Published on 11 March 2020 in Career

Make the right impression: application tips from our Career Development team

You’re a director with knock-out experience and a load of great skills, and you’re looking to apply for a scheme, programme or job. Now you need to make the right impression.

At Directors UK, we’ve seen hundreds of applications for our various career development opportunities and training schemes, and we like to think we know a thing or two about what makes an application work. Below, our Career Development team – with some extra contributions from Career Consultant Cynthia De Souza and director Jermain Julien – have broken down the key parts of your average application, and provided some expert tips on putting your best self forward.

Your CV

The cornerstone of every application is the CV. No doubt you’ve heard plenty of different weird and wonderful CV tips throughout your career, but we’ve sifted through hundreds and hundreds of applications, and we wanted to point towards what makes a CV work for us.

  • Keep it short. It might be tempting to include every little thing you’ve done, but it pays to have a focussed CV, specifically targeted for relevance to each opportunity. Keep it two pages of A4 maximum.
  • It’s well worth including a brief biography to draw attention to the key headlines from your body of work and what makes you stand out (e.g. Award-winning work or proudest achievements).
  • Keep it up-to-date. You need to show off the best of your past work, qualifications and training with the most recent examples first.
  • Keep the presentation clear so it's easy to read.
  • Make sure your CV includes a link to an updated and relevant showreel, social media and website if applicable – that stuff is important. Password protected links to fresh work are also welcomed.
  • Finally, it might sound simple but…please don’t forget to include your up to date contact details, including your phone number.

Your personal statement

Most schemes will also ask you for a personal statement. At Directors UK, we often like to ask for a rationale as to why you are applying and why you think this would make a difference to your career now. This is your chance to express yourself in a way you can’t on a simple CV. Here are some tips based on the statements we’ve seen.

  • Remember your personal statement is not your CV and not your biography – if employers want those, they’ll ask for them separately.
  • Keep it relevant to the role you’re applying for. We know it’s tempting, but don’t try and pass off an old statement with the odd word changed here and there – it’s obvious and shows you have not done your research.
  • Keep your tone professional. So, keep your spelling and grammar on point, and please don’t swear, insult famous people (who could well be a member of Directors UK!) or chuck some “lols” in there (Yes, we’ve had all of those).
  • Keep it concise and to the point. Some places will specify exactly what length they want, but here at Directors UK we want no longer than 500 words on 1 side of A4.
  • Sound positive. You want people to have confidence in you, so avoid saying anything that might undermine that, such as “I’ve only been working for 2 years”, “I’m just out of film school” or “I’m not the kind of person you would normally consider.”
  • But that doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Don’t tell us you’re the best filmmaker of your generation, or name drop people who think you’re amazing – you should be confident and assertive, but with substance and authenticity.

Your showreel

We’ve checked out your credentials, and we’ve read your personal statement – now it’s time to really see what you’re all about. Your showreel is a quick and digestible look at just what you can create when you’re behind the camera – so make sure you do yourself justice.

  • Keep it short. If you’ve been paying attention to this article so far, you’ll notice a bit of a theme developing here. Hirers are time-poor, so make their life easier for them by keeping your reel snappy.
  • Start and end strong. First and final impressions are important.
  • Make sure your reel is updated with new work - you need this to be the most relevant reflection of your work for each opportunity.
  • For drama reels, clips of strong dramatic performances are more preferable than just a series of images cut to background music. For factual, pre-title teasers may work well for your reel. For comedy, hopefully the clips will be a good reflection of your strengths to raise a smile!

Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool at your disposal if you use it well. Director Jermain Julien, who contributed to our The Brand Identity session at DIRECTOR’S CUT 2019, believes it’s now essential for directors. “In this modern age, it’s imperative for Directors to have a social media presence, to promote their upcoming work and overall creative vision. There should be a uniformity in your profiles, so directors are easily identifiable, across platforms (including Instagram, Twitter, etc.).”

  • Keep your profiles appropriate and professional. That includes your handles and tags, profile pictures and the language you use (oh, and that also applies to your email address by the way!) Think to yourself – is this something I’d be happy for my employer to look at? Because they probably will.
  • It’s good to use your social media accounts to show that you’re engaged with the wider industry.
  • Social media is a great place to promote your work – use it! See if you can preview content or provide teasers of what’s coming up.
  • Be safe and conscious. Social media is still a bit of a Wild West, and you don’t want to be caught in a saloon brawl. Avoid arguments and don’t publicize any revealing personal information, such as your address.

Your website

And finally, the website – where all of the above elements are stored. That’s right, a good website will have a CV, something about yourself, a showreel and links to your social media. This is a one-stop-shop for people looking to hire you to direct – so don’t neglect it!

  • Check that all of your information is up to date and correct. Also, make sure you test it – are the links through to your social media and showreel actually working properly?
  • Make sure the website is simple and easy to navigate.
  • Avoid using too much text – you can be just as impactful with what you do visually.
  • Test your site on social media and with different search engines, it needs to work in as many situations as possible. If you can, ask friends abroad to check how it works in other countries.
  • Is your site mobile friendly? That’s how a lot of hirers will be viewing it – so check that it looks okay.
  • Make sure your site has continuity with your other platforms. As director Jermain Julien advises: “When it comes to having a website it’s best to have some sort of continuity regarding imbedded material hosted on a site like Vimeo. So your site and your agent’s site allows access to the same materials and you can monitor traffic.”
  • Keep your site connected to your filmmaking style and your goals – both visually and in terms of what you include, it’s a chance to create a strong and identifiable brand.

Keep up date with all of the latest Career Development opportunities from Directors UK on our Career Development Page.

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