SHOULD YOU WORK FOR FREE AS A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT?
I’ve been in L.A. for a week now, and I’ve already finished my first gig as a set production assistant. It was two, hard, 14 hour days of running around and working my ass off! I didn’t get paid a penny. (But I got a lot of free food.) Luckily, my hard work paid off, and the producer said she would be calling me back for some PAID work very soon! (UPDATE: She ended up giving me $900 worth of work two weeks later. SCORE!)
My first bit of advice for those looking to break into the Industry as a Production Assistant: Work for Free.
Some people are EXTREMELY against working for free. I understand this mindset if you already have your foot in the door and have all the skills to become a paid worker. However, if you’re just starting out, and trying to break into a VERY competative field, it can be smart to work for free. Why? Because when it comes to being a production assistant, it’s all about making connections with people who can hire you. And you can’t make those connections unless you’re on set (or in the production office) meeting people!
Take any job, even if it’s for no pay, and work your ass off. People do notice. You wouldn’t believe how many lazy people are out there. Getting in is the hardest part. Once you’re in, if you work hard, you will get more work! If someone asks you where something is, don’t just tell them where it is, retrieve it for them! Always be on the lookout for someone who needs help, and periodically check-in with your supervisor to see if you can make their life more comfortable – in any way possible!
HOW TO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION ON YOUR FIRST PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB (TO GET HIRED BACK!):
1. NO COMPLAINING!
Once you’re on set, you will quickly notice that every person doesn’t like someone else on set – and they ALL want to tell you about it! My advice: Listen to everyone, repeat nothing! By listening to everyone else bitch-and-moan, you quickly become a trusted confidant. If you end up bitching and moaning, you’ll just become one of those people who… well, bitches and moans.
2. BE FRIENDLY!
When there is downtime on set, engage people in conversation. Learn about everyone. Relationships are more important than “connections” so work on building them. People are more willing to hire someone they like to be around, instead of that guy who works really hard but is also a dick (and there is ALWAYS one of those guys). Try to have at least one personal conversation, with everyone on set. It will come in handy later.
3. LEARN EVERYONE’S NAME!
Study the call sheet if you have to! This is really important. As a production assistant, you will be on the walkie a lot. It’s hard to call someone on the walkie when you don’t know their name. Plus, calling someone by their first name makes them feel like they’re important to you. Trust me; it goes a long way.
4. SEND FOLLOW UP EMAILS.
Bring a call sheet home and email everyone you worked with. Tell them you had a great time working with them, and that you hope you get to work with them again soon. Make the emails personal. Remember that one personal conversation I told you to have with everyone? Reference that conversation in your email. Tell them that you hope their cat starts to feel better, or whatever, and that if they ever need a hard worker, they shouldn’t hesitate to call. Attach your resume for their convenience. People love this. Again, it’s all about building relationships.
These are four easy things you can do to help you get a paid job after working for free.
Have you ever worked for no pay? Did it pay off in the end?