Film Students: Should You Pursue Movies Or Television?

July 19, 2013

Movie Or Television CareerYou know you want to study film – but do you know how you want to use your degree? You have a variety of options. Whether you want to be a writer, producer or director, you may want to consider whether or not you want to work in motion pictures or television.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of producers and directors in both industries will grow at a rate of 11 percent (which is about the average rate for all occupations from 2010 to 2020). Smaller production companies may see slower growth, but independent producers may see faster growth.

The movie industry is expected to grow because of public demand, both in the United States and abroad, for more films. Television, on the other hand, is expected to grow as the industry expands into new forms of content delivery – such as mobile phones and online sites.

Competition in both movies and television is very intense. Film may be more competitive as the best job prospects often go to the directors with the most experience – making it hard for young directors and producers to find jobs.

Yet, with the right skillset, you may find opportunities in either movies or television. Deciding what you want to specialize in while you are still in your degree program may make you more competitive. There are pros and cons to each specialty – which we’ve outlined here, to make the decision process a little easier for you:

Some may argue that film is the more exciting – and more prestigious – specialization. Film’s long history in entertainment has made it the more respected of the two industries. It is respected as a form of “high culture” and is considered artistic.

However, there is a difference between artistic filmmaking and Hollywood. Today’s blockbusters can be characterized by specific trends – trends which film critic Noel Murray calls “crappy” for their reliance on comic books, children’s toys and sequels for success. She notes that indie filmmakers may not make as much money, but they are directing and producing higher quality scripts than these blockbusters.

Yet, the movie business may be considered more exciting. This is because as a writer, director or producer, you may work on more projects. Movies may take a few months to film and finalize, but that is nothing compared to a television show that is on a network for five or six seasons.

This may make finding constant employment in filmmaking difficult … and is one reason why the industry is so competitive. However, if you enjoy working on multiple projects and trying a variety of things, film may be the right specialization for you.

Television has traditionally been considered the “lesser” art form of film. Yet, many critics have argued that the tide has changed in recent years – with networks like HBO and AMC producing shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men, television has evolved into a richer experience. Murray cites recent conventional wisdom that “any filmmaker who wants to do quality work is better off turning to television.”

This is partially because of television’s advantages over film. As a writer, director or producer in television, you may work for an extended period of time on a single project. Not only does this offer job stability, but it also offers indisputable advantages such as “length and, thus the potential for depth and intricacy” reports Matt Singer of Critic Wire. Because you can dedicate more time to a television series, you can develop more interesting characters. Television today has more depth than film.

Yet, like movies, television has its own struggles. On mainstream networks, more intricate and intelligent shows may suffer lower success rates. Though they are artful, sophisticated and entertaining, they are not drawing the right audiences for advertisement – meaning they may not be worthwhile for networks. Some of the best shows on television, in recent years, have suffered or even been canceled for this reason.

Remember to consider what you are passionate about – both as a creator and an audience member. Brooks Institute offers courses in Screenwriting, Feature Screenwriting, and Writing the Television Drama. If you are still unsure about pursuing a specialization, consider taking these courses and trying your hand at both.