How to find student film work
Student films. Working with a crew that are still training and usually don't really know how to manage themselves well can make working on a student film look very unappealing. If you are still training then you may consider it good experience, but once you have moved on it does seem like a step in the wrong direction. But in actual fact it can be a refreshing experience if dealt with with the right attitude. The main thing to remember is that if you want to be in a student film, it won't be hard to find one.
There are usually two points in the year when you will see a swarm of adverts on most of the casting websites. I find that CCP has the majority of these anyway, but it's good to take note of when these times are.
Around late November/early December many first and second year students will be given their 3-5 minute projects which will need casting. Usually these are with a crew of around 6 and a cast of between 1 and 3. Most of the time for the first years these are no-dialogue pieces so this will give you a chance to use physicality to express your character.
Then in January/Feburary the second year students will start thinking about their final year project, usually a ten-minute film, that they will produce later that year when they become final year students. These pieces are a better chance to get good showreel material because they are students who have had more time behind the camera. They will normally start casting in March through to the end of term and film over the summer.
So those are the times to be aware of, but how do you actually get the work?
A lot of student films will involve one of the following two scenarios: Relationship in turmoil of some sort, or elderly man/woman copes with this modern world. For some reason these are the most popular choices for new students, but this does mean that the age-range for pieces can be quite broad and include lots of different people within that. This is also boosted by the fact that you will always see 5 or 6 different casting calls on at the same time with a variety of themes because tutors manage the ideas to get a good range across the classes. What I am saying here is that there are many opportunities for people from any age range or background.
So the casting websites are one place to get student film work. Another possibility is to advertise on campus. Student film makers are always looking to do projects outside of their course and they have access to top of the line equipment that they can rent out so this means you are working with equipment that makes you look your best. If you advertise yourself as a professional actor then they will be excited to work with you. Students are always looking for talent to work with and you never know how well their career will go, if you get in now, they may call you back for their first feature... This also goes for when you apply for a student film through a casting website. Show them your work ethic, how much experience you have and what you can do, but 9 times out of 10, the student wants someone they think has the experience but also someone they can get on with. Some student directors are overly rude and bossy because they think that's how you get respect but most are nervous and unsure of themselves, so by making yourself accessible, you are letting them feel more comfortable, which they will think about when casting.
The other thing to remember is that once you have done one student film well, others will follow. If you act well in a student film, that film is definitely going to be watched by every other group in the class (as this is part of peer assessment) so at least another 40 people will see you, along with their tutors, so that is a great opportunity because if you stick in their minds you will get more work from it. I did three or four students films whilst at university, and I recently was found online by a student who is currently at my old university who found me because I had been recommended by a tutor for her new film, and I left here over 3 years ago. So I am not just saying it could happen, I know it happens.
So there you have it. Student films sound like they could be a waste of time but actually, as long as you understand the situation, and ask for expenses (they usually won't offer otherwise) then you can have a good time and build up contacts for the future.