Category Archives: On the Job

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

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.

Production Assistant Resume Template

I wrote an article a few months back on what a PA resume should look like. You can find that article here. Today for some reason, I decided to quickly whip up a PA Resume template for you guys. Yay! Here is what it looks like:

12PTRESUMETEMPLATE082714-page-001It’s not pretty. It’s not perfect. It’s nothing special. But it does the job. Your name, address, phone number, and email addy are right up at the top. Followed by the only thing that matters — work experience.

Feel free to mess with it and customize it to your needs. I will in no way be offering tech support. If you can’t get it to work. I apologize. However if the download link doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll try and fix that. I also included a pdf file of the template if you just want to see what it looks like.

DOWNLOAD LINKS:

DOC FILE

PDF FILE

Tips for a PA: How to Make a “To-Do” List

idreamed

You’re probably thinking, “How to make a “To-Do” list? Really? That’s the type of unique content this guy puts on his site?” Trust me. This changed my life.

Everyone has their own way to do a To-Do list. Some people prefer digital lists, others like to write them down. I prefer written lists. My current template was given to me by a former Agent’s Assistant, and it’s my favorite one yet. It’s very simple, yet super effective. Set PA’s don’t really use To-Do lists much… so this article is aimed more towards the office PA or office assistant.

1. First off, you need a lined paper notebook. One where you can turn the pages. Like this one. 

2. The next step is to get out a ruler and draw a straight line right down the middle of the paper, like so:

finishedline

 

3. Next put the date up at the top. Wherever you think best. I tend to forget the date — so I find this very useful.

finisheddate

4. Next you write “TO DO:” on one side and “TO CALL:” on the other side. The former agent’s assistant would use “TO DO:” and “TO SEND:” or something, because she would constantly be sending out scripts to people. I don’t have things to send, but I have a lot of people to call — so I  have a “To Call” column.

finishedColumns

5. Now, throughout your day, you will be given a multitude of never-ending tasks. Please do not rely on your memory — it WILL fail you. Write everything you need to do down, even if you think you will remember it. Put things in their respective columns like so:

finishedtasks

6. Here is the important part. When you’re done with a task. You HIGHLIGHT IT. Do not cross it out. Highlighting lets you easily see all the tasks you’ve completed. So when your boss comes to you and was like, “Did you do that thing I told you to do last week?” And you have no idea what he’s talking about because there are a million things on your mind — You simply scroll back in your notebook to the date and look and see if you highlighted that task.

finishedlist

7. At the end of the day you should have all your completed tasks highlighted. Now turn the page, and create the next days list by adding all the tasks you didn’t complete today. And continue on doing this never-ending list of bullshit that is your job while you slowly die in a fluorescent bathed cubicle of hell.

That’s it! Hope this helps all you office people get shit done.

Also check out:

TIPS FOR A PA: How to Roll Calls aka Answering Phones for Newbs

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One of the main responsibilities of an Office PA is to roll calls. You have a phone on your desk with many buttons (and every fucking phone is different and way more complicated than it needs to be) and it rings all day long. The thought of answering phones when I started office PAing was honestly terrifying. Not only did I have the fear of not knowing what I was doing — I had the fear of  not knowing what I was doing in front of a bunch of people. When you’re in a production office, generally all the PA’s are set up in a bullpen. No cubicle dividers — just a room full of desks. So everyone can hear everything you say.  It was scary… but a completely unjustified fear. Answering phones is one of the easiest things in the world. Suffice to say, I learned fast. So here are some tips.

You’re sitting at your desk. The phones ring. Pick it up as fast as possible. If possible don’t let it ring more than once. Answer. “Production, this is [Insert Name Here].” Some people just answer with “Production”. But I like to let people know who they’re talking to.

