Category Archives: Finding a Job

Reader Question: Moving to LA with Nothing

Right after I posted the last article about not having work for 4 weeks I got a gig. Holy shit did I get a gig. I ended up working 10am-6am straight. The lord answered my prayers for work… and then almost killed me. I’ll write more on that experience later. For now, I got a reader question.

Tiffany writes:

I am a PA in Detroit, who just happened to come across your blog. I’m very interested in your entries.. I see that you moved to LA, and said that you had the gas to get there, and your GPS. How’s it been going for you so far? Have you really had to sleep in your car? The past few months I’ve been trying to figure out a plan to get out of Michigan, and get to LA (I have a friend there that is taunting me to get there sooner, also). I am hoping my friend will be able set me up with a job when I get out there, but he’s not sure he will be able to.. Just wondering how realistic it is to head out there with practically nothing. Hope to hear back from you.

You’re right, I did basically come out here with nothing. Honestly I would not advise anyone to move to LA without a plan and some cash. I know that I came out here on a whim, and I’ve survived so far, but I knew that I had a couple couches to sleep on, and I had at least one person willing to set me up with some work. I came out here with about $1000. I spent roughly $300 on gas and a couple nights in a cheap hotel. The rest is already gone. Luckily I’ve gotten a few jobs since I arrived to help pay bills.

If you don’t have couches to sleep on, I would recommend saving up three months of living expenses minimum before you come out here. I’ve even heard of people not landing a paying gig for 6 months. It’s really hard getting work without knowing people.

How have I been surviving on such little work? I find places to sleep for free. I sleep on floors and couches. I eat PB&J and Ramen Noodles. I don’t drive unless I have to. I’ve been doing this for two months. Hopefully I will start getting enough work soon to be able to get a little more situated. Kiss your social life goodbye.

If you plan on coming out here without a lot of savings, be prepared to live like a bum. You have to be a little bit crazy to live this life. A ton of people come out here to do exactly what I am doing right now, most of them end up going back home.  As Josh Dobkin says,

It’s outlast and outshine out here.  If you really want it bad enough, put the time in and don’t cave under the harsh environment like everyone else, you’ll rise above the muck.

It can be done. People do it every year. Most of them end up going home. If you want it bad enough, you’ll survive.

Being Busy Not Being Busy

I haven’t posted in a week.  It’s because I’ve been on an extended period of downtime… and it sucks. It really blows.  I’m one of those “work-a-holic” types, and my patience is being tested. I’m so restless. I sent out 26 resumes last week to countless black holes. An Assistant Editor job I was in the interview process for got put on indefinite hold.  A Set PA gig on a commercial got bumped to next month.  The people I have worked for in the past don’t have anything for me at this point in time.  I needed to find SOMETHING to keep me busy, and feed the work-a-holic inside me — so I started another blog.  I know, I should be writing my feature.  I am doing that as well. That’s one good thing about downtime.  I wrote a new horror logline, I’m developing a treatment for an adventure film, and still switching between writing two features.  I know… I just need to finish one of them and get on with my life.

A couple friends and I have just launched a movie news blog.  It keeps me busy while I’m not working and, an added plus to running a news site, now I know everything happening in the industry.

On a good note, I made a couple new contacts, had a phone interview with a company that may bring me some work, and talked to a 1st A.D. who added me to the interview rotation for a PA job on a TV show. Should hear back from her in about 3 weeks.  Fingers crossed.

Oh… and I discovered MineCraft, Portal 2, and I’ve done some catching up on Parks and Rec.

So I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is, USE YOUR DOWNTIME. Stay busy when you’re not busy, you never know where it might lead you.

Tips for a Production Assistant: Working for No Pay Part 2

“The Slave Ship” by J.M.W. Turner – The practice of eighteenth century slave traders who would throw the dead and dying slaves overboard during the middle passage in the Atlantic Ocean in order that they might claim the insurance for drowning.

I did a post a little while back about Working for No Pay. I still think this could benefit you IF you think there is an opportunity to work with great people who could possibly help you get PAID in the future. I did it, and it worked well for me. However, there are people in the industry who don’t give a shit about you. I was just on Mandy.com and I ran across a this:

All interested PA must reply with a resume and picture.

