Tag Archives: Finding a Job

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:

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.

Beware The Ides of March!

Three posts in one day! NO WAYOMG.

No idea why I named this post that. I hope bad things aren’t going to happen. I definitely hope I don’t get stabbed 23 times. That would just put a real downer on the beginning of 2012. Even getting stabbed 1 time would pretty much be horrible.

I know I said I would post what I decided to write soon after the holidays. Unfortunately January became a freak out month cause I couldn’t find any work. But I survived again… somehow. Then in February something amazing happened. I worked my first feature! 18 days of ass busting work. Three 6-day weeks consisting of about 75 hours of work per week. It was hell, and I was so loving it. My AD’s were basically training me to be a PA god… and I learned a whole lot. I’m sure I have material for more PA articles now

I came out here to work on features… and I definitely want to work another one. The entire crew was amazing… which is rare. There are usually those one or two people you wish would die in a car wreck on the way to work one morning… Not on this feature. Everyone was a joy. Anyway… that is over now… and the money is almost gone already. Time to look for more work.

On a good note I had some time to really think about writing, and I’ve decided to start working on a dark comedy I’ve been brewing for a while. The feature I worked on was low budget. It probably was in the $1Mil range. I got to see what one could do with a million dollars. Most of the features I’ve been brewing would cost a shit load of money to produce — not usually a good way to break into the industry as a new writer. So I’ve decided to get this dark comedy finished because:

  • It doesn’t have many lead actors
  • It doesn’t have many locations
  • It doesn’t have any HUGE set pieces
  • It could probably be shot low budget and still be awesome.

I feel something like this could sell way easier than my screenplay about a futuristic medieval zombie apocalypse, or the earth building a spaceship to meet the source of an alien message. Even though my heart is set on epic… I need to get to that point somehow. So I’m going to try and be epically low budget out of the gate. I could be going at this completely wrong, but it’s where my head is at.

I hit my first act break today and magically landed right on page 25. That is pretty much an awesome coincidence. I’m writing a vomit draft… so it’s nothing but a crazy person’s thoughts on paper at this point… and the first act break still landed on 25. That makes me happy. I’m going the right direction with this shit, I can feel it.

I’ve been in a caffeine induced haze all day playing make believe and talking with people that don’t exist. Thus the life of a writer. So now I’m going to drink a lot of beer.

I’ll let you know how this venture goes someday in the future. Until then… beware the ides of March!!!

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…

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:

Funny Story: Overnight Success by Irwin Handleman

Every once and a while, I’ll happen across an article, or series of articles, that are so fucking good, I have to relink them on 12pt. This one comes from Notes From a Hack via Rachel Marks via The Bitter Script Reader.

These are a hilarious series of posts, that detail how Irwin Handleman (notesfromahack), sold his first screenplay. A must-read for anyone interested in the (sometimes) horrific, as well as hilarious, process of becoming a selling screenwriter.

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7 Follow Notes From A Hack for the rest of the story!

Cheers!

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.