One of the first things you should do if you’re on a new phone system is figure out how to transfer a call. Like I said, every phone is different. There are two types of transfers. Blind Transfers and Consult Transfers. A blind transfer simply transfers one call to another phone. A consult transfer transfers you first so you can say, “So and So is on the line, would you like me to put them through?” and they will either say, “Yes”, and you complete the transfer, or, “No, take a message”. You usually only have to do this if it’s someone important… or if you’re transferring out to someone’s cell.  If someone is calling for another department — just blind transfer. No need to consult. 

So someone calls and you answer the phone, person on the other line says, “Hello, can I talk to so and so”. If it’s another department, simply say “Yes, please hold.”  and blind transfer them to the extension on the phone list.  If they’re asking for someone in your department (Apoc, Poc, another PA, etc) you can probably just put them on hold and tell that person what line they’re on. E.g. “Hey, Jess, So and So is on Line 1 for you.”

9000 times out of 10 the person on the other line will say “Hi, can I speak to so and so?” Without giving their name or why they’re calling.  If it’s for another department… just transfer them over. But if it’s for someone in production — you need to find out two things. Who they are, and why they’re calling.

“Yes, may I ask who’s calling please?”  If it’s a name you recognize or know to be important, it’s probably okay to just walk up to the person in your department and be like, “So and So is on the line for you.” But if it’s someone you don’t recognize you need to be all like, “May I ask what the call is regarding.” I had so much trouble with this when I started out. How do you ask someone why they’re calling without sounding like a little shit. You can’t just ask, “Why are you calling?” It just sounds bad. So asking what the call is regarding seems to be the best way to ask that question.

Also if the dude doesn’t have the name John Smith and you’re not exactly sure what he said… a good way to find out what his name is, is by asking “Can you spell your first and last name for me, please?” That why when you tell the producer that Moises Trajicomahetmetet is calling for him, he actually knows who you’re talking about. It’s very important to get names right. Double checking with the person on the phone is way less embarrassing than getting the name wrong while talking to the producer.  DONT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS ON THE PHONE. Get the information down correctly. Get their name spelt right. If the dude on the other end of the phone is an irritated piece of shit, it’s not like they can reach through the phone and strangle you. Remember, you’re just doing your job. Get the name right. Ask what the call is regarding, and then place them on hold.

Same thing for taking messages. Name. Who they’re with. Why they’re calling. Note down the date and time, and ALWAYS ask for a callback number. Unless it’s a person you know is very familiar to the person they’re calling, always ask something along the lines of “And what number can you be reached at?” Even if you know the person you’re giving the message to has their number, you’ll save them the time to look it up.

That’s all I can think of about phones at the moment. There is always 3 way calling and conference calling… but every phone is different so I can’t really tell you how to do that.

I hate phones.

DRESSINGS and VINEGARS

bv

People in LA love salads. They love salads more than anything. Actually… I’m not sure if they love salads. They might hate salads — but they feel so guilty eating anything else they’re forced to choke down variants of lettuce mixed with other things for lunch.

Every day .

Either way, if you’re working in a production office make sure you add a few different kinds of salad dressings to the crafty buy list. And if someone important asks you to run to the commissary and pick up some balsamic vinaigrette for their salad, and you run over there and all they have is a couple different glass bottles filled with oils and vinegars… Balsamic Vinaigrette is traditionally 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. 

Lesson learned.

Working for No Pay Part 3

speedup_630

Just stumbled on a new reader question that I feel like addressing in a post.

…what is a reasonable amount of PA work to be doing gratis before you can expect to be paid? I don’t want to shoot down opportunities but at the same feel like I am being used. Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget? I worked 35 hours on a 3 day shoot thinking I was getting paid and then I didnt. I even paid out of pocket for lunch and didnt get reimbursed. They want me to work for them again and say it wont be paid (a pretty decent sized indie studio). I told them I would do it but expect to be paid in the future. Am I out of line? Am I burning bridges? Did I shoot myself in the foot? The whole if you wont do it, someone else will line is getting old. People have to live. People have to pay bills. I cant keep working for free, can I?

