When you think about careers in media, lots of the obvious ones might spring to mind: film director, actor, TV presenter, perhaps camera operator.
But behind the scenes, there are thousands of careers in media to get involved with. Just think of any feature film you’ve seen; how long do the end credits roll?
Film productions, TV shows and online content are often major productions. They require a huge array of skills from different people in different roles, all coming together to make something a big success. And this is just one area of the global media industry, with hundreds of potential careers in media to explore.
It’s rare for any media production to be produced by a lone artist or producer. Even songwriting, or YouTube channels can involve the work of many people, especially when working at scale.
So, if you’re interested to explore potential careers in media, here are 10 behind the scenes jobs that you probably never even knew existed…
Careers in Media: Discover 10 Media Careers You Never Knew Existed
The 1st Assistant Director
Our crews here at Sparks Film School explore what it means to be the “First AD” (First Assistant Director), as well as the 2nd and the 3rd AD too. We often call them the “unsung heroes” our film sets.
As far as careers in media go, the role of the 1st AD is one of the most hidden away, despite the fact that a 1st AD will make a hugely valuable contribution to the set and to the production.
The 1st AD keeps production moving. They work closely with the Director, linking them to the rest of the crew and the Production Manager (more on the PM later on). The 1st AD communicates the instructions of the director around the set, helping things to move quickly so that scenes can be shot in good time, working with the most of the circumstances like natural lighting and the efforts of the crew. The 1st AD will push for productivity and help the director to practically achieve their vision.
Skills needed: Organisation, Communication, People and Interpersonal Skills, Management Skills
The Production Manager, whether its in TV, film or any other media production, is responsible for organising everything that goes into the production. They oversee scheduling, budgets, deadlines, and take on responsibility for all the administrative staff and crew too. This includes hiring team members, overseeing the sourcing of locations, permits, materials and transport too.
Production Managers work closely with the Line Producers, as well as the 1st AD, to make sure everything is delivered on time and on budget. Becoming a production manager is one of the most flexible and sustainable careers in media, as skilled production managers are in demand across the creative industries.
Key Skills: Exceptional Organisation, Management Skills, People and Interpersonal Skills, Budgeting and Finance Skills, Administrative Skills
‘Spark’ is a nickname for anyone involved in the setting up and operation of the lighting and electrics needed on a film set.
The Sparks will help to transport, set up and ‘rig’ any lighting required for a shoot. They’ll also maintain it, operate it during production and disassemble it once shooting is complete.
They’ll work closely with the ‘gaffer’ (the chief electrician) as well as other members of the crew.
Key Skills: Qualified Electrician, practical lighting skills, knowledge of film/tv lighting, teamwork skills
Sound supervisors are one of the often-overlooked careers in media, responsible for overseeing all the sound used within a production – including recorded sound such as dialogue, sound effects and music.
The sound supervisor will often oversee the work of a bigger sound team, including sound operators, researchers, composers and assistants. They’ll delegate responsibilities and bring the work of the sound crew/team together.
They’ll often be involved with the producers from early on in a production, where they’ll take on responsibility for planning out all the sound needs. They’ll supervise the process, to ensure that all the audio needs of the production are met and trouble-shoot any issues that arise.
Key Skills: Management Skills, Good Technical Knowledge of Sound Production, Problem Solving Skills, Communication Skills, Attention to Detail
Motion Graphics Designer/Titles Designer
Motion graphics are high in demand – every production, whether in film, TV, music videos or online, requires its own identity in the form of its title graphics and visual style. With post-production services on the rise, this is one of the strongest growth areas for careers in media within the UK.
Graphics or Titles Designers create animations or motion graphics that ‘brand’ each production. They build logos, titles, credits, on screen graphics, visual fx and other graphic assets that help to give the production its own unique identity.
Key Skills: Visual Design and Artistic Skills, Good Working Knowledge of Key Softwares, Creative Skills, Attention to Detail
A colourist is one of the most highly specialised careers in media. Colourists work in post-production to determine the colour style of a media production. They treat the footage to bring out a specific palette or visual style using post-production techniques to edit the colour profile. Sometimes, this might also mean correcting issues with the footage if it hasn’t been shot as desired.
Colourists receive footage after it’s been shot and then work with it using digital software. They work closely with Directors of Photography and Directors to produce footage that represents the artistic aims of the production.
Key Skills: Knowledge of Colour Theory, Good Working Knowledge of Post-Production Software, e.g. Photoshop or After Effects, Good Collaborative Skills, Attention to Detail
A Development Producer takes care of a lot of the work that goes on with a script, or an idea, before it gets to the production stage. This might mean working with a writer to develop drafts or treatments, along with drafting in support to help develop a project further. Development producers are all about the ideas of a production. They also start to assemble the initial team, from producers, financiers, directors, actors and potential crew.
Often the personnel they attach to a project might change, but this is an important part of the process in order to progress a project from an idea through to pre-production. If you enjoy working with scripts and with creative people, this could offer great potential for creative careers in media.
Key Skills: Imaginative Skills, Management Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Communication, Leadership Skills
A Continuity Supervisor (also sometimes a Script Supervisor) has the simple task of ensuring continuity on set. As careers in media go, this might sound simple, but actually encompasses a lot of varied responsibilities.
As media productions are often made out of chronological order, and produced over several days, if not weeks or months, it’s very easy for things to change without anyone realising. Props may get swapped or left behind; hairstyles might change; actors might fluff their lines.
The continuity supervisor oversees that props, costumes, sets and scenery remain consistent throughout a production, and that the actors perform with consistency.
Key Skills: Attention to Detail, Organisation, Note-Taking and Reporting, Communication Skills
A set decorator is similar to an interior designer, but for film or TV sets. They design, craft and produce any of the set dressing elements needed for a scene.
This might include period set dressing for period dramas, or stylistic set dressing for a range of different productions. They’ll source and shop for different props and decorations, including furniture, wallpapers and fixtures to help create a convincing and believable set for each production.
Key Skills: Research Skills, Design Skills, Good Knowledge of Periods and History, Negotiation, Budget Management, Attention to Detail
Just like in any industry, media productions need professional services from lawyers or accountants, and legal expertise offers many options for pursuing careers in media.
Media lawyers take on all the different legal implications that go into media productions. They tend to specialise in contracts, copyright and in licensing, as the rights to different media productions are often licensed to third parties. Media lawyers will provide advice to producers and production companies.
Key Skills: Good Knowledge of the Relevant Law, including international law if relevant, Analytical Skills, Negotiation Skills, Interpersonal Skills
Learn More About Careers in Media
Interested to learn more about careers in media or filmmaking? Take a look at
- Life Behind the Lens: 5 Key Non-Acting Roles in Film
- Life Behind the Lens Part 2: 5 More Non-Acting Roles in Film
You can also take a look at ScreenSkills for more details on all the key skills required for the different careers in media.