Start Your Career in the Film Industry with Artisha Mann-Cooper
Changing career paths is never an easy task and it can prove a bit daunting at first, especially if you’re switching to a passionate profession like filmmaking. But rest assured that it’s not nearly as big of a long shot as you might initially think. In fact, even if you work in an entirely different industry, your skills may even translate over and make you even more marketable! That was certainly the case for Artisha Mann-Cooper, a line producer who found that her background in finance came in handy when working with budgets.
Your new filmmaking career is just around the corner. Keep reading to find out where to get started, what advice and tips you should consider, and how to carve out your own little niche in the industry.
Start Your Film Career by Making a Commitment
Whether you’re a data entry clerk or an electrician, or anything in between for that matter, there’s a place for you in the film industry. According to Artisha, there’s never been a better time to enter into a film career. “If you want to direct, write, work as a cinematographer, like, do it right now,” advises Artisha, “because the industry is changing so much with trends and what’s happening, you can set yourself apart by creating your own content.”
Like many of us, Artisha always wanted to become a filmmaker but it wasn’t until the stock market went down in 2007 that she decided to pursue the career switch.
“I had to reevaluate my life,” says Artisha, “and I was working in finance and was demoted due to the market.”
So, Artisha decided to leave her job and enrolled at The Actors Studio drama school where she began working with James Lipton as his producing assistant. This sparked something inside of Artisha, even though she attended the school specifically for acting. When recalling how she initially felt, Artisha said she was open and curious, “This producing thing seems really interesting, I think I’m going to try this out.”
Every circumstance is different and yours may be entirely unique in and of itself. That said, making a serious transition involves taking serious steps in doing so. Artisha made her commitment by enrolling in drama school to learn about the business and to establish her network. Education and community are two of the most important factors when first starting out.
Invest in Yourself!
After leaving the Actor Studio, Artisha accumulated $1,800 that was meant for her wedding dress but, instead, chose to invest the money in her own content by way of a short film. Now, that’s dedication!
Personal investment is always a big first step for filmmakers because no one will invest in you like, well, you. From there, she entered her film into the festival circuit and met Lauren Rayner, who had her own production company, Lauren Rayner Productions. Regarding Artisha’s film, she asked how she accomplished it and was taken aback when Artisha responded with only $1,800, a two-person crew, and a little bit of hustle!
Seize the Opportunity!
Artisha’s gamble paid off. Impressed by what she was able to do with so little, Lauren asked her to come work with her and together they produced a few projects for Lauren Rayner Productions.
“She taught me what it was to be a line producer,” says Artisha. “I had no idea that I could merge the financial part of me with the film part of me, but it made sense at the time.”
This relationship was what catapulted Artisha into the realm of the film industry where she gained key skills in creating budgets. “Line producing has been and is one of the conduits to me getting to where I wanted to go and it helped me build those relationships because everyone needs budgets for their films.” And since Artisha’s background was in finance, it was a no-brainer.
“As a filmmaker, I’ve heard people say if I didn’t do a project myself, no one would have ever known who I was. So, I really feel like it’s important as a filmmaker, as an actor, as an entrepreneur to jump-start things yourself. Lauren wouldn’t have known who I was had I not decided to invest in myself.”
Art is a Business
There’s a benefit to wearing both hats for finance and artistry. Artisha’s experience in both of these areas allowed her to understand their nuances. “I understand that you can’t just do what you want and that you have people to answer to, but I also understand that creatively, you have to be able to have flexibility. But at the end of the day, we’re filmmakers and this is a business, which is really important to understand if you want to complete your film. This is always my goal. Let’s get it done, let’s get it completed, and then you can sell it.”
In Artisha’s book The Artistpreneur Workbook: Guide To Creating Your Own Opportunity, she delves into the steps you need to take in order to “create your next opportunity.”
Oftentimes, your success and personal growth are all a matter of timing. Whether you’re waiting for the right opportunity, the right buyer, the right seller, your success requires quite a bit of tenacity.
Artisha ruminates how often filmmakers prefer to remain in their creative zone, but she is quick to flag this reasoning as a pitfall. Even if you’re an actor with a manager, you can’t expect that manager to make your career. By working and networking and constantly meeting and creating relationships, that’s how you progress.