– Josh

Okay. So I wrote briefly a while back about DOING free jobs to get noticed. And then a little while later I did a quick follow-up about being WARY of free jobs.  I’m going to go a little deeper.

I would ONLY take free work if you know there is a high possibility that it could get you paid work in the future. I’ve only worked for free 5 times. I will lay them out here.

1. The very first job I took in LA was a non paid 2 day job on a music video. I knew somebody working for a production company out here and they told me “Hey, the production company is super over budget on this music video and are looking for some free labor. I know you just moved out here and are looking for work. These guys do a lot of work. If you work your ass off for free I’m sure you’ll get noticed and get more work.” …or she said something along those lines.  It was my first week in LA and I didn’t know anyone… so what the hell. I took the job, worked my ass off for free, and it TOTALLY paid off. I ended up getting about $900 worth of work from the same producer the next week on two more shoots. Which then led me to getting work with their company doing freelance shoots up until the now. Last shoot I did with them was a few months ago. I also networked my ass off and got work later down the road from the Set Dresser and the Production Designer as an Art PA. So… I did this job because A). I didn’t have anything to lose. B). It was the first and only opportunity I had to get on set. C). My friend who worked there told me there was a good chance I would get paid work if I proved myself.

2. The second free job I did was a 3 day super low-budget TV pilot. I had already been working freelance a bit and another friend I met in the industry shot me an email. Basically he knew an AD that was going into production on a big hour-long network drama in the fall. So he got me in contact with her 2nd AD. The 2nd AD told me they were shooting this low-budget pilot for a friend (they were all working for free… even the ADs.) And if I came and worked on it, it could be like my interview. If I proved myself, I could become a candidate for a PA position on the show. So, of course, I took the free 3 day job. Long story short — They got a few political hires (producer’s nephew or something) and hired another one of the PAs I was working with for free… who was a girl. Girl ADs… wanting to hire Girl PAs… I feel like they stick together in this industry. But in the PAs defense, she was one of the best PAs I’ve ever met. A god damn super PA. You’ll know a super PA when you meet them. They carry like tool belts and shit. You can’t compete with them. Anyway… I didn’t get the job. Months later I got a call from the ADs wanting me to day play a few days on the network drama. So I did that. It was a miserable couple days. And I haven’t heard from them since. BUT! A few months after that, the DIRECTOR of the super low-budget free pilot I worked on called me up. (I had kept in contact with her. NETWORK!) Turns out she was an AD as well… on another big network half hour comedy. So — I got a few day playing days as a SET PA with her… Then one day she called me up because there was an OFFICE PA out sick. So I lied and said that I had been an office PA before (first… and only time I have lied while trying to get work… i just don’t like to do it… but it paid off). So I came in. Was super terrified about answering phones, but got over it quick. (fake it til you make it). Then I became the go-to day playing office PA for the show. (Every time one of their office PAs was sick or had jury duty they would call me to come in). Then the coordinator from that show (who I will call Coord. A) hooked me up with a coordinator friend of hers (who I will call Coord. B) who was working on another pilot. I did that show. Then Coord B. hooked me up with a coordinator friend of hers (who I will call Coord. C), and I went down to Atlanta and worked on movie with her… and now I’m back in LA working on another pilot with Coord. B.  CANT YOU SEE NOW THAT THIS INDUSTRY IS ALL ABOUT MEETING PEOPLE! Anyway. I guess that free job paid off. It didn’t pay off the way I wanted it to at first… but it definitely paid off in the end. I took that free job because A). There was a chance I could get a PA job on a big network drama.

3. The third free job I took was a First A.D. job for a super small Funny or Die video. No one was getting paid. I did it because a friend asked me to. A friend who had gotten me work in the past. You have to do favors in the industry. You don’t want to be the guy only asking for stuff and never returning.

