Packing your bags and moving across the country to find work is a risky venture for anyone. But imagine making that move without any experience in the field you want to enter. That is exactly what Sarah Anderson did in the summer of 2015 when she moved to Vancouver, BC, to find work in its growing movie industry. A graduate of Toronto Film School and Ottawa’s School of the Photographic Arts, Anderson was working as an advertising and publishing coordinator at a music school before she decided on her career move. Although Anderson had an educational background in acting and photography, she had not pursued work in the film industry. Citing a lack of proper guidance after film school, Anderson spent a few years working office jobs. Growing disillusioned with the repetitive and mundane nature of these positions, she began to look elsewhere. “My last job was at a desk for extended periods of time, and I knew that wasn’t for me,” she says. “There really wasn’t much variety or growth in that role.” Anderson decided on her career change at the perfect time, as Vancouver’s film industry shows no sign of slowing down.
Vancouver’s robust film industry is a result of its geographical proximity to Los Angeles, a lower Canadian dollar, and tax incentives provided by the BC government. According to the Directors Guild of Canada–BC website (DGC–BC), there are currently over 40 film and TV productions underway. With the industry poised for a record-setting year, production companies are struggling to find enough talent. “A friend added me to a Facebook group that the DGC–BC made,” says Anderson. “The page is updated daily with requests for day calls.” She found her first job as an assistant director on one of these online posts: no experience required. She applied and was hired the next day.
She describes her first day on the job as a “boot camp in film,” and she got to know the ins-and-outs of a movie set quickly. Surprisingly, Anderson says her time as an advertising and publishing coordinator equipped her with more relevant skills than film school. Referencing the fast-paced and demanding nature of the film industry, Anderson says, “I learned from my previous jobs to take the work, figure out the best way to do it, and how to get it done as fast as possible.” While she acknowledges that she is still learning, Anderson has built a varied resume in less than one year. She now has experience as a production assistant, director’s assistant, and cast assistant.
Anderson says her work in the film industry feels completely different than her former career. When she is asked if she feels this was the right move, she pauses for a moment and says, “I really do like the dynamic nature of the movie industry— the teamwork. It’s all much more suited to my personality. I definitely made the right choice.”