Transferring your skills and making a career change

The screen industries need people who have experience working in other industries.

The screen industries welcome people who have experience of working in other sectors and who want a career change.

Many people think that unless you start your career in screen when you leave education, it's probably too late to have a successful career in film, TV, animation, visual effects and games. However, the reality is that many people in screen have joined the screen industries at a later stage in their careers using skills they have acquired in another industry.

The screen industries, particularly film and TV production, have been growing faster than the general economy in recent years and there are significant skills shortages. These are persistent and ongoing shortages across several screen sectors such as line producers, production accountants and technical artists, so there is always a need for a variety of new people, with a variety of skills, to come in. 

The core focus of screen is making content for an audience, and to do that there is a requirement for teamwork. It’s not just about writers, producers and directors; a wide variety of skills from a diverse workforce are essential to make that content and ensure that it reflects the audiences it serves. This includes everything from staff with design and technology skills to set decorators, electricians, make-up artists, animators, computer programmers, accounts staff and people who are good organisers. On big productions, planning, logistics and health and safety are vital, and these skills are common to many job roles in other industries. Many jobs don’t require an existing career or educational background in screen.

Identifying your transferable skills

Sometimes the transferable skills you have can be easy to identify. If, for example, you are a designer, or an electrician or you work in accounts it can be easy to see where you might fit. As an electrician, you could become part of the lighting crew on a film or TV production. If you have a background in computing, you may be able to use that as a way into the games industry, and all of the screen industries need accounts staff.

However, self-reflection often isn’t very comfortable, and it may be difficult to identify other skills that you have which could be valuable to an employer. You may hear a lot about 'soft skills' and these have been identified as skills gaps in the screen workforce. The way you work in a team, the way you manage difficult situations, and your communication skills are also important. You may have developed some of these skills outside a work environment by volunteering or taking part in community projects, so it’s good to mention this kind of experience on a CV. The place where you grew up and your family and cultural background can be important too. You may also have language skills that are useful, or a completely different way of looking at the world.

Try and make a list your transferable skills. If you find it difficult, think about a piece of work or a project you are particularly proud of; something that went really well. It could be from a project you did at work, or you may have organised a sports tournament or a community initiative. Then write down the skills you used to achieve your goal. You can also ask friends and colleagues about your skills.

How to connect your transferable skills with job roles

Once you have your list of skills start looking at our job profiles.  Spend some time scrolling through the roles to see which ones interest you and fit your skills. If you want to see how the roles fit together, you can also look at our career maps. Our e-learning modules Getting into the screen industries and From script to screen will help you  to learn more about the screen industries.

The job profiles will help you answer a couple of essential questions; what do you want to do, and do you have the transferable skills to get there?  You may need some additional training or experience. Finding a balance between getting a start in the industry wherever you can, and achieving your goal is important. You need both a short-term and a long-term plan.

Be inspired

To get some inspiration, why not look at the stories of people who have made that change? Our case studies are full of amazing people, some of whom have moved from other industries.

  • Sharon Soor went to Pinewood Studios for a Skills to Film weekend of workshops where she was given help with her CV and software. The next day she sent out seven CVs and got interviews from all of them, one of which was on The Crown.
  • Armed Forces veteran Alan Lane discovered that he had skills wanted by the screen industries at an event run by ScreenSkills. Less than a year later he has started working in the locations department.
  • David Deane first got involved in health and safety issues while working as a group station commander in the fire and rescue service. After 20 years, he saw that there was an opening at Eon Productions as their in-house health and safety advisor, and made the move.
  • It was a chance encounter for Ginger McCarthy that led him from his job as a scaffolder on a project, to being a rigger in films such as James Bond and Harry Potter.
  • Charanprite Dhami worked for the police and taught maths and English in prisons – before running away to pursue her passion for film, becoming an assistant director through a ScreenSkills trainee scheme.

Financial support

If you can't afford the training or equipment you need to transfer into screen, ScreenSkills might be able to award you a bursary. Find out more.

Other sources of support

ScreenSkills sometimes has programmes specifically to help people who want to transfer into screen from other industries.  Keep an eye on our training and opportunities directory for these and for any events that can help you to meet screen professionals.

We also have a comprehensive list of information and resources that you can filter through your interests, your career stage and your chosen industry.  Find masterclasses, careers information and job boards.