Reader Follow Up: ANGRY AT THE SYSTEM?

Angry

Javier had a question on my last angry rant.

“This may come off as petty, but honestly, are you angry about taking the road to get where you are?

This comes up every so often with my fellow PAs: When you get an assistant, will you get a charge out of putting them through the same? Or do you want to re-pave the path, so to speak? I don’t mean baby-ing or hand holding.”

Thanks for the question —

I wouldn’t say I am necessarily angry about the road it takes to move up. I worked with a lot of great people, and there is camaraderie in sludging through the trenches with your fellow production assistants. You will make friends in those tough times that will hopefully pull you through the rest of your career.

Are there bitter people who abuse the system by abusing PAs, simply because “they paid their dues, and now it’s your time” ? Of course there are — but honestly, I learned the most from some of those guys.

I won’t ever “abuse” my future assistants (if I’m lucky enough to need an assistant someday). I don’t think I would get a “charge” out of it. But I will understand that the system works the way it does because it needs to. The film/tv industry is VERY competitive, and as ALL competitive jobs, you need a system where the best of the best rise to the top.  And the only way the best rise to the top is by NOT making it easy for them. Those who conquer and overcome will succeed.  If you recognize talent — foster it. But if you see someone who can’t handle the heat — you can’t make it easy for them, because then you’re not helping anyone.  You’re not helping them, and you’re not helping the production.

My previous rant was not aimed at the system — it was aimed at Film School students who don’t want to put in the work. Or who don’t understand what they’re in for. Students who think they can easily get a job. I am trying to HELP THEM before they waste all their money on a worthless degree and then find out no one is jumping at the opportunity to give them a job. That in reality, they’re a dime a dozen and just getting a simple PA job is super hard. Even though my rant came out overly harsh, I am TRYING TO HELP. If you’re a film student, and not willing to put in the work to get the job, you need to change your degree. For your own sake. For you future family’s sake.

I hope this answered your question!

-12pt

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 thinking you want to work in the film industry, but 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 the film 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 the film 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 the film 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 the film 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

Getting a Production Assistant Job (Reader Question Backlog)

 

Getting A Production Assistant Job

The site went down for a couple of weeks. Server-side problems. Sorry about that. All better now. How about a reader question!? I have a backlog.  Lets blow through these.

These questions all seem to be focused around GETTING A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB.

First, a quick one:

What do you think of sites like StaffMeUp and Mandy? – Nick

I’ve honestly never used either.  But it can’t hurt to look. Just beware of all the people asking for non-paid work. Most of the time, getting a production assistant job revolves around meeting people and making connections. More often than not, if someone is posting a need for production assistants on a job website, they probably are NOT going to pay you. I think I wrote some articles on working for free before. ARTICLE ONE, ARTICLE TWO, ARTICLE THREE

Alright, onto the next one.

So I am currently going into my senior year at film school, and am trying to work as a PA in LA this summer. I have some money saved up, and am trying to buy some essential gear to have on set. I just don’t have enough money right now to buy all the essentials I have been compiling. Do you have any suggestions on which are the most important up front? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you. – Shaeden.

I have an article written about production assistant gear here. But when talking about ESSENTIALS… I would say good shoes are #1, followed by sunscreen for day work, followed by warm clothes for night work, and sunglasses. Everything else is just extra. Don’t waste your money on crap you don’t need… until you can afford it. You can slowly build up your PA arsenal over time. Buy a multi-tool on one job… get something else on another job. For now just get yourself some good comfortable shoes to run around in all day and you’ll be well on your way.  Everything else can come later. Save your money for surviving in LA. And you don’t need anything of these things to actually get a production assistant job.

Note that all of this crap is for a Set PA… if you’re going to be in the office you’ll need different stuff. Like #1 would be a laptop. #2 would be a car.

Next one.

“Hello, my name is Stevie and I am film school right now at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida.  I came across your blog and find it very helpful.  I even take notes, its always good to keep those things in mind.  I am in a program where I will have my bachelors in 20 months.  I am in my 10th month right now so I will graduate in 10 months.  I am starting to feel the stress of wondering how I’m going to break into the business.  I read that you packed up and headed to LA which is what I plan to do.  I was just wondering if you had any advice for a film student getting ready to try to break into the PA world.  Thanks. – Stevie.”