4. Fourth free job. Also First A.D. on a short film for a friend. Again, favors.

5. Fifth free job. Set PA. Favor. Friend.

So there you have it. Only  take a free job if you think it’s going to help you in the long run. Personally to me… it sounds like these guys are fucking you over. If you feel like you’re getting fucked over… you probably are. Go with your gut man. That’s all I can tell you. But think about your options as well. If they’re not going to pay you… but you have no paid work… are you still willing to work for free to make contacts and get experience? If so, do it. But look for more work in the meantime. And the second some paid work comes in, leave them. Just say, “I appreciate the opportunity, but I have to take this paid job, I’m sure you understand.” And if they don’t understand, fuck ’em. And… unfortunately… if you don’t do it. Someone else will do it. But then they’re the ones getting fucked over.

P.S. — and as far as the “Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget?” 99% of budgets include paying PAs. And yes… it is negotiated beforehand. How you ask? Easy “Is it paid?” You say. “Yes” They say. That’s it. Feel free to ask how much. It will be anywhere from 112-250 a day. Usually more on the 112 side of things.  And if this company led you to believe you were going to be paid… and then didn’t… fuck them. Fuck them forever.

Taxes Question

Catching up on some emails and I saw this:

Hey! Im interested in starting out as  production/casting assistant to get into the industry. I came across your blog about how much PAs are paid and wanted to know if you are paid on a day rate how are taxes taken out? is it like being a 1099 contractor? Im not sure if this is a stupid question but I really just want to know so I am prepared.

Usually when I work short freelance jobs, like commercials and photo shoots, I try to get on a 1099 so that I can write off everything during tax season. (You can write off a lot if you’re working freelance). Sometimes you don’t have an option and they’re ONLY going to pay you 1099, but if not I try to file with them as an independent contractor.  If you’re doing a long job, a few weeks to a month or more, they’ll probably put you on payroll. Even some day long jobs will try to put you on payroll. When on payroll — taxes come out like any normal job. Even on a day rate… because it all breaks down to hourly in the end.

Hope that answers your question!

A Bitter Taste

Fuck It

When I started working in this industry I noticed something. Everyone seemed like they hated their lives. I would run around as a PA, so eager to serve, and notice that all the grips, teamsters, and props guys were all really angry people. Everyone pretty much seemed like they would rather take a hammer to the eye than work another day. Don’t get me wrong, I became friends with a lot of them, but I noticed how bitter everyone was. As if their job was the worst thing on the planet. I didn’t get it. Why were they working in the industry if they hated it so much? I was overjoyed to be working on set. Watching how everything came together. Meeting a ton of new people. Making connections. Working on TV shows and movies! Living the dream and starting a life. A new adventure every day.

About 5 minutes ago I realized I have turned into that bitter, angry, below-the-line ball of stress and nerves. I have become what I didn’t understand, and it only took 2 years.

So let me educate those who were once like me, eager and free. It comes from getting paid way below what you think you should be getting paid. From working 14 hour days making minimum wage — where overtime isn’t worth your time. From figuring out that working your ass off and hardly working yields almost the same result in pay, respect, and recognition. The eternal lingering sense that you’re not doing what you really should be doing to get where you want to go. It’s a real kick in the balls of motivation. But you need to continue. You need to work harder, and stronger, and faster. You need to show everyone how much they depend on you. But the harder you work, the worse it feels when you don’t receive the recognition you deserve. Which makes you angry. It makes you bitter. It makes you hate everyone around you. But you stay.

Why do you stay? Because deep down you wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. This is exactly what you want to be doing, you just want to excel at it. Make more money at it. Be better at it. Gain the appreciation and affirmation of your peers. So you stay. And you hate. And the more you try to change the world around you, the more it shits all over you. And when you clean up all the shit and become a reinforced blank canvass ready to take on the world, you get shit on again. And this happens forever and ever until your that 50 year old prop master with a permanent scowl. Ready to snap at any moment. But you still stay, because something about your job makes you happy, and keeps you going, and you’re not exactly sure what it is. But it’s there, rooted deep in some unyielding part of your being, telling you that you can make it. That you will be happy some day.