What Do Employers Want?
Your prospective employers want to know who you are. And the best way to show them is through your work. This is the case even for the more technically-minded jobs like cinematographers, lighting department, and sound technicians. You don’t need a resume with credits from a major television show to do that. Artisha sums it up, “When people see your reel, what they really want to see is you.”
Now, as a line producer, Artisha explains how she values productivity. She explains just how important it is to show up on time, do your job to the best of your abilities, and make sure that you’re helping as much as possible.
In her book, Artisha mentions how to find that job in the film industry that provides an income so you won’t have to rely on three jobs, like waiting tables on the side. Artisha acknowledges that she herself only got to the point of consistent work about 4 years ago, but currently there is an abundance of jobs out there that need to be filled.
“You can create your own opportunities, you are talented, you are multifaceted, you are a multi-hyphenate artist. It’s because of that I choose not to limit myself so I would encourage artists first and foremost to be curious about how they can make money. Be curious. There are flexible jobs out there.”
Where to Begin Your Film Career
There are various avenues depending on your focus. If you’re a cinematographer or gaffer, Artisha recommends pursuing jobs in camera or equipment houses or even a production company, because that’s where you’ll grow your network.
Starting as a Production Assistant (PA) and learning the industry is another great way to learn and grow. That’s how you build your understanding of the industry and all of the different departments. This is particularly the case for non-union sets where, as a PA, you’ll likely be working alongside various departments like camera, lighting, and art, alongside production, just to name a few. So, if your ambition is, say, a cinematographer or camera person, there may be an opportunity where you’re helping the camera department. The same goes for aspiring grips working in close proximity to G&E. If you show that you know what you’re doing, there’s an opportunity for building your network which is crucial to your career.
Artisha has a story about a PA who ended up earning a sound credit. And it’s actually quite typical of non-union jobs in the industry. “On my last project, we had a PA who was also a boom op take over for the boom operator who was running late. I was like, ‘Do you have your equipment?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s in my car.’ I was like, ‘Boom it up, boom it up.’ He was ready and I needed to make my day, so there you go.”
Artisha encourages aspiring filmmakers to get on set and show people what they know. If you impress them they may hire you. “I’ve seen it over and over again — over and over and over again.”
Where to Find Film Jobs
Depending on where you live, there are plenty of job boards out there to help you find work in your area. Artisha recommends that crew members should start by visiting Mandy, Staff Me Up, and EntertainmentCareers.Net. Facebook also provides a deep well of sources for film work via groups like Production 911. Do yourself a favor and join as many groups as possible.
Artisha even takes matters a step further, saying, “If you are in LA, be in a New York film group and if you live in New York, be in an LA film group. I tell actors and crew members all the time: work as locals. Do it, take yourself out there for the opportunity, why not? Don’t have an ego about it. You’re about to meet new people who are going to see your skills and who will hire you.”
It’s difficult to maintain jobs at first. But when you view every job as an opportunity, according to Artisha, you’ll find and meet new people who love you. They are the ones who become your collaborators. “Now for their next movie they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I hired her for my last movie, she was fantastic! I love having her on set, she showed up ready, she was pleasant, I want to hire her again.’ That’s what people want.”
The Bottom Line
When it comes to transitioning careers into the film industry, it’s no cakewalk. But few things in life that lead to great rewards come easy. It takes patience to sit down and create a plan and follow through with it.
Begin by making a commitment to yourself — go in all the way. Then, invest in yourself whether that means your education, your own film, or spending energy on growing your network. From there, it’s about getting on set and getting your reps in while learning what you can on the side. By finding jobs and meeting people in the industry, you’ll be on the right path to a healthy film career.
Did you find Artisha Mann-Cooper’s advice helpful? You can learn more from Artisha by visiting her website, tuning into her podcast, Two Legit to QT with Quoia & Tish, or purchasing her book, The Artistpreneur Workbook: Guide To Creating Your Own Opportunity.
Now, whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned veteran, education is key to staying relevant in your role. That’s where the Hurlbut Academy comes in — we provide lessons for filmmakers that range from cinematography to lighting and even directing! Check out our store for individual courses.