Hi Stevie. If you go through the archives of this website you’ll find a bunch of good advice on getting a production assistant job. I would, if you can, try to lock down some work or make as many connections out here as you can NOW before moving out here. If you can afford to take a summer internship for no pay out here while still in school, do it. But if you can’t do any of that, just save up as much money as you can, come out here, find a place to stay, and start calling up ANYONE you know who works out here and asking them for a job, or if they know of anyone who can give you a job. Then take ANY job you’re offered. You just need to worry about getting your foot in the door. Even if it’s a job you don’t really want to stay in…. doesn’t matter. Take it.

While you’re on that job meet everyone and make connections and when the job is over start bothering everyone you met about getting another job. Rinse and repeat until you have enough contacts that know you’re a kick ass worker who will call you up on the reg for work.

Alright. That’s all we have time for today. I’ve been working non-stop. Writing a lot. Still trying to get a manager. See you in another 6 months with an update.

It All Goes Through Los Angeles

LA

Frank Pasquine is an award-winning screenwriter, freelance writer, and Director of Social Media for New York Film Academy. He wrote up a great article on why it is important to live in Los Angeles if you want to write for TV or film.


It’s no secret that the majority of the films you see on television or the big screen have at some point gone through someone’s hands in Los Angeles.  Given the power of the major studios, production companies, and talent agencies such as CAA, WME, and UTA, projects that have any hope of funding are typically packaged in Los Angeles. That’s just the nature of the business. You may argue that films are always being shot in New York, Canada, or wherever, but the players behind these productions are working out of LA.

First off, before you do anything, if you want to be a screenwriter, you must write a professionally polished script. No typos. No formatting errors. It must have a strong leading character, a strong story arch, great structure, and have that certain “X-factor.” But you know this already.

Now, you may have the best script in the world, but often it takes an A-List actor to attach him or herself in order for the project to move forward. Not to mention an experienced producing team, director, cinematographer, and so on. So, how do you get your script to the powers that be in the first place? Simple. You need a friend at one of these agencies or production companies. (Okay, maybe not so simple.) You’re not friends with anyone at one of these talent agencies or production companies? Make friends with one! And that means moving to Los Angeles.

Networking in Los Angeles is the most valuable tool you have in your screenwriting arsenal. After all, people want to work with people they come to know and associate with. If you live in Minnesota and have just as good as or perhaps an even better script than someone who lives in Los Angeles, who do you think will get an agent, manager, or producer’s attention first? Your query email has no shot against human interaction at some swanky Los Angeles party or restaurant.

Once you’ve made the move to Los Angeles and you have the perfect script and the right network of friends, write another perfect script. And while you’re at it, write another one. And throw in an original TV pilot to the mix. As the cliche goes, if you want to be a writer, you need to write everyday like a full-time job. That first script that finally gets you some attention will most likely only act as a calling card and not actually get made. So have two other scripts that are just as good to back it up. Keep throwing darts at the dartboard until something sticks. And never stop.

If you’re willing to dedicate years of sacrifice, many hours of writing a day, working crummy jobs to pay the bills, and countless rejection letters, that’s a good start. Even after you pay all of your dues in Los Angeles, there are no guarantees. As Tom Hanks once put it, €œIf it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.€

While you’re on your quest to become a working screenwriter,  check out some of the great courses the New York Film Academy has to offer on screenwriting.

NYC Classes – http://www.nyfa.edu/screenwriting-school/
LA Classes – http://www.nyfa.edu/los-angeles/screenwriting-school/
Online Classses – http://www.nyfa.edu/online-screenwriting/

Good luck out there!

I’m Moving to L.A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now that I’ve accepted the fact that I am not going to get the job I originally wanted, I’ve started re-applying to all the same productions for a set PA position. Only to learn, that more than half of the productions I’ve applied to are now totally crewed up!

If you are planning on working in the Industry, I guarantee you will come to loathe the term “Crewed Up.” Every time you hear it, your immediate response will more than likely be the “f-word”… screamed at the top of your lungs… in complete anger and frustration. Just make sure you say it after you hang up the phone.

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

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

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

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

:FADE OUT.

Graduated! Now what…

Finally graduated from college. All done.

Now, what do I do?

The hunt for work has officially begun. I’m craving it. If I’m not on a production soon, I might just paint my bedroom walls with the inside of my head. Too bad my friend’s IMDB pro account expired. I need to start cold calling and throwing my resume around to everything going on anywhere. The hardest part right now seems not to be getting onto a production, but figuring out where to live/stay for the first couple weeks while I find an apartment. I need temporary housing around the Atlanta area until I get a few paychecks. That sounds like a bitch to figure out. Craig’s list? I don’t know. Hotels are expensive.