I now understand.

What Kind of Jobs Do You Get From Being a PA?

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog. My most humble apologies. Things have been crazy. Trying to find work. Moving into a new apartment. Trying to pay my bills. Surviving my crazy move to LA. I’ve been here for a little over 4 months now and I am slowly settling in. It’s been an adventure so far, and I promise I’ll continue my life updates shortly! But for now here is my once a month post… 🙁

A reader has a question.

Reader Question:

Hey, I’m a senior year in college pursuing a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Entertainment Studies. As of now I have yet to decide which area of the Film Industry I’d like to work in and in research came across your blog & had a few questions if you don’t mind. First, I have many interests in the field & have been trying to find one to focus my efforts into. My front runner right now is Casting & I was wondering if you knew anything about how Casting is ran or any tips on getting into that area? My other question is about P.A.’s, & what are the different career paths they lead to? Also, how long do most people work as a P.A. before moving on to something else? Would you recommend working as a P.A.?
Thanks for your time!

 

-Keri

Thanks for the question Keri!

I honestly don’t know much about the casting department. As I said in my last article on PA’s, you can be a Set PA, and Art PA, an Office PA, a Writer’s PA, and yes, even a Casting PA.  Just about every department can have a PA depending on how big the show is. If you want to get into casting I suggest learning as much about it as possible, and trying really hard to get in contact with a Casting Director or Agency and ask about becoming an assistant in that department. Again, it’s all about who you know. Make some contacts in that department and let everyone know what job you want, and eventually someone will (hopefully) hire you. You have to be proactive.

What kind of Career path’s do PA’s go into? It all depends on what department you WANT to go into. If you want to be an AD (assistant director) you can work your ass off as a Set PA and learn as much as possible about being an AD. Eventually you can start getting jobs as a non-union 2nd 2nd AD, then a 2nd AD, then a 1st AD. Once you have enough days on set you can get into the DGA and make the big bucks.

Basically, a PA doesn’t get you any job. Being a PA just helps you learn about the industry by working IN it. It’s an entry-level position. What you do WHILE working as a PA is what counts. You want to work in the Art Department and become Props or a Set Dresser? Meet the art department on set as a PA and let them know. Then work your ass off and stay in contact with them. Maybe they’ll call you to be an Art PA. Then eventually you can start doing Set Dressing with them once you’ve learned enough about the Art Department by being a PA.

You want to be a Grip? While working as a PA talk to the grip guys and let them know. You want to work in Camera? Meet camera people. A PA only becomes what they want to become, and what they work hard to become. It’s not a position that naturally gets promoted into another position.

How long does someone stay as a PA? That also depends on the person. There are PA’s out there who are PA’s FOREVER. You only get promoted when you actively try to learn other departments and move into another position. I’ve been working as a PA for 4 months and every time I’m on set I let the 2nd AD know that I’ve run talent before and worked as a 2nd 2nd before, so they give me more responsibility. I’ve already done a non-union commercial out here as a 2nd AD. But if I want to join the DGA, I could be working as a PA or Non-Union AD for years before that happens.

The short answer. While working as a PA find what department you want to work in and let everyone know. Meet and stay in contact with as many people in that department until they give you a job.

Would I recommend working as a PA? Only if you’re serious about working in the Industry. Being a PA honestly sucks ass. It’s not a fun job. You’re on set before everyone else, and you’re the last to leave. You’re the last to eat lunch. You’re usually working non stop for 12-16 hours. If you sit down you get yelled at. Don’t dare use your phone while working. You are a machine that does what you’re told without question. The only reason I’m doing this is because I love the field I’m working in, and I have a strong desire to move up. Nobody likes being a PA, but it’s necessary to get where you want to go.

Now I have to go to bed because I have another 12 hour day tomorrow.

Until next time…