Category Archives: Interviews

Resumes and Curriculum Vitae (For the PA)

Bad-Resume

This article is going to focus on how to tailor your resume for a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB in film or TV only.

What everyone says about this industry is correct — it really is  “who you know” — most of the time your resume is not going to factor into you getting a job. It is more of a formality, as the interview is what will land you the job… but sometimes the resume will land you the interview. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, let’s start!

I was recently hiring PAs for a production office —  I would say about 2 out of 10 production assistant resumes didn’t immediately go into the trash pile. When hiring a PA, I only care about two things:

#1: Can you do your job.

#2: Can I stand to be around you for the length of this show.

People don’t give a shit about what your goals are. They don’t give a shit if you went to college. They don’t give a shit about your short film. All they want to know is — do you know how to be a PA?

Look at your resume. If any of this shit on there, take it off.

DON’T INCLUDE

  • Student Films
  • Unrelated Work Experience – No one cares if you worked at Starbucks — and don’t argue that it applies because you’re getting people coffee. If it’s not a job in the industry, take it off.)
  • Anything you Directed or DP’d or any High Level Sounding Job – Why the fuck are you applying for a PA position if you’re a director. No one cares.
  • Career Objective – No one cares.
  • Hobbies – Again, no one cares.
  • References – If they want a reference they’ll ask. 99% of the time they heard about you from someone else anyway.
  • Background – Don’t think the person hiring you, who has probably been working in a production office for longer than you’ve been alive, cares about your background. There is plenty of time for this type of conversation after you’re hired.
  • Interests – Definitely Not.
  • That you Wrote a Screenplay – Seriously, I’m looking at a resume right now where a PA lists a feature screenplay in his work experience. Dude, in what way do you think a Prod. Coord. hiring you to go pick up lunch gives a shit if you’ve written a screenplay?

Now, here is what your resume should include.

INCLUDE

  • Name and Contact Info – Email, phone number, home address.
  • Job History – Show Name, Position, Date of job (if you want), Production Company (this is where you can make it a little sexier by adding in WALT DISNEY STUDIOS or something).

That’s it. Anything else on your resume should go below those two things. Your resume should look like a list. Name and contact on top. Below just a list of all the jobs you’ve done.

Chances are you haven’t worked that much. If you need some padding see below:

PADDING

  • Schooling – No one really cares, but it doesn’t take up much room… and why else did you get a film degree if not to do SOMETHING with it… so put it on the resume. At the bottom.
  • Skills – A producer friend of mine says he likes it when skills are listed on a resume. It doesn’t take up much room. But it’s where you can list appropriate skills like Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Suite, Scenechronize, Final Draft, Final Cut, Avid… etc. This is more relevant for a non-set PA job. You can even put MAC and PC… If you know how to hook up network printers on Macs AND PCs you instantly become like a god-figure in the office. Same with knowing the ins and outs of how to use an iPhone ( a lot of technologically impaired people work in production).
  • Internships – Unlike student films and your own shorts, an internship can basically be a non-paid PA job.  Internship is an easily dismissible word, when the experience you gained shouldn’t be dismissed. I would just change the job title “internship” into whatever job you were doing  — Office PA, producer’s assistant, development assistant… Looks better and it’s basically the same exact job, you were just getting school credit instead of being paid.
  • Job Descriptions – You can add this stuff if you’re seriously lacking in things to put on your resume. Just a few bullet points under every job. Try to not be monotonous.

DESIGN

  • Make your resume clear and easy to read – You won’t believe how many people’s resumes look like a jumbled mess of text. Nobody wants to read — they want to SCAN! I should look at your resume and know in 1 second if I’m putting you in the consider pile or the trash. If I have to read too much… sorry buddy. You might now be thinking, “Why is this guy so lazy and disgruntled? He’s going to pass on a qualified applicant just because they have “too much text” on the page?” Dude … when you work in a production office hiring PAs, you literally have about 100 resumes to go through in an hour. I’m not reading your fucking wall of text. If it takes a wall of text for me to realize your talent, you’re doing it wrong. You get a quick glance.
  • Keep your resume ONE PAGE  – You’ve done 40 jobs? Pick the sexiest looking ones. I shouldn’t have to turn the page when looking through your resume. No seriously… keep it one page.
  • Portrait View – Seriously… a landscape resume? Don’t. Ever.
  • Make Font Bigger – A larger font is easier to read, and stands out more. Even just bumping the standard 12pt to 14pt is a nice touch.
  • A Little Color Never Hurt Anyone – Even using greys with black looks better than a simple black text resume, and it’s non-color printer safe.
  • Too Much Color Hurts Everyone – If it looks like a teletubby took a shit on your resume — I will burn it.

IN CLOSING

People in a hiring position only want to know that YOU know what you’re doing. And the best way to persuade them is by showing that you’ve done the job before. So if you’re looking for set PA work — stack your resume with Set PA jobs. They’ll take one look at it and see SET PA, SET PA, SET PA, SET PA. “Great! Bring ’em in for an interview.” If they have to navigate through your resume like pans fucking labyrinth — you’re on a fast track to the trash.

