READER FOLLOW-UP — ANGRY AT THE SYSTEM?

Javier had a question on my last angry rant.

This may come off as petty, but honestly, are you angry about taking the road to get where you are?

This comes up every so often with my fellow PAs: When you get an assistant, will you get a charge out of putting them through the same? Or do you want to re-pave the path, so to speak? I don’t mean baby-ing or hand holding.

Thanks for the question —

I wouldn’t say I am necessarily angry about the road it takes to move up. I worked with a lot of great people, and there is camaraderie in sludging through the trenches with your fellow PAs. You will make friends in those tough times that will hopefully pull you through the rest of your career.

Are there bitter people who abuse the system by abusing PAs, simply because “they paid their dues, and now it’s your time” ? Of course there are — but honestly, I learned the most from some of those guys.

I don’t think I will ever “abuse” my future assistants (if I’m lucky enough to need an assistant someday). I don’t think I would get a “charge” out of it. But I will understand that the system works the way it does because it needs to. The film/tv industry is VERY competitive, and as ALL competitive jobs, you need a system where the best of the best rise to the top.  And the only way the best rise to the top is by NOT making it easy for them. Those who conquer and overcome will succeed.  If you recognize talent — foster it. But if you see someone who can’t handle the heat — you can’t make it easy for them, because then you’re not helping anyone.  You’re not helping them, and you’re not helping the production.

My previous rant was not aimed at the system — it was aimed at Film School students who don’t want to put in the work. Or who don’t understand what they’re in for. Students who think they can easily get a job. I am trying to HELP THEM before they waste all their money on a worthless degree and then find out no one is jumping at the opportunity to give them a job. That in reality, they’re a dime a dozen and just getting a simple PA job is super hard. Even though my rant came out overly harsh, I am TRYING TO HELP. If you’re a film student, and not willing to put in the work to get the job, you need to change your degree. For your own sake. For you future family’s sake.

I hope this answered your question!

-12pt

How do You Get Work in the Film Industry? You Have to Fucking WORK.

There is a symptom that plagues film school students and those who want to work in the film industry. I know this because I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of film students. That vast majority of them don’t want to work. They don’t want to start at the bottom and crawl their way to the top. They want to make art. Let me tell you something, you want-to-be-filmmakers —

YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL. YOU. YES. YOU.

You’re going to graduate film school and end up switching careers with thousands of dollars in student debt, or work at a local TV station making shitty commercials, or film weddings for the rest of your life. And that’s no one’s fault but yours.

How do you not fail? You work you fucking ass off, that’s how.

I have not made it. Far from it. But I’m a lot further along than the lot of you. And you probably want to be where I am right now. I work for a “big-time” guy in the industry. I frequent film sets during production and have the occasional chat with a celebrity. My scripts are being read “around town”, and I have representation courting me. This is shit I DREAMED about having 7 years ago when I started this blog. I’m STILL not happy with where I am, but that’s another story. THIS story is about how none of this is going to happen to you because you’re a lazy piece of shit.

If you want to work in this industry, you have to be willing to work 18 hours days 6 days a week for minimum wage with an Assistant Director yelling at you over the walkie in front of the entire crew right after you’ve spent the last 2 hours picking up dog shit and used condoms off the side of the road for the art department at 6 in the fucking morning.

If you want to work in this industry, you have to be willing to leave EVERYTHING behind and move to Los Angeles with no money and sleep on a strangers couch that you met on craigslist who smokes weed every day and watches TV until 1 am not letting you get any sleep before you have to wake up at 4am to get to pre-call on set in the middle of sun valley by 6am.

If you want to work in this industry, you have to leave every comfort you know, and jump headfirst into a chaotic environment using equipment you’ve never used before for people you’ve never met before, while all the time trying to prove that you’re the hardest worker in the world so that maybe they will hire you again for the next job.

If you want to work in this industry, you need to be meeting people and spending more time looking for work than actually working because you need to have a job lined up when the current job your working is over.

And then, MAYBE, after you’ve done all this for a few years and find a steady job, you will be able to direct enough shorts or write enough screenplays in your “free time” to get noticed and actually do the shit you really want to be doing out here.

If you’re not willing to do any of this stuff. Then do everyone already working in LA a favor and  GTFO of here so that our commute on these god-forsaken highways is minus one car.

Now get off your lazy piece of shit ass and go do something.

-12pt

UPDATES and the THR Writer’s Roundtable

Wow … it’s been a while since I have updated this blog.

A whole year.

Things have been happening…

And things have not been happening…

Such is life.

Still holding down the assistant desk, answering phones, updating calendars, making coffees, and picking up lunches. But I’m trying my damned hardest to get into the paid writer’s world. I had a manager last year. Wrote some scripts with him. Went out on a lot of meetings around town. Met some great people. But the manager and me didn’t work out. We’ve moved on.

Good news is, I have 4 new managers reading me this weekend, so hopefully one of them will work out and I’ll be in business with someone else this year. It’s a long hard road trying to become a paid screenwriter, but god damnit, I’m going to make it happen.  My new years resolution for 2016 was to find representation.  And now my new years resolution for 2017 is to… find representation.

I wrote a new pilot at the end of last year. It’s gaining some traction. “Is this the year?” I ask myself. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I’m sure I learned a lot over the last year that I can share with you all on this dwindling near-dead website of mine. Maybe I can pull an article or two out of my ass over the coming months. Blow a little life into this fire.

I’ve visited this little blog now and again over the past year to check in, filter out spam, and update plugins… but to be honest, and it’s kind of embarrassing… I forgot my login password. And rather than put in the work to figure it out, I’ve moved on to other things. But I finally got off my ass and figured out what the password was, and here I am! Woo. Fucking hell…

I feel like there is more I wanted to write, but it’s not coming to me now. Oh, yeah, we got a new president. Fucking just kill me now.

Oh, and I watched Arrival last night. I really enjoyed it. But I was left feeling super depressed at the end. Anyone else feel that way? Just like… what is the point of living anymore? I think the message of the film was the opposite of that but, jesus christ, was I depressed.

Overall — I think this year’s Oscar season is the most boring it’s been in a long time. This year’s selection of films do nothing for me. It’s kind of a drag. There are usually a handful of award films that I really enjoy each year. This year we have….

Arrival —  I’ve already told you how that one left me feeling. But I liked it. Even though I wanted to slit my wrists in a warm bath.

Fences — Didn’t see it. Doesn’t really interest me.

Hacksaw Ridge — Loved it. I’m an unabashed Mel Gibson fan. Don’t get me started. Is he a nut job? Of course. Does he make amazing movies. FUCK YES HE DOES.

Hell or High Water — Thought I would love it. But the dialogue was so witty, it took me out of the world and the story. Disappointed by high expectations.

Hidden Figures — Looks like a lifetime movie. Didn’t see it. Don’t want to.

La La Land — Heard it’s great. Doesn’t interest me in the least.

Lion — Looks good, but again… not enough to get me to watch it.

Manchester by the Sea — Saw it. Great acting. BUT FUCKING CAN A MOVIE GET GET MORE DEPRESSING. Jesus christ.

Moonlight — Just like Lion, looks good… but ugh. It takes a lot to get me to sit and watch a movie these days. Probably wont see it.

Jackie — LOVE Natalie Portman, but jesus christ was that movie boring.

There are more — but I can’t even bring myself to name them. So there you have it, a list of movies I couldn’t be less excited about. Except Hacksaw Ridge. That one was pretty good.

Anyway — Here is THR’s full Writer’s Roundtable. Worth watching despite how I feel about this year’s selection of movies.

 

Another Rung in the Ladder

Maybe you’ve noticed that my feature slider bar on the side there hasn’t moved in a while — maybe you don’t give a fuck. But I do have a valid excuse. Not just procrastination. I promise.

I got a manager.

That’s right motherfuckers.  All that hard work is starting to show. It can be done. I am living proof. There is someone out there that read my work and said, “Huh, maybe I can make money off this guy.” Well, Mr. Manager — I hope you can. I hope you fucking can.

