Feast or Famine: Looking at the Stats

It’s the end of February, and all I’ve heard from various film friends is “I’m not working right now, are you?” A winter slump is normal, especially December into January. I just go into these months expecting the slowdown, and for things to pick up in March.

But another kind of work anxiety hits. How much do I need to reach out to jobs before I work regularly? It’s not an easy answer, but looking at my own data, I can see some patterns.

Since 2018 I’ve been keeping track of how many jobs I’ve applied to or been recommended for, and how many jobs I actually got. I meant well, but as times got busy, I eventually lost track or didn’t keep the best data. But I decided, you know what? There’s still something here to see. At least from 2018-2021.

I’m looking at two main things. Gigs applied to, referred to, or inquired about vs Gigs actually worked.

A Handy Dandy Chart

YearGigs AppliedGigs WorkedHow many applications until a job
20181231210
2019164266.3
2020105205.25
202160351.7

Within 4 years, you can see that I went from sending out 10 applications to get to one job, to sending out about 2. Now, I went to art school so I can’t Math all that well, but that looks like a good trend to me.

If I just don’t think too hard about it, the math checks out

I didn’t bother showing info from 2022 because I had several long running gigs and decided not to be Type A about showing what jobs I applied to anymore.

Represented as a hastily thrown together graph on Canva, that looks like:

Top line = Number of applications

Bottom line = Number of jobs landed

Closing the gap is a good thing.

There’s a few things I want you to know about this data.

  1. It takes a lot of effort to establish yourself in a new market. When I arrived in Georgia, I had to do a lot of legwork to start getting jobs.
  2. As time went on, a lot of my applications were actually just recommendations — people recommending me for gigs. When you become known, the work starts coming to you.
  3. I didn’t bother keeping track in 2022 because I was almost 100% working based off recommendations and had several longer runs on shows, whereas previous years I had more day-play opportunities.

If I look at my Google calendar from those years, I see wide swathes of nothing going on for days or weeks during the same slow months. Film is a marathon, not a sprint, and you’ve got to plan accordingly for the slow times. And those slow times can make you feel like you’re beating your head against the wall.

And it’s not just as simple as applying to jobs you see posted on job boards or Facebook groups or throwing your name in the ring for open crew calls.

A lot of the work I did alongside all this was networking, meeting people for coffee, doing casual fun things with fellow filmmakers, helping out on friend’s sets, speaking to students and film clubs, and even writing this blog. Self-promotion is a big deal in addition to applying for jobs. Networking is the glue that holds it all together.

I also applied to a lot of jobs in the slow months of January and February each year. There’s a lot more competition then, because less people are actively working.

This is my way of saying, if it’s slow right now, it’s not just you. It’s a lot of us, and there’s a lot of folks scrambling for the next job.

Keep in mind we’re also on the brink of a possible union strike down the line, and theories have been floating around about productions holding back from starting. I don’t know for sure. All I can say is to hold tight and know that you’re not the only one not actively working right now, and if you’re new — it’s going to take a lot to get yourself established.

This is not an easy industry to get into, but those who have the fortitude to stick through the hard times end up successful.

Sources:

Hollywood Braces for a Possible Writers Strike: Why the WGA and Studios Are on a Collision Course

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