[UPDATE]

Download a simple PA resume template here!

12PTRESUMETEMPLATE082714-page-001Also check out:

Austin Film Festival: On Story

Thanks to Amanda the Aspiring Writer, I now have a couple very interesting videos for you to watch.

On Story, a new series presented by Austin Film Festival, highlights the creative process of film making by featuring interviews with leading screenwriters, directors, and producers.  Each episode also showcases a short film by one of Austin’s up and coming film makers.

Some of the interviewees included are Randall Wallace, Lawrence Kasdan, Shane Black, David Hayter, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof, Robert Rodriguez, and more.

The first 3 episodes after the break.

Continue reading Austin Film Festival: On Story

Interview: Screenwriter Derek Haas

Derek Haas is an author and screenwriter who’s work includes the bestselling novel The Silver Bear and the screenplays 3:10 to Yuma and Wanted.  He is also the editor of popcornfiction.com, where he publishes new short fiction.  You can learn more about him on his personal website at derekhaas.com.

I was fortunate enough to score a short interview with him briefly in 2010.  Here is some advice he had to offer for an aspiring screenwriter.

How did you get into screenwriting?  When was your “lucky break”?

I always wanted to be a writer… in sixth grade, I asked my parents for a typewriter for Christmas.  I wrote stories all through junior high and high school, mostly to amuse myself.  My parents also purchased a Betamax video camera and my buddies and I made movies just about every day in the lovely suburbs of Richardson, Texas, just outside of Dallas.

I went to Baylor University and graduated with a BA in English in ’91 and then an MA in English Lit in ’95.  After school, I worked in advertising for a while. I wasn’t on the copywriting side… I was an account manager.  I kept writing at night, first on a novel (which wasn’t very good but taught me a lot about writing) and then on an idea for a screenplay.

In 1998, I partnered with Michael Brandt, a friend of mine from college, and we wrote a script together.  We had written a couple of terrible scripts in a screenwriting class at Baylor, but decided we’d try again. We passed the script back and forth via email, never seeing each other while we wrote it.  He got it into the hands of some woman who worked on the production side of the business, she got it into the hands of an assistant to a producer, she gave it to the producer, the producer gave it to Brad Pitt’s manager, and the manager gave it to Brad Pitt.  He said he wanted to do it and in March of 1999, we sold our first script.  It didn’t get made, but it got us represented and made a name for us in Hollywood.

Then we worked a while learning the ropes, doing rewrites and polishes, and finally we were offered the sequel to the Fast and the Furious in 2001. We said “no.”  Our agents said “yes.”  They realized we needed to have a produced movie under our belts. It worked out quite well for us… we hit it off with the director, John Singleton, and spent most of the movie on the set in Miami, watching a $90M production get made. It came out and was successful, and we proved we could deliver a script through production. From there, we’ve been fortunate to work with some great directors, actors, producers and crew.

How long does it usually take you to write? What is your process?

I’d recommend writing a first draft in about 8-10 weeks and then spend a month rewriting it before you let someone else read it. Don’t sweat outlines and rules and treatments and character sketches and all the things that keep you from actually writing. Write as much as you can, every day, creatively. Like anything you practice, you’ll get better and better the more you do it. And instead of seeing movies and saying, “I can do better than that,” read screenplays in the genre you wish to write and measure your own writing against those.

So you don’t outline at all?

We outline our screenplays because we have to for the studios who hire us. They want to see what they’re going to get before we write. I don’t outline my novels.

What screenwriting books would you recommend reading?

I really have never read any and am not sure which ones to recommend. Some friends have told me SAVE THE CAT is good, but I don’t know the book and so can’t speak on it.   I’d recommend enrolling in a screenwriting class and learning the form… then reading as many scripts as you can get your hands on.

What advice would you give an aspiring screenwriter moving to L.A. for the first time?

Try to find a job, any job, working in film or TV… you’ll learn so much about the process.

When exactly do you think finding representation is important? After someone is interested?

When you have written something truly great… something so novel and fantastic it will blow people’s minds… then go after representation. If you have someone interested, all the better.

With all the adaptations being made today, is spec writing still the way to “break-in” and get noticed?

Yes.

In your DDP interview you said, “most new writers think “I’m making art and everyone should worship me.” Do you think a new writer trying to get their “break” should write something commercial and marketable? Or should they take a chance on something dark and unique just to get noticed?

Commercial and marketable is the best way to get noticed. As funny as it sounds, dark and unique are what most film students do.

You’re ready to shop your screenplay around. How does that process go?

You query representatives. You try to make contacts with people in the film industry and ask them to read your script.   You get it into as many hands as possible and if it’s great, someone who can help you, will.

You can find a more in-depth interview with Derek Haas and his writing partner Michael Brandt over at Done Deal Pro.

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.