So — now the excuse.  Said manager wants me to focus on TV, so I’ve switched gears and I’ve started writing a new pilot.  Feature is being put on hold for a while. I’ll probably end up taking it off the slider soon. I don’t mind — because I want to be working in TV right now anyway.

So … what now?

Hopefully get a staff job.  If I don’t move from assistant land into professional writing land sometime soon I may explode.

-12pt

 

 

Writing Tip: Learn to Write Anywhere

Welcome to 2016 you procrastinating pieces of shit!

Let’s face it — a writer will basically find any excuse not to write. And we all know the number one mistake new writers make is not writing.

One question I see asked over and over again to professional writers is “What does your writing space look like?”. I feel this question stems from a big problem in young writer’s minds. And that problem is a little voice that says “I need to be in the right environment to write, and if I could only figure out what environment my favorite writers write in, then maybe I will write better.” You know what that is? That is called bullshit. Absolute Grade-A-Mother-Fucking-Bullshit. It’s an excuse! Because deep down you don’t want to write, you want to have written. And your mind is looking for any excuse not to write. So you tell yourself, “I’ll write later when I can go to Starbucks.” Or “I can’t wait until I finish my home office, because then I can write.” Or “I can only write sitting alone in my room wearing my specific noise-cancelling headphones and listening to that specific soundtrack I created specifically for my story.” No. These are excuses to not write now.

Listen – I understand everyone has their “ideal writing environment”. But the problem is when that “ideal writing environment” stops you from actually  writing. If you would stop reading this article right now and start writing, wherever you are, you would find that it is not only possible, it’s really not much different from writing anywhere else. Guess what, you can even write on a pad of paper freehand! OMG. Or on your PHONE. I know. It’s insane. Who knew?

Put aside that dream of your perfect writing room. You know — the one with the large wooden desk and the view of the ocean. The fireplace crackling nearby with a hot steaming cup of coffee in easy reach — And realize that it is what it is — only a dream. Maybe someday you will get that perfect writing space, and I for one hope you do, but for now, do yourself a favor and realize that until you can write anywhere, you will never be a professional writer.

What I Read in 2015

Here is my annual book list for 2015. Are you ready? Okay. Let’s start from the bottom and count up to my favorite book of the year.

Note: These are books I read this year — doesn’t mean they came out this year.

15. Armada by Ernest Cline

After reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, his first novel, I was fucking thrilled to read his second novel. I even pre-ordered a hard copy on Amazon. I NEVER pre-order books. I don’t think I have since Harry Potter was flying off the shelves on release day. Really the only good thing I have to say about this book regards the cover art. It’s a beautiful looking book. But, unfortunately, that won’t save it. Where RPO is a sci-fi nerd’s wet dream, Armada is being wet dreamed on by a fat, smelly, neck-bearded 43-year-old that lives in his parent’s basement.  It doesn’t even compare to Cline’s first novel. It was simply… Meh. I give it 2 out of 5 stars for effort and I do not recommend.

14. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This book must be forgettable because I’m having trouble remembering the plot. Oh yes. It’s about a girl whose entire family was murdered by Satanists. Sounds fun, right? It was okay. A good girl power book from the author who gave you that movie where you see Ben Affleck’s dick. I liked it. The book. Not the … Anyway, I give it 3 out of 5 stars. The book.

13. The Fold by Peter Clines

I have a love hate relationship with this book. It starts out wicked slow. And the plot drags and drags. Giving you just enough to want to keep reading and find out just what the fuck is going on. But it’s a smart book, and rubs that sci-fi itch pretty damn good. And the last third is fantastic and super inventive. So I give it 3 out of 5 stars and a pretty decent recommendation.

12. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Just finished this one. This is a collection of shorts by the one and only Mr. King. There are some really great stories in it. And none of them are bad. I especially enjoyed Blockade Billy, The Dune, and the one near the end about the fireworks. I highly recommend this book and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Stephen King is always amazing. If you don’t read short stories, this is a great way to start.

11. Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6) by Stephen King

The penultimate book in Stephen King’s highly regarded Dark Tower series. Which … did you hear Idris Elba might play the Gunslinger in the movies? That would be fantastic. I honestly didn’t love this book, but it’s part of a greater whole which I highly recommend. So I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars — and suggest you read the entire series.

10. Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1) by Stephen King

One of King’s newer books about a psychotic fuckhead bent on killing innocent people and the ex-cop trying to track him down. I enjoyed it. 4 out of 5 stars to this one.


9. The Gates of Rome (Emperor, #1) by Conn Iggulden

I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and I heard Conn is a master. So I’ve started reading his books from the first series he wrote — the Emperor series about Julius Caesar. Spoiler alert –  he dies. But not in the first book — it focuses on his childhood. I plan on reading out the rest of the series and starting some of Conn’s other series while I’m at it. I recommend this book if you enjoy Roman Historical Fiction. 4 out of 5 stars.

8. Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2) by Stephen King

The sequel to Mr. Mercedes. If you enjoyed Mr. Mercedes you’ll like this one even more. Better plot and better characters IMO. 4 out of 5 Stars.

7. The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War, #2) by John Scalzi

Okay — let me introduce the Old Man’s War series here. I enjoyed the first book better than the second, but not by much. If you enjoy sci-fi — like the fun Star Trek/Star Wars type of sci-fi…. you will love this series. John Scalzi is honestly one of the best new authors I’ve read in a really really long time. I am going to read everything he’s ever written. Eventually. But in the meantime — go buy the books in the Old Man’s War series. They are thoughtful, action packed, hilarious, and smart. 4 out of 5 stars to this bad boy, but almost, almost a 5.

6. The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I started reading Sanderson this year with the Stormlight Archive, and you can read what I think of those books coming up. I think under normal circumstances I would have given The Final Empire 5 out of 5 stars … but I enjoyed the Stormlight Archive so fucking much, it bumped this book down to 4 out of 5 stars… but it soooo wants to be a 5 star you can taste it. And it tastes good. The Mistborn series is a fantasy novel about people who can use Allomancy — that is a magic that has to do with different metals. Sanderson is a master of magic systems and the best fantasy author I’ve read in forever. I will read everything he’s ever written. Eventually. And he writes like 12 books a years. So… fuck.

5. Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War, #1) by John Scalzi

I’ve already told you what I think of the Old Man’s War series up above, so all you need to know is this first book is fantastic and you should click on the title up above which will take you to an amazon page where I command you to buy it right now. Okay? Great. 5 out of 5 stars.

4. The Martian by Andy Weir

The first book by Andy Weir — and I will be buying the second. I only hope I don’t get burned like I did with Ernest Cline.  I’m sure you’ve heard of this book — after all, a giant fucking hit of a movie with Matt Damon was adapted off it. I don’t care if you do or do not like the movie or if you haven’t even seen it. This book is fantastic. It’s in my top five books of the year. And you must read it. 5 out of 5 stars.

3. Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2) by Brandon Sanderson

This book is amazing. See below. 5 out of 5 stars.


2. The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

If you enjoy fantasy novels, you must give this series a try. It’s practically the best book I read all year. It’s really long — over 1000 pages, as is the sequel, but they are fantastic. Sanderson is amazing at world building, creating extremely unique and interesting locations, and his magic systems are some of the best. This is a series that Sanderson is currently writing. There are two books out now, out of a planned ten. The third is set to release sometime near the end of 2016 or early 2017. 5 out of 5 stars for sure. I highly recommend. Oh jesus, I just realized these books will still be coming out after I have children. And I will read them with my children. Or they will be disowned.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Even though I don’t necessarily think this is the best book I read all year, I have to give it the top spot because it captivated me more than any other book I read. I couldn’t put the book down. It’s so easy these days to get distracted or overwhelmed with the amount of entertainment being shoved in our faces, however this book completely took over my life. I was even reading it at work. I don’t know how he did it, but Cline simultaneously holds the best and worst spots on my 2015 book list. I give RPO 5 out of 5 stars and super highly recommend.

