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

How to Get A Job With No Experience

How To Get A Job With No Experience

HOW TO GET A JOB WITH NO 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.  So how do you get a job with no experience? 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.

What you’re really trying to do here is get someone to do you a favor. You’re trying to get someone to take a chance.

When I came out to LA I personally only knew one person out here, but I also knew of someone out here that I had never met. That one person I knew was a friend’s sister who happened to be working in photo shoots. She was able to get me an unpaid production assistant job on a photo shoot where I kicked ass and met people in the art department. I then used those contacts to get paid production assistant work from the art people I met — and so on.

The person I knew of but never met happened to be someone who went to my film school that I had literally never talked to 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. True story.

Meet people. Know people. That’s how you get a job with no experience. You have to get someone to give you a chance. You have to earn their trust.

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!

 

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.

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]

First Time On Set? | Tips for a Production Assistant

First Time On Set

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

QUESTION ABOUT YOUR FIRST TIME ON SET AS A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

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 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

—–

FIRST TIME ON SET

Well, Jessica, here’s the thing. If this is your first time on set, 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 a new production assistant as well. So, relax, it will be fine. Just keep your ears open, always pay attention, and be willing to learn and do anything.

Since this is your first time on set, you WILL be put into positions where you have no idea how to proceed. The best advice I can give you is:

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS!

Find another production assistant who looks like he/she knows what they’re doing. Introduce yourself. Ask questions 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. It happens to everyone at least once. By the end of a day or two, you’ll have your sea-legs. Don’t fret. Everyone has been there. Everyone working in the film/tv industry has had their first day on set.

SOME TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST TIME ON SET AS A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Don’t 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!” (as if you know what you’re doing) and then run to your closest PA buddy and ask them what the hell the AD was talking about.

A couple of things to watch out for. There is no such thing as Kino Fluid. If the AD or anyone asks you for Kino Fluid, they are hazing you. There are a few other common hazing tricks people pull on new production assistants, but I can’t remember them right now. It’s just part of becoming a production assistant.

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. Grips don’t listen when production assistants tell them to be quiet. Then you just have to stand there like an asshole while the AD asks why the grips aren’t “locked up” during filming.

If the A.D. yells cut — YOU YELL CUT. If the A.D. yells rolling — YOU YELL ROLLING. That’s one of a production assistant’s primary 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 while YOU should have been “locking” up the set.

Also, ALWAYS reply when the AD asks a question over the walkie. One of the ADs I used to work for would get IRATE if she asked a question over the walkie and no one responded. She called it “crickets” and it was the bane of her existence. Always respond, “Copy” and then repeat the order given to you. Even if you’re doing what the AD told you over the walkie, they don’t know that you heard them unless you reply.

ALSO, CHECK OUT THESE HELPFUL ARTICLES:

WALKIE TALKIE LINGO
SET LINGO
HOW TO GET A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB WITH NO EXPERIENCE

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 PDF

production assistant resume template

[Post Updated August 7, 2018]

Below you will find a sample production assistant resume template.

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

production assistant resume templateIt’s not pretty. 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 production assistant resume 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: