Category Archives: Tips for a PA

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: 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.

Production Assistant Store

Hello! We’ve had an increase in page views on the clothing and accessories for a PA article, so I’ve decided to put it all in one place on a new page called the Production Assistant Store!

I’m not selling anything personally, but if you buy something off Amazon from one of those links they’ll kick me back a small percentage — so shop away me little PA minions!

But really — don’t spend money you don’t have. Most of these things can be acquired slowly throughout your production assistant career.

Cheers! Now  VISIT THE STORE!

 

Two Reader Questions: Looking for a Job & Cold Calling

I’ve been busy, blah blah blah, excuses…

Here is a reader question:

Hi,

I been looking for a PA job for months and I am using a production listing to look as well. When is the best time to contact production offices and how  do I use the production listing properly? I call and they usually tell me they are already full or  that they have not set up yet.

Thank You

Hello person,

First of all, cold calling production offices usually results in a black hole email address. The absolute best way to get a job in the industry is to know someone already working in the industry. I know… this doesn’t help you. But think… really think. Who do I know that maybe knows someone who knows someone in the industry? Reach as far as you can go. I once met a guy at a bar that ended up getting me work. He worked for a division of a record label that produced music videos. So when they were shooting a music video, he told the production company to hire me… and they did. Not because they wanted to (they have their own PAs) but because their client asked them to. You have to really hustle your way in there.

BUT to answer your questions. The phone number you’re looking for on those production listings is the “PRODUCTION OFFICE”. Sometimes when you call those numbers it’s not the production office, but the office of the production company… or a network office. This may be confusing. The PRODUCTION OFFICE is a temporary office opened up when production starts. Then after the show is over the PRODUCTION OFFICE is closed. The PRODUCTION COMPANY will have their own office. That is always open. Because the producers work there. And they sometimes work on multiple shows at the same time which all have their own respective PRODUCTION OFFICES.

Anyway, if it is the production office someone will usually answer the phone with, “Production”. If it’s not the production office just ask if you could be transferred to the production office of said show, or ask if there is a production office open yet. If there is no production office open yet, ask when they expect to open a production office. Then call back around that time.

Once you get the production office, ask if they’re hiring PAs. They’re probably not. If they say, “yes”. Hooray! Send them your résumé and ask for an interview. If they’re not, STILL ask if there is an email address you can send your résumé to. 99% of the time, your résumé will never be looked at. But it does happen sometimes.

Ultimately you want to get in contact with the production coordinator or the assistant production coordinator. They hire office PAs. The earlier you can get to them the better because all office PAs are usually hired before production starts.

If you want to work on set you NEED TO KNOW ADs. All ADs have their own list of PAs they like to work with. But sometimes their normal PAs are busy, which means they need fresh blood. So, again, call the production office. Ask if they’re hiring set PAs and try to get your résumé into the hands of the 1st or 2nd AD (2nd ADs usually hires the PAs).

The window for hiring PAs is very small. And most PAs are personally called and hired because they’ve already worked with someone on the crew. So most of the time it will be too early (they haven’t started hiring PAs yet) and then there is a small window when they do hire and that is usually filled up with other people and then when you call they’re not hiring any more.

I know. It sucks. I’ve never gotten a job from cold calling. Ever. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Keep trying. But more importantly get out there and try to meet some people who work in the industry.

Good luck!

Okay, on to the next one. It’s kind of similar.

Hello,

In reference to your 2011 your post about cold calling, what is the best/simplest way to ask if hiring and not be another annoying 45 second phone call? I’m a very literal person, so my intro is usually:
Me: Hi, my name is _______ . I was calling to see if you were hiring any set PA’s? (I also have an interest in editing asst., but I feel that’s too wordy?)
Production: Not right now
Me: Okay, could I send you my resume? What’s your name?
Production: blackholeofdeathforever@still.gmail.com
Me: Okay thank you (do I say I’ll follow up?)

I’m noticing this trend I’m doing and I feel like it’s not working well. Also, is it creepy or pushy to ask to speak directly to the POC?

I’ve already touched on this in my response to the first question.  I’m not sure of any way not to be that annoying 45 second phone call. I guess just be nice. ALWAYS BE NICE. And… this might not be good advice… but maybe sound like someone the person you’re talking to on the phone wants to work with. Because that person is another PA. And you’re encroaching on their PAness. Ha..haha. But if you sound friendly and like a cool person then they’ll probably be more likely to go to bat for you when it’s time to hire you. Be friends with that person on the phone. How you ask? I have no idea. But it can’t hurt because you’re probably not going to get the job anyway. So try it out.

As far as the Post PA/Editorial PA goes (they’re the same thing)… if it is a movie, ask if you can get your résumé to the Editor or Assistant Editor. This can be tricky because the person on the phone might not have that information. So keep pressing them on how to get that information. An editor may have not even been hired yet.  If it’s TV it is a little weirder… I’m not exactly sure how Post works in the TV world. But I know there is usually a post-house or something. Sometimes there is also a post coordinator your can get your résumé to, or a co-producer who is in charge of overseeing post-production. The production coordinator will know this information. So if the PA you’re speaking with doesn’t want to transfer you over to the POC than just ask said PA if he/she minds asking the POC if there is someone you can send your résumé to in post. They’ll help you out.

As far as following up. I would just ask when they think they’ll be hiring. And then call back around that time and follow-up. Or if they don’t know, just give them a ring ever 7 days or so until they say they’re not hiring anymore. After that move on.

If they say their hiring. Maybe call back every 2-3 days and just check-in to see if they’ve hired PAs yet. And try to score an interview.