Reader Question: How to Get A Job With No Work Experience

Another Question — man, we’re blowing through them today.

So far your website has been extremely helpful and I am grateful. But I would like to know what to do with my resume if I’ve never worked in the film industry beyond student films? My previous work history is in retail (not by choice, it’s something I got stuck in when I was studying and now I’m finding it difficult to get out & I can’t afford to move literally)
You said that no one cares about previous work history outside the film industry. I have none. No one cares about my student films (the only filmmaking experience I have thus far). But you also said that anyone can be a PA, that you don’t need to go to film school to become one, it’s an entry level position. What can you recommend I do to make myself employable by actual production companies with no industry experience and what I can do with limited sparkle on my resume?

Yes. I know it’s confusing and frustrating and irritating. It’s that age-old catch 22. You need work experience to get the job, but you need the job to get work experience. That’s why breaking in is so hard. The answer you’re looking for is one you don’t want to hear.

Know someone.

And if you don’t know anyone. Find someone to know.

When I came out to LA I knew one person out here and knew OF one person out here. That one person I knew of was a friend’s sister who happened to be working in photo shoots. She was able to get me an unpaid job on a photo shoot where I kicked ass and met people in the art department. I then used those contacts to get paid PA work from the art people I met — and so on.

The person I knew OF happened to be someone who went to my film school that I had literally never talked to or met in my life. But I got their number from another person and cold called them. “Hey, it’s so and so. I went to your film school. I’m out in LA now. If there is any way you can get me a PA job it would be really helpful. Lets meet for coffee. I’ll buy.” Etc — etc.  That guy got me a couple shitty PA jobs and some unpaid jobs that eventually — almost 5 years later — has networked me into the job I have now. Yes, I can track the job I have now all the way back to that first job the dude I didn’t even know got me.

You have to get someone to give you a chance. And to do that, you have to find someone who is already out in LA working with connections.

Another story —  I walk into a bar in LA and end up talking to two other guys who work in the industry. Turns out one of them works in production for music videos. I tell them I’m a PA looking for work. We exchange numbers — go our separate ways — a few months later I get a call from someone saying I was recommended for a music video shoot. Turns out it was that guy I met at the bar.

Meet people. Know people.

Does your cousin have a friend whose sister has a friend whose uncle is working in LA? Find them and meet them and ask them for a job.

12pt.

Progress Bar

The #1 mistake new writers makes is that they DON’T WRITE.

Even though I’ve finished three original pilots and a spec episode over the past couple years — I’ve started and NOT finished twice as many. So, to help keep me accountable, I’ve put up a little progress bar on the right side of the screen. See it there? If you notice that progress bar doesn’t move for a few weeks. Feel free to cuss me the fuck out and tell me I’m worthless.

Thanks.

12pt.

Reader Question – Job Decisions

Hello, hope this Christmas season is treating you well! Back when I was working as a production assistant — Christmas was the worst. I was stuck out in California away from my family with nowhere to go. And guess what, the ENTIRE FUCKING INDUSTRY basically grinds to a halt. Which means no work. Which means no money. Which means… blegh.  So, I feel for you PAs out there. I really do. Hopefully you were able to grab enough work over the past few months to tide you over.

One thing I tried to do every year was find a producer or someone who needed house-sitting over the holidays. A good way to make a little cash over Christmas break. Especially if you’re not going home to visit family or something. But if you CAN go home on your parents dime. DO IT! Free food = the best food when you’re poor.

Anyway — here is a reader question I found in my inbox recently.

Hey, just found your blog and absolutely love it! Anyway I have a big question… I was hired almost 2 months ago at an Agency – I’m finally starting to get everything down and about to hit 2 weeks paid vacation for the holidays. They’ve trained me from being fresh out of college and Pilot season is around the corner. I’m also on REDACTED IMPORTANT PERSON’S desk, which is pretty awesome. The thing is I’ve got a potential job opp for doing what I really want to do, gain experience as a PA on a show. Do I cut and run knowing this opportunity is rare or should I tough it out at the Agency to prevent burning this bridge?
Thanks!

Okay. My first response is DON’T FUCKING LEAVE YOUR JOB. WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY! YOU’RE WORKING A SECURE JOB THAT GIVES YOU PAID, I REPEAT, P-A-I-D, VACATIONS AND YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT LEAVING TO BECOME A SET PA? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK!?

Okay — now with that out-of-the-way.

What you should be asking yourself is — what is your end goal? Do you want to be an agent? Or do you want to work in production? If you’re not sure what you want to do — maybe talk to some current PAs about production and see if it’s something you really want to do. Or better yet — dip your toes in by offering to work as a PA for free one day — A day that you don’t have to be at your agency job  — just as extra help to get some set experience.

The thing is — Being a PA sucks. There are some (crazy) people out there that actually love being a PA. But most of those people want to become ADs or coordinators. I admit — I REALLY enjoyed being a PA for the first year I moved to LA. But after the initial HOLY SHIT I’M WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY FOR REAL wears off — you will realize you’re just a slave at the bottom of a very long totem pole.  You’re a slave at the bottom with the job you have now, but YOU’RE a slave with PAID vacations. Do you get health insurance at your job as well? — because holy Christ if you do DON’T LEAVE.

Every job in the industry is really hard to get — even the one you have. Working a desk at an agency is super competitive. So if you have ANY desire to become an agent — or hell — even a producer. I would 100% stay at the job you have and milk all the contacts and relationships out of it that you can. PA jobs will come and go. The worst thing (and the most likely thing) to come out of leaving you job for this PA job is — you take the PA job. It lasts what? A few months? Half a year at best? And then you decide you don’t like it. And when the show is over — so is your job. And guess what — there is a new girl sitting at the desk job you used to have. So you’re fucked outta luck, kiddo.

But honestly, if becoming a Set PA is 100% your hearts desire — do it. I just want you to know the risks you’re taking.

END NOTE:

I assume you’re talking about a set pa position, but my reply applies to all PA positions. Except maybe a writer’s PA position. If you want to be a writer and a writer’s PA position becomes available 100% take it.

Christmas Gifts for Screenwriters

Want to get that writer or screenwriter something they’ll love and actually USE for Christmas? Here’s a quick buying guide. Enjoy.

USEFUL CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR A SCREENWRITER:

Kindle Paperwhite

I bounced this item to the top of my list because it is literally my favorite electronic device. The kindle paperwhite is a brilliant piece of technology. And it actually looks like you’re reading off paper. And the battery life lasts for weeks. I would rather cut off my hands than ever read off an ipad or kindle fire again. Buy this. Now.

Coffee Mug Warmer

This thing is awesome. I have one. It rocks. Keeps that coffee warm if you enjoy drinking out of a mug — if you don’t like a mug, check below item.

Yeti Rambler

I literally use the Yeti Rambler every single day. Works for hot drinks and cold drinks. It is my favorite cup/mug/travel mug. A little embarrassed to say it, but I actually own three of these things. They clean easy and keep drinks cold all day long. No shit. Put ice coffee in this thing at 8am, you’ll still have ice cubes well after lunch.

LAPTOP STAND

Another thing I use on the reg. Adjustable height. Great if you don’t want to buy a super expensive stand up desk.

Writer Emergency Pack

26 Illustrated cards designed by those great guys over at the ScriptNotes Podcast. Designed to help you out of a bind when you’re hitting some much dreaded writer’s block.

On Writing by Stephen King

This is one of my all time favorite books, let alone my favorite book on the craft of writing. Advice works for screenwriting just as much as novel writing. A must read for anyone interested in writing.

SHARPIES

A writer can never have enough sharpies. ‘Nuff Said.

NOTE CARDS

A writer can also never have enough Note Cards. They’re amazing for breaking story.

I will frequently be updating this page as the holiday season comes along and good gift ideas come to mind.

A blog for aspiring screenwriters and those seeking to break into the film industry.