Many lighting technicians work on a freelance basis, taking on film, TV, and commercial projects as they come along. Technicians can find full-time work with large theater companies and television broadcast stations, or any organization, such as a museum or sports arena, that requires special lighting. Lighting technicians also work for video production companies.
The best way to get experience is to find a position as an intern. Offering to work for a production for course credit or experience instead of pay will enable you to learn about the job and to establish valuable connections. Most people interested in film and television enter the industry as production assistants. These positions are often unpaid and require a great deal of time and work with little reward. However, production assistants have the opportunity to network with people in the industry. They get to speak to lighting technicians and to see them at work. Once they have worked on a few productions, and have learned many of the basics of lighting, they can negotiate for paid positions on future projects.
An experienced lighting technician will be able to move up into the position of best boy. With a few more years' experience working under different gaffers on diverse projects, the technician may move into the position of gaffer or chief lighting technician. Gaffers command greater salaries as they gain experience working with many different cinematographers. Some lighting technicians go on to work as cinematographers, or to make their own films or television movies.
Tips for Entry
Work in any capacity on a film or video production to understand the collaborative process firsthand.
As a student, gain experience by volunteering or completing an internship at a company that employs lighting technicians.
Conduct information interviews with lighting technicians and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.