Are you kidding me?  Since when does a Production Assistant need head shots? Oh yeah… since RACISM and SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

All PA’s must be available both dates and must possess the following qualities: Reliable, Dependable, Enthused with with productions, Must have transportation to and from the facilit, Ability to work well in a fast pace invironment

OK! Where to begin?  First, notice their complete lack of ability in spelling words. Second, I’m not entirely sure there is a difference between being reliable and dependable. Third, even though these are traits that any good Production Assistant should have, I find it a little insulting to be demanding these things of someone that you’re NOT PAYING!

All PA’s will be required to sign an agreement confirming their committment to the project.

Yes. Let me get right on that. Idiot. Also, despite what you may think, not everyone jumps at the opportunity for IMDB credit and free food. Last time I checked, Nationwide wasn’t accepting leftover chocolate covered espresso beans or roasted seaweed snacks as payment for my premium car insurance.

Just be careful out there when accepting any lo/no/deferred jobs is all I’m trying to say.

Tips for a PA: Downtime and Cold Calling [UPDATED]

I had three jobs last week.  Two of them were for a producer I did a free gig for (she’s awesome), and the other was a small commercial shoot, for a friend of a friend.  How many shoots do I have this week? A big fat ZERO.  I guess that’s just how the industry goes sometimes.  Slammed one week, nothing the next. Now that I’m not working, what am I doing? Feverishly checking my inbox every 5 minutes, and looking for more work.

As I sit down and write this, I’m already working on my third cup of coffee, and I’m taking a much needed break from the horrible process of cold calling random productions. Before taking up this wretched task, I sent everyone that I worked with last week an email, and thanked them for giving me the opportunity to work my ass off. I also let them know what my availability is (which at the moment is, ANY TIME!!).  So, now that I’m fresh out of contacts… here is where the cold calling begins.

Basically, this process involves finding every single production in town, tracking down the number for each of their production offices, calling said offices to ask if they’re currently hiring PAs, and then sending my resume off to some black hole email address, that will more then likely never be checked.  I can’t help but feel like this is a lost cause.  The people I’ve spoken with, always sound like they have no idea what is going on.

Me:  “Hi, my name is _______.  I was wondering if you were hiring PAs?”

Them:  “Umm… I think we’re all staffed up, but you can send your resume to BLACKHOLEOFRESUMEDEATH@usuallygmail.com.”

So, who can help me in this situation?  Do I try and force the person on the phone to get me in contact with the 2nd A.D. or the Production Coord? I need a cold calling master to train me in the ways of artificial sweetness and unflinching persuasion.

What’s the best method you’ve found for obtaining info about the productions in town and their respective office numbers? Right now, my process consists of vigorous google searching, followed by determining whether or not they’re shooting in LA, followed by IMDB Pro research, followed by telephoning the main production office, and asking for the show’s specific production office number.

In the meantime, I’ve created a google docs spreadsheet to keep track of every production I call, as well as; when I called, the office number and email, who I actually spoke with, and when I should follow up. This will help me keep track of the madness I am currently throwing myself into.

[Updated: 10/24/13]

I’m going through some of my old posts cause I’m sitting at the production office at 10:00pm bored out of my mind and I couldn’t help but laugh at this post.  I am now that person on the other end who sounds like they have no idea whats going on that directs you to the black hole email address… and it really is that simple. Either I’m going to say we’re all crewed up, but feel free and send us your resume, or I’m going to say something along the lines of “I THINK we’re all crewed up” because I really don’t know the needs of people until the minute they’re brought to my attention. If someone is suddenly like “WE NEED A PA!” Then I’ll be like, “Great! I have a black hole email address filled with PA resumes.” Then I SCAN through them quickly, pick out some winners, and give them to whoever asked.

Irony.

Also check out:

Interview: Screenwriter Josh Dobkin

In January of 2009, Josh Dobkin and his writing partner Sean Wathen, sold their spec script The Field to Stone Village Pictures.  I interviewed him briefly in 2010 for a research paper I was working on.  Here is some of his advice for an aspiring screenwriter.

What advice would you give an aspiring screenwriter that’s looking to get a job in the industry?

If you want to be next to writers, you need to be close to producers.  And that means either being a PA on a production, or finding work at a production company… which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! You want to be close to the gate keepers, because as a writer, that is KEY!  Being where scripts are granted life, or executed to a slow miserable death, is where you want to be.

So, my first word of advice would be: go get a job or internship, at either a production company or management company… agency maybe, but unless you want to be a suit, pass on getting abused by the future “Ari Golds” of America.

And that of course, means moving to LA.  So that is actually my first word of advice. But do it with a game plan. Save up some cash, visit, network online, all that jazz… and thennnnnn… make the move out here.

It will be several months before you land a paying gig in the industry, and this place is expensive to live.  So come out strapped with a couple thousand in the bankroll, and hit this town like a freaking maniac!

It will be hard, and will test your will to continue a path in the entertainment industry. If you can keep chugging ahead without having your hopes and dreams crushed, you’ll land a paying gig.

What is your writing process like?  Do you outline?

My writing parter and I outline a pretty detailed path before we start on the script. Some people do 60-90 page treatment… fuck that.  Just write a script if you’re that thought out already.  Put your beats down, what needs to happen, and who it needs to happen to, and go from there.

If you’re too detailed going in, I think the words seem stale. Probably because the writer has been writing the same shit in outline form, for 6 months.  It feels good to feel the flow and unpredictable nature of a writer’s voice.

So I’ve written my spec. Now what?

I wish I had a magic answer to selling a script, but I sure as shit don’t. And no one does. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a fucking liar, or a thief, because more than likely, it’s one of those jerk-offs teaching a seminar for $200 that hasn’t sold shit!

WRITE YOUR ASS OFF! Thats the key to selling a script. You might hit a home run on your first bat… unlikely, but it happens. When you finally close the page on a script that you 100% think is rockstar solid, set it aside for at least 6 months, and write something else.  And while your waiting for 6 months, start reading scripts of sold material…

NOW, come back to that script 6 months later, and tell me how good it is. If its still a rockstar, go solicit a manager/agent, and sell that fucker – ’cause you got a gem!

What is the most common mistake you see aspiring screenwriters make?

The most common mistake writers make is they don’t write, and when they do, it’s shit… and they think its GREAT.  I’ll even admit to that fault.  I just went back and read my first draft of The Field… and it BLOWS!

Any last advice?

It’s outlast and outshine out here.  If you really want it bad enough, put the time in and don’t cave under the harsh environment like everyone else, you’ll rise above the muck.  If you’re writing is solid enough, you’ll succeed.

So there you have it! Advice from a selling screenwriter. Take it to heart, and keep writing! You can find a more in-depth interview with Josh over at Done Deal Pro.

Tips for a PA: Hard Work and No Pay

I’ve been in L.A. for a week now, and I’ve already finished my first gig as a Set PA. It was two, hard, 14 hour days of running around, and working my ass off! Luckily, my hard work payed off, and the producer said she would be calling me back for work very soon!

My first bit of advice for those looking to break into the Industry as a PA — Take any job, even if it’s for no pay, and work your ass off.  People really do notice. You wouldn’t believe how many lazy people are out there. Getting in is the hardest part. Once you’re in, and you work hard, you will get more work! If someone asks you where something is, instead of telling them where it is, go get it for them! Always be on the lookout for someone who needs help, and periodically check-in with your supervisor to see if you can make their life easier – in any way possible!

My second bit of advice is:  NO COMPLAINING!  Once you’re on set, you will quickly notice that literally everyone, doesn’t like someone else on set – and they ALL want to tell you about it! My advice: Listen to everyone, repeat nothing! By listening to everyone else bitch-and-moan, you quickly become a trusted confidant.  If you end up bitching and moaning, you’ll just become one of those people who… bitches and moans.

Be friendly! When there is downtime on set, engage people in conversation. Learn about everyone. Relationships are more important than “connections” so work on building them.  People are more willing to hire someone they like to be around, instead of that guy who works really hard, but is also a dick (and there is ALWAYS one of those guys).  Try to have at least one personal conversation, with everyone on set.  It will come in handy later.

Advice #4. Learn everyone’s name. Study the call sheet if you have to! This is really important. As a PA, you will be on the walkie a lot. It’s hard to call someone on the walkie, when you don’t know their name. Plus, calling someone by their first name, makes them feel like they’re actually important to you. That you care actually enough to remember them. Trust me, it goes a long way.

Advice FIVE. Send follow up emails. Bring a call sheet home and email everyone you worked with. Tell them you had a great time working with them, and that you hope you get to work with them again, soon. Make the emails personal. Remember that one personal conversation I told you to have with everyone?  Reference that conversation in your email.  Tell them that you hope their cat starts to feel better, or whatever, and that if they ever need a hard worker, they shouldn’t hesitate to call. Attach your resume for their convenience. People love this. Again, it’s all about building relationships.

These are the 5 basic things you can do to (hopefully) attain more work, and begin building stronger relationships that will (once again, hopefully) further your career.

Have you ever worked for no pay? Did it pay off in the end?

My L.A. Road Trip

Saturday evening I said goodbye to my middle-of-nowhere Tennessee town, got into my freshly oil changed ’94 Honda Accord, and left my old life behind. Around 11:00 pm I started my road trip. Two days, 7 states, and 2100 miles later… I am now officially in the greater Los Angeles area.

Besides the high gas prices, the trip couldn’t have gone any more smoothly. I had no car problems, no traffic, and no tickets the entire way here. I got out of Tennessee and into Arkansas my first night, and stopped to get some sleep around 6:00 am. Woke up around 11:00 am and started again.

The worst part of the trip was driving through Oklahoma. Holy crap that place sucks! It was basically just a one lane highway, and road construction – all the way to Oklahoma City! After Oklahoma City things got better. The roads cleared up and the scenery was easier on the eyes. I even got to see one of those giant wind turbine farms! The weather was nice, so the windows were down, and the music loud.

The drive through Texas was basically the color brown + cows. I have seen a lot of cows in my life. My house in Tennessee had cow fields on two sides. But I have NEVER seen more cows then I did in Texas! There must have been a million in the field I saw! That’s all I can say about my Texas adventure. Although, the last stretch of Texas just before hitting New Mexico was kinda nice. It became more “deserty” and less “brown fieldy”. The sun was setting in front of me, the windows were down once again, and classic rock was blaring out of my speakers. It was about an hour of pure road trip perfection.

It started to get dark when I hit New Mexico. New Mexico and Nevada have 75 mph speed limits instead of 70 mph. That was a plus. Driving through Albuquerque at night was really interesting. Everything in that city lights up in different colors. I felt like I was driving through Disney World/one giant Indian casino/modern art museum.

On the Indian note… starting in Oklahoma, and going all the way through Arizona, is nothing but Native American Tourists traps EVERYWHERE. It’s kind of sad really.

I stopped somewhere in New Mexico around 11:00 pm their time. It was snowing. It was over 90 degrees a couple of hours earlier in Texas, and now it was snowing in New Mexico. The hotel woman must have thought I was high as shit! When I got in my room and looked in the mirror my eyes were SUPER red. I also think I was hallucinating a little. Driving long distances does amazing things to the eyes/brain. I immediately took a hot shower and passed the fuck out. The sleep was amazing! I slept for about 8 hours, and then started again.

Arizona was a pretty awesome drive. They have cool towns with names like, “Two Guns” and “Twin Arrows”. Stopped in Flagstaff for some gas. Held the door open for an old woman, and then continued my drive. (OLD PEOPLE LOVE ARIZONA) It was kinda chilly outside but the scenery was pretty. The last stretch of Arizona includes a drastic elevation drop that is fun to drive down really fast.

After driving through Arizona (forever) I finally hit California, and the Mojave Desert. As soon as I crossed the Cali/Arizona border, it felt like the temperature rose 30 degrees. Then the song Born to be Wild came on the radio. After I told the border guard that I wasn’t harboring any fruits or vegetables, I started driving through The Desert. The Mojave is a beautiful place. I had already shed my high elevation driving clothes by now, and was applying sunscreen to my left arm (It already had a nice sunburn from earlier Oklahoma driving). I set the cruise control at 80 mph (Cali goes back to 70 mph speed limits) and I don’t think I had to touch the break/gas pedal for over an hour. Very beautiful, relaxing drive.

The drive continued to be awesome until I started coming up on Barstow California… then it just got shitty, real fast. All of a sudden the hot desert wind didn’t feel good. It felt like I just walked into a hot port-o-potty. I paid for my $4-a-gallon gas, and headed up towards Riverside/Loma Linda. And that’s where I am now, staying with some friends/family.

Overall, I’d say the trip was a positive experience, but one I wouldn’t like to do again anytime soon.

Keep checking back as I update you on my existence. I just became a small fish, in a VERY big pond.

I think I’m going to do my next script review on Everything Must Go. Possibly… Maybe.

What’s the longest Road Trip you’ve taken?

I’m Moving to L.A.

Basically, if your life’s dream is to become a giant Hollywood screenwriter, then you need to live in Hollywood. – John August

If you want to be next to writers, you need to be close to producers. And that means either being a PA on a production, or finding work at a production company… which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! – Joshua Dobkin

What the fuck are you trying to do in Atlanta?  COME OUT HERE! – My friend in L.A.

I had a plan. I was going to work in Atlanta for a few years, write some specs, and save money. Then I was going to make the jump to L.A. with a couple scripts under my belt and work my ass off. My plan for Atlanta isn’t working for a multitude of reasons, and after some recent advice from a friend working in L.A. — I’m jumping in and taking the risk!

I will be packing my ’94 Honda Accord (that just hit 200,000 miles yesterday!) with everything I need to live, and will drive from Tennessee to Los Angeles, California in the next week/week and a half. I will be sleeping on couches (or in my car if I have to) and will be taking every job I can possibly get. I need work, I crave work, anything even related to film will do. I have 5 different resumes made up, enough money to get out there, and a TomTom GPS.

Speaking of work. If any of my readers could put my sweat and tears to good use in L.A. shoot me an email. Preferably with a production company doing something in development, screenwriter’s assistant, or a writer’s P.A. But like I said, I’ll be Kevin Smith’s oil boy if It will get me in the door.

Honestly, I wish I would have done this months ago.  I only have a couple months before my massive student loans start coming in. On THAT note, don’t go to film school on student loans… bad… bad……very bad idea. Can’t change the past so I must look towards the future.

So… if chapter one of this blog was film school, chapter two will be moving to L.A. and working my ass off trying to get someone to let me work my ass off.

So let the madness begin. What do you think about moving to LA? Bad idea or a fucking awesome idea?

Getting a Job is Hard. Getting a Screenplay Produced is Awesome!

Lately I’ve been working my ass of, trying to convince people, to let me work my ass off. I have been calling several different Productions, all week long. Basically, what I’ve come to realize over the past week, is that people (usually) don’t hire people they don’t already know. It’s becoming a real pain in the ass trying to get the position I want, especially when people hire the same crews over and over again — on every Production! Unfortunately, that old Hollywood adage still holds true – getting your foot in the door IS the hardest part.

Another thing I realized, is that trying to join a Union right out of school, is also a huge pain in the ass! I NEED to have some work experience, to be accepted by The Union… but I sorta’ need to be already accepted by The Union, before employers will hire me, for said work experience.  Funny how that works, huh? So, on that note —-> I’ve also become aware of the fact that, just because a State is a Right-to-Work State, doesn’t actually mean someone will hire you, if you’re not Unionized. It might be illegal, but one Production came right out and told me that if I wasn’t in the Union, then they weren’t going to hire me. I’m sure I would love the Union if I was in it, but right now… it’s a fucking pain!

So, now that I’ve accepted the fact that I am not going to get the job I originally wanted, I’ve started re-applying to all the same productions for a Set P.A. position.  Only to learn, that more than half of the Productions I applied too, are now totally crewed up! If you are planning on working in the Industry, I guarantee you will come to loathe the term “Crewed Up”. Every time you hear it, your immediate response will more then likely be the “f- word”… screamed at the top of your lungs… in complete anger and frustration. Just make sure you say it after you hang up the phone.

In other news, a short film that I recently wrote over the past few months is now being produced! I got to visit the set last night and it was pretty weird/amazing to witness my words being brought to life.

Now that I’m done with the short, I have finally started on my next feature, which is a little more innocent than my previous scripts. It’s kind of like How to Train Your Dragon meets E.T. and I’m writing it for animation, even though I know all the big animations guys (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks… etc.) develop everything in-house. It’s a story I’m really passionate about, and if I do it well, I can at least use it to snag an agent’s or a producer’s attention.

I’ll keep posting every once in a while about the trials, troubles, and tribulations, that arise from my attempts at getting a job in the motherfraaaacking Movie Industry.

Oh, and look for a new script review coming soon! As well as a further detailed article on what I’ve learned while trying to find a job.

:FADE OUT.