The good news is I hear there is an ass load of production coming to Atlanta this year.

In other (writing) news, I finished another feature. I’m sitting on it right now while I develop a couple more ideas. I know it’s not going to rewrite itself, but I think some time apart will give us a fresh start when we reignite our relationship. I am developing a script for animation right now. I’ve never written for animation, but I think it could be a lot of fun. It’s also a very innocent script, unlike the R rated thrillers I have been writing recently. I’m excited about it.

I also have a stack of unread screenplays to read and review. So I better get started on some of that.

That’s where I am in my life.

It’s All About Story Structure

Student and independent filmmakers, more often than not, have an annoying and unrelenting ability to make films without a plot. I’ve never really understood it. It drives me crazy!  Currently, in film school,  I see this happen all the time.  The worse part is that these filmmakers don’t even notice that their films are sometimes downright hard to get through. Yes, making a movie is hard. Yes, that dolly shot was beautiful. Yes, you did a good job pulling some great emotion out of those actors. Wow, that location was great! Very artistic cinematography!  Holy shit! You did a sweet crane shot!

BUT WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!? There is absolutely nothing going on in your story to keep me watching.

I talk about this now because I happened to read a great article by John August that you can read right now HERE.

No. Really. Read it. Now.

Read the script Buried. I did a small review on it a while back. The entire script takes place in a coffin. ONE LOCATION. ONE ACTOR. Yet, you keep reading because it is full of conflict, and questions that you want to be answered!

Your crane shot doesn’t matter; your witty metaphorical dialogue doesn’t matter, your million dollar location doesn’t matter. Not even your actors matter more than the ability to tell a clear and concise story that keeps your viewers intrigued and watching. Story is the backbone of any successful film.

Story, Story, Story.

One down. One to go.

The semester is over.  Holy fucking shit.  One more semester and I graduate in December.

A lot of stress, many sleepless nights, the temporary loss of hearing in one ear…. but I passed all my classes, and people LOVED my film. Apparently, there was clapping and cheering in the middle of it. Before it was even over. Awesome.

What does the summer hold?

I have the month of May off…. kinda.  I have to do development on a doc I’m shooting this summer. I have to get my wisdom teeth taken out and get a tetanus shot. I have to get my eyes checked and get new glasses. I have to work.  I have to WRITE! Due to school, I haven’t been able to really sit down and write in weeks…

In June I go to Bonnaroooooooo! And then I’m going to Israel for six weeks. Then I have the beginning of August to get my shit together before school starts again.

Post Workflows and Fire Eyes

For my senior project, I produced a short film called Foreclosed. For the past three days, I have been doing non-stop post work.  I had an editor… but one thing about film school is, eventually you end up doing everything yourself. It just happens that way.

This is what the past few days have looked like:

Final Cut Pro — Sonic Fire Pro — Final Cut Pro — LiveType — Final Cut Pro — Pro Tools 8 HD — Final Cut Pro — Sonic Fire Pro

Tomorrow it will consist of:

Sonic Fire Pro — Final Cut Pro — LiveType — Final Cut Pro — Color — Final Cut Pro — DVD Studio Pro

Hopefully, I will be about to wrap this project up by then.  Oh, wait. Then I have to send a time-coded version out to the person doing music. When I get the music back, I think I’m going to have to go back into ProTools and Final Cut… and then get a copy to send out to festivals. Fml.

Basically, post-production is a giant pain in the ass — literally.   I have been sitting in a chair looking at a computer screen for 12 hours a day since Monday. Right now my brain feels like it’s running out of my ears. My eyes feel like they are on fire. My throat is scratchy. I just feel like shit. Not to add I have real finals next week.  Tests I can’t study for because my film is due.  My director made a good point the other day when he said his falling GPA has a direct correlation to how many films he makes.  …or something like that.  Basically, we are film majors… we make movies and get shitty grades… It’s how it works.

But hey, at the end of the day I have a finished film.  All the shit I went through to get it is worth it.

To sum it up.

  • Post is a pain in the ass.
  • Film school is run very inefficiently.
  • The work might be hard and make you want to stab your eyes out, but in the end, you get a finished product with your name on it… hopefully.

sounds like scratch’n