Asking to speak with the POC is okay… but they don’t want to speak with you. So maybe ask if you can speak with APOC (assistant production coordinator) because they’re way more likely to speak with you. Be super friendly with the APOC and try to score an interview.  If neither of them will speak with you, ask the PA on the phone if they’ll hand them your résumé for you. And always be nice. Because if you sound like a prick that PA will not do anything for you. No matter what they say.

OKAY! Have fun out there.

12ptCourier’s Top Posts of 2014

Here are the top 10 posts on the site in order of views for 2014:

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

#9: Production Assistant Resume Template

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

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

#6: Tips for a PA: Clothing and Accessories [UPDATED]

#5: Production Assistant Pay [Updated]

#4: Tips for a PA: Walkie Talkie Lingo

#3: Tips for a Production Assistant: Set Lingo

#2: Resumes and Curriculum Vitae (For the PA)

#1: Production Assistant Job Description and Duties [Updated]

Tips for a PA: On Set for the First Time?

I haven’t answered any reader questions in a while. Sorry. Here’s one —

I just got my first pa job on a tv show and it’s coming up this weekend. It’ll be my first time on a “real” set and though i’m excited, I really nervous as well! I’ve been reading through your posts and they’re super helpful, but is there anything I should know going into this for the first time? I’ve only ever been on set in film school, unfortunately, and I really scared I’m going to look like and idiot! – Jessica

I got this email a while ago — so I hope it all ended up okay. For the sake of this post, I’m going to act like I just got this email.

—–

Well, Jessica — here’s the thing. You are going to look like an idiot. BUT THAT IS OKAY! Because you’re new. Unless you lied to the person who hired you, they know you’re new as well. So, Relax, it will be fine. Just keep your ears open, always pay attention, and be willing to learn and do anything.

You WILL be put into positions where you have no idea how to proceed.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find another PA who looks like he/she knows what they’re doing, introduce yourself, and take their lead.  You’ll pick it up fast. If you screw up and the AD yells at you over the walkie — you’re not alone. Happens to everyone at least once.

Don’t, however, ask questions over the walkie. If someone tells you to do something and you have no idea what they’re talking about, say “copy that!” and then run to your closest PA buddy and ask them what the hell the AD was talking about.

Quick tip: ALWAYS know where the actors in the scene are. They tend to wander off set. If the A.D. asks something along the lines of  “Anyone have eyes on ACTOR X” — a quick response from you could mean brownie points.  (I had an A.D. who would randomly ask me where a certain actor was even if she knew where he was, just to make sure I knew where he was…. )

Hopefully you aren’t put in charge of locking up the area where the grips hang out. They will most likely not listen to you when you’re telling them to be quiet. And then you just feel like an asshole.

If the A.D. yells cut — YOU YELL CUT. If the A.D. yells rolling — YOU YELL ROLLING. That’s one of the P.A.s main jobs. It’s called “echoing” and you do it during “lock-up”. This is so EVERYONE on set knows to shut the fuck up.  If you don’t do this, any respectable AD will yell at you.  And the grip who just walked into the shot will yell at you because the A.D. just yelled at him for walking in the shot.

I’m sure there are a million other things I could tell you, but they’re not coming to me.

Anyway — I hope you enjoyed your first day on set. If you read this, leave a comment on how it went! And share your tips!

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:

Waiting for Your Script to be Read and Pinging

Phelps_PING_G25_metal_woods_690

The agony.

I’ve sent my pilot out for notes, and most people got back to me within a week. I was pleasantly surprised! One guy got back to me when I had previously taken 3 months to give him feedback on his script. I will NEVER do that again after experiencing the agony of waiting.  All the feedback I received was super helpful, even if I didn’t agree with it,  and it was all much appreciated. However, there are a couple of key people who haven’t read it yet, and it’s driving me crazy! I try not to think about it. But I cannot go forward with rewrites until I have feedback from these key people. How do I go about reminding them? How long do I wait to remind them? I can’t tell if they forgot because they’re super busy, or they just haven’t had time to read it because they’re super busy.  I mean, key person has a couple of projects in development… so it’s totally rational for them to have forgotten about it.

After a week and a half I used, “Hey! No rush, sent you my script last week, just wondering if you got it!”  They replied with a, “Yes!”

“Great!” I thought, “They’ll probably read it this weekend!”

…. It’s been a few weeks since then.

I think my next course of action will be, “Hey!  In reading my pilot, would you prefer a hard copy instead of digital? Again, no rush. I put a lot of value in your notes, and I refuse to go into rewrites without knowing what you think!”

I think a lot of writers go into freak out mode when they haven’t heard back from someone in a long time… but in my experience working with high level professionals… THEY FORGET. I ran into this looking for PA work all the time.  People are super busy and you’re not high on their priority list.  A friendly reminder can go a long way in keeping yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind. Just don’t be too pushy. I like to call it “pinging”. Whether its reading a script, asking for a job, or just keeping in touch. Shoot someone a little ping every once and while to let them know you still exist.

However, if they don’t respond to your ping two times in a row… stop pinging. They’re not responding for a reason.

In writing this, I just now reminded myself of two people who wanted to go get coffee with me over the past 6 months to talk about getting jobs in LA. I’ve totally forgotten about them because they haven’t pinged me. All it would take is a little reminder they exist to set up a meeting. But now I figure they don’t need my help in life anymore. Even if they do, how would I know if THEY DONT PING ME.

Basically, what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to annoy people. A little email every once in a while isn’t going to put them off. And if it does, you probably don’t want to work with that person anyway.

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: