a quick ticket to higher rates and better work.

Look outside of films with your skillset

For certain professionals in the film industry, their skillsets have a market beyond the film industry. This is great, because then you can supplement your income with your skills even if you aren’t continuously on film projects. For example, makeup artists can get jobs both on and off film sets, if they know how to market themselves. Glamor makeup artists are always in demand for weddings, and special FX makeup artists can make a killing around Halloween-time by doing makeup for people with specific costume needs. Think of ways that you can use your talents outside of a film set, and you’ll have a lot more economic security.

Camera crew on set

Stick to your rate

When you reach a certain level that you can charge industry standard rates, don’t work for below those standards. When you do so, you are driving rates down for all professionals in that department, and they’ll all hate you for it. Unless you are helping a friend out on a personal project, stick to your rate.

Get your own equipment

After you’ve found your specialty and have been working in the field for a while, then you’re going to want to take the next step and start to build your own equipment kit that you rent out with your services. This is an investment that can really bring home the bacon. While most audio, lighting, or camera equipment is quite expensive, you can charge hundreds or thousands of dollars a day for a kit rental. However, you also need to make sure that you are taking care of that equipment. On-location outdoor shoots in extreme weather can take a toll on your equipment, on top of making it more dangerous to drive with your equipment. Make sure you take steps to protect your equipment, after you’ve made the investment.

Take advantage of tax deductions

When you work in the film industry, you’re probably going to have a dozen different tax forms to go through at the end of the year. Some shoots that are longer term will take you on as an official employee and have you fill out a W-2, while other shoots will only hire you out as a contract worker, and you’ll either need to file through your personal business or as a 1099 contractor. Either way, make sure that you are taking advantage of the tax deductions for money spent on equipment, using your home as an office, or even traveling out to set.

Clean Green In Aspen, Colorado!

Organic Cleaning Company based in Vail, Colorado is seeking a Supervisor for their Aspen, CO office. Cleaning with a conscience …

Green cleaning company with offices in Vail and Aspen, Colorado is searching for a career-minded person to supervise its Aspen office. As supervisor, you will clean, check quality and help to manage and train employees. We are looking for someone who has a great work
ethic, who has an eye for detail and who loves to clean.

A cleaning company using nontoxic, natural and organic cleaning products. Great opportunity to work with this growing Colorado mountain based company that walks their talk! Excellent benefits too!

Organic Housekeepers has grown quite a bit since its inception. Tim accredits this to quality employees. Tim hires legal and reliable employees. “Anyone cleaning your house, would clean my house,” he says. Tim trains his employees to share his high standards and eye for detail.

They recycle, own a fuel-efficient car (when not riding their bikes everywhere), they buy locally grown and organic food and are avid yogis. They live in accordance to Gandhi’s famous saying: “Make the change you wish to see in the world.”

Learn more about this company and to apply for the Aspen, CO Supervisor job

View From Aspen, Colorado, Life In A Resort Town

How is everybody there reacting to the current state of the economy? Are you cutting back? I asked one of my friends this in another ski town, immediately realized what a silly question it was and we both had a laugh. “When are we not cutting back?” she laughed. Living in a resort town as a working full-time resident, especially in ski towns such as Aspen and Jackson Hole, counting your cash is as much a part of your daily life as skiing, hiking, biking, or anything outdoors.

You choose a lifestyle where the community and the outdoors outweighs your desire for material excess. The compromise is worth it for you. If it is not, you leave. Those who stay year after year are fine to cut out the excess, live simply and at the same time, live large. It is the environment and the people in these small resort towns that keep residents happy and alive.

This article that was published earlier in the month in the Aspen Times Weekly is a good one to read as you consider mountain living, question how people do it and what makes it worth it for so many to stay.

Excerpt …

ASPEN — Life for the average “Joe” is pretty good in Aspen, despite all of its challenges and struggles.

That appears to be the consensus among locals, many of whom have made great personal sacrifices to live in Aspen, where the average home price has hit $6 million and the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” has grown wider than ever before.

Conversations among Aspenites at bars, construction sites, restaurants, polling places, gyms, doctors offices and everywhere in between indicate that while it’s tough to live here, it’s worth it. Prices are high, traffic is a headache and it takes at least a 40-mile drive to buy socks or underwear, but life is still good in Aspen.

To read the full article, go to The state of Aspen according to ‘Joe the plumber’

Park City, Ut Locals Explore Ski Town Restaurants – First Stop, Aspen, Co

Thinking about a move to the Utah, Wyoming or Colorado mountains any time soon? Follow these two entrepreneurial Park City, Utah locals as they travel through Wyoming and Colorado visiting area ski towns.

With the recent surge of mountain jobs seekers, I thought this would be a good ski resort town blog for you to check out; Profiles and pictures of some of the more popular towns. Getting the perspective of the different ski towns from Casey and Kevin should be interesting and helpful since they live in a mountain resort town themselves.

First stop, Aspen, CO.

“Aspen is absolutely breathtaking, and I can definitely understand why everyone wants to move here. The center of town is very posh and very hip, yet with a warm and welcoming touch. I instantly felt at home after chatting up the manager at the Tourist Center and picking her brain about the 90+ restaurants located within a few square miles.”

For detailed information about Park City, Utah and the many great restaurants there, visit this nice looking new website, Ski Town Restaurants.

Aspen, Colorado Celebrates December Snowfall

Christmas week may be the busiest week of the ski season with some extra hours at work and longer lift lines for locals in all ski towns, but soon enough, January 2nd will appear. As January begins, tourist visits tend to drop, and local residents get out and enjoy more time and space on their local hill. Hard to believe just a month ago everyone was so desperately praying for snow.

Aspen, Colorado is celebrating an incredible December snowfall, reporting the second snowiest December since they began recording in 1934. Just was reading The best of times by Paul E. Anna in today’s Aspen Times.

”Longtime locals are suggesting this may be the best December- into-January snow of all time. As we get ready for the new year, our slopes are in epic condi­tion.”

No doubt about it, the mood is pretty great up there in the Colorado high country these days … looks like it is setting up to be a very Happy New Year!

Sharing The Love Of Aspen

Here is a letter to the editor in the Aspen Daily News, Thanks, Aspen, by Troy Rayburn

Small excerpt …

“But, what really makes Aspen special and wonderful? The people. In this age of cynicism, it sounds kind of dorky, I know, but it’s true. I will never forget the great people of Aspen and the entire Roaring Fork Valley. These good people contributed to my life more than any words I could muster to express my appreciation.”

Nice letter. As a local, after a period of time, you often realize there is way more to a ski town then just skiing.