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Build Your Career Get Ahead

My Job Description: The Filmmaker

My Job Description: The Filmmaker A behind the scenes shot of Caroline on set with singer Carly Rae Jepsen. / Credit: Kerry Doyle

If someone told you that you could be achieving your wildest career goals before even reaching your 25th birthday, would you believe them? What if a typical day at the office really meant working with your favorite celebrities and creating content that could change the way people see women and the world?

At a time when many millennials are still figuring out their career paths, 24-year-old Caroline Conrad is already living her dream. Conrad is a filmmaker for production companies SRSLY (which she also co-founded) and Anchor Light, and you'll find her working on anything from bubbly pop-music videos to serious short films. Of course, filmmaking, despite being a fun and fulfilling industry, isn't all glamour and creativity — it's a challenging career that can be quite draining and, as Conrad will tell you, requires a lot more paperwork than you might expect.

Business News Daily: What do you do?

Caroline Conrad: I'm a filmmaker. I mainly work on the production side of branded content pieces, music videos and other short-form content. My exact position depends on the scale of the project, but it always involves a lot of logistics and organizing, putting out fires, essentially helping projects come together and keeping them on track, before, during and after shooting. My mentor, Claire MacDonald, and I recently started a production company called SRSLY with the goal of producing for and with female-identified filmmakers, and I'm really proud and excited about how many women we've had working on our sets already. 

Lately, I've also been lucky enough to move into a more creative role on a few projects, which I absolutely love. I was given the opportunity to write the screenplay for a short film I also produced, and I can't wait to write more. My goal is to eventually focus on writing and directing films, and producing is a great way to get there.

BND: What made you want to pursue the industry you're in?

Conrad: I studied film in college after taking an intro class on a whim because my school, Wesleyan University, has a fantastic film studies program. I didn't expect much going into it but took to it immediately and just fell in love with cinema and analysis — after my sophomore year, there was no question in my mind that I had found my calling, as cliché as that may sound. 

BND: How did you get into your job?

Conrad: The only way anyone seems to succeed in this industry: I met the right people at the right time, and I worked hard enough to prove I was worth keeping around. There is a huge amount of luck and privilege at play, of course, but a lot of dedication as well.

BND: What do you like about your job?

Conrad: I love the people I work with, and I love what we do — I love films and filmmaking. It's not easy, or nearly as glamorous as people may think, but it's addicting. The hours are insane, and the work can be grueling, but there's a real thrill to seeing the finished video and knowing you helped make it happen. It's also intensely bonding — a production team or a small film crew has to operate as a tightly knit unit, and I've been fortunate enough to work with some really incredible people.

BND: What challenges do you face at your job?

Conrad: SO MANY. Oh man. I feel like every week I face a new challenge, but that's part of the fun! I was entrusted with more responsibilities in the last year than I've ever had, and I was often fairly unqualified — in my mind, anyway — to do half of the things I did. But goddammit, I did them. I've cried on and off set many times, and my limits were tested to their farthest reaches, but I'm grateful for every crisis and anxiety attack because I've learned and accomplished more in a year than I would have ever thought possible.

BND: What's something people don't know about your job?

Conrad: There is a LOT of paperwork involved in filmmaking. There are times where I do nothing but paperwork for 12 hours a day. I was surprised by how much of production happens behind the scenes, in an office — it seems fairly obvious in hindsight, but I don't think most people realize how much busywork producing involves.

BND: What's the most interesting thing you've ever done at your job?

Conrad: Writing the screenplay for my short film and then watching it come to life on set and in the editing studio has been the single most amazing experience of my life. It's also utterly terrifying, because it's finally hitting me that people will see this film, and as much as I'm an open book emotionally, this is the most vulnerable I've ever felt. But I love that feeling, as much as it scares me. We also partnered with Planned Parenthood on this film, and I am incredibly proud and grateful to have worked with them. They are a remarkable organization, and they were an absolute dream to work with — kind, accommodating and inspiring.

BND: Do you have any advice for others pursuing a similar career path?

Conrad: Don't give up! Don't be afraid to reach out to people you admire, to ask for jobs or for help — it's so important to have support and encouragement, because the film industry is tough and it can be really disheartening. I would have given up years ago without the support of my advisers in school, my family, my friends and my mentor. It's so easy to doubt yourself, especially as a young woman and especially as a young woman in this industry, but you have to trust in yourself and your talent. Believe in yourself, because if you don't, no one else will. And always send thank-you notes.

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.