Writing Samples and Self Promotion

writing samples

Today we have a reader question about writing samples and portfolios.

Melanie writes:

Hi! Thanks for your site, love the resource and your writing style! I am an aspiring television writer currently working as a PA. Just wanted to get your feedback on creating a portfolio of writing samples, and if this is something I should be putting together. I have a few scripts in the works, but I am intimidated with all of the options for self promotion, including all the social media outlets, blogs, etc… Should I be heavily marketing myself this way? I’ve looked at Portfolio Box to possibly present different aspects of my creativity (photography, writing, editing) and thought that may be a good option.

In your opinion, how can I put myself out there more? PAing is definitely giving me more experience on sets, but I still feel like I am on the “outside” of the creative side. I haven’t met many people that are interested in writing comedy but I am moving to Atlanta (where I am originally from) in a few months and I am planning to take some workshops/maybe try stand up to be around comedians…

Now I am on a tangent, but any thoughts on my scenario will at least make me feel a little bit more validated in my hurry up and wait lifestyle in this industry… it’s nice to hear from someone motivated to do the same thing! Thanks for listening!

Thanks for the kind words! Now down to business…

The answer to your first question is, yes, you should be creating a “portfolio” of writing samples.

You should always be writing and generating new material. With every script you write, you get a little better. And no one is ever going to contemplate hiring you if you don’t have a finished writing sample to show. Always consider your best and latest script as your “writing sample.” But keep your old scripts in your back pocket, because they may come in handy down the line…

It’s good to have different writing samples for different types of shows.

If and when you get representation, your agent or manager will send your samples out for staffing consideration. What sample they send out depends on what type of show you’re trying to staff on. For comedy, it may be good to have a “network” comedy sample and a “cable” comedy sample. Or a “single cam” comedy sample and a “multi-cam” comedy sample. Maybe have something that would air on HBO and another sample that would air on ABC.

For me, being an hour-long drama writer, I have a cop show set in present day. I have a paranormal sci-fi sample. I also have a couple of historical drama samples. Obviously, a rep wouldn’t send my historical drama sample to try and get me a job on a cop show, but for that, they can use my cop show sample. Etc…

On Self Promotion

I’m not familiar with Portfolio Box, so I can not speak to that service, but in general, I firmly believe the best self-promotion you can get is personal connections with people who work in the TV industry. Those are the contacts that are going to help you get the job. So when you DO have a strong writing sample, you have people you can email who will read it, and possibly help you get representation or a meeting with a showrunner about a staff job. Or they could help you get in touch with someone who may want to develop your pilot with you.

Keep in mind; it’s easy for a new writer to get too bogged down with “how to be a writer” or “how to self-promote” when all you should be doing is writing. You said you have a few ideas “in the works.” Write those scripts. Stop worrying about how to self-promote and finish those scripts. Everything else is procrastination. Write. Write. Write.  Then, when you’ve made the right industry connections, get that fantastic script into someone’s hands who can help you.

On Being a Production Assistant

I, like you, started off as a set production assistant. It’s an excellent place to start, but it’s not where you want to be if you desire to write for TV. That is unless you can somehow chat up the writers and producers on set without the AD breathing down your neck. (You can’t)

I would highly suggest trying to move your way into an office production assistant position, or even better, a writers’ assistant position (easier said than done.) That is what I did, and that is how I started to meet the writers and producers who eventually hired me on as their assistants. Which, in turn, gave me the contacts I needed to get my first TV writing job. But this leads to my next point, which you’re probably not going to like…

On Moving to Atlanta

If you want to write in television, you need to be in Los Angeles. All the writers’ rooms are in Los Angeles. All the writers are in Los Angeles. All the agents and managers are in Los Angeles. There may be a couple of shows who write out of Atlanta, but I don’t personally know of any. Even the writers’ room for the show “Atlanta” is probably in Los Angeles. (I may be wrong… but I’m probably right.) Now, I’m not sure if you’re moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta… if you are, I would maybe rethink that strategy. If you’re moving from somewhere else to Atlanta, I would very much think of Atlanta as a stepping stone to get to LA. Keep your eye on the prize.

I hope that answers your questions about writing samples. Also check out my article on HOW TO BECOME A TELEVISION WRITER.

Writing Sample: Write an Original Pilot or Spec of Existing TV Show?

Part of trying to get work as a TV writer (or any writing job) is having an excellent writing sample. A writing sample is a script you wrote that shows off your skills. It shows off your voice. It’s your calling card. You need a strong writing sample to get a writing job (and you should preferably have two,  in different genres). But should you write a TV Pilot or Spec Script?

When it comes to television, you have the choice of writing an original pilot episode (the first episode of a television show) or a spec (speculative) episode of an existing show. This doesn’t mean you should write a spec episode of the show you want to write for (because many shows legally cannot read spec episodes of their own show), but instead, you should write a spec episode for a show that is in the same genre you want to write in. For example, back in the day, you could write a spec X-Files episode to try and get a job on Buffy or another genre show. Now, before you start cooking up the perfect “Game of Thrones” episode — just STOP. Because no one wants to read spec episodes of existing shows anymore.

I shouldn’t say NO ONE, because I’ve heard many interviews with writers and showrunners who WISH people still wanted to read specs for existing shows, but that is not the case anymore. The reason these few writers and showrunners wish this is because when you’re a writer on a TV show, you’re working for a SHOWRUNNER. And in most cases, that showrunner is the person who created the show. Your job is not to write your vision in your voice, your job is to write FOR the showrunner’s vision and emulate the showrunner’s voice. Writing a spec sample for an existing tv show will give the showrunner a sense of how good you can emulate an existing shows voice. How well you can capture existing character’s voices. But alas, that is not the world we live in today.

There has been a shift over the past few years, and now everyone (and by everyone I mostly mean agents and managers) only want to read ORIGINAL MATERIAL. That means if you’re trying to become a TV writer, you need to write an original pilot episode. This is much harder than writing an existing show. You have the create everything. Characters, Setting, Plot, Theme. You’ve got to do it all. And it has to be great. It has to be engaging. And it has to have LEGS. That is to say, the reader has to see the potential for this single episode to turn into multiple seasons.

There are multiple reasons why people want to read original pilots these days. First, they want to see what YOUR original voice is. They want to see if your voice lends itself to their TV show. And because writing a pilot is so much harder, it also sets the bar for quality much higher. Another big reason is that agents and managers can not only use an original pilot as a writing sample, they can try and SELL IT (and I think this is probably the biggest reason this trend started).

So there you have it. Writing a spec of an original show is a complete waste of time because nobody gives a shit anymore. So go off and write a pilot! Good luck! You’re gonna need it.

How to Become a Television Writer

Please excuse the click-bait title. There are a million different ways to become a television writer. There is no right or wrong way to approach this career path. I can only tell you, from my experience, how best to become a television writer.

HOW TO BECOME A TELEVISION WRITER

The first thing you have to do if you want to become a television writer is move to Los Angeles.

If you are unwilling to move to Los Angeles, you can pretty much kiss your dreams of becoming a TV writer goodbye. Why? Because 99.99% of writers’ rooms are located in Los Angeles.

What is a writers’ room you ask?

The vast majority of television shows are written by more than one person. The episodes are “broken” by a group of writers who all sit in a room together every day. They wake up in the morning, drive to work, sit in a room, and come up with story ideas for the episodes as a group. So even if a show SHOOTS in Atlanta, New York, or Vancouver, the writers’ room is in Los Angeles. Also, all the agents and managers and production companies are in Los Angeles. Everyone you need to KNOW to get a job and all the MEETINGS you will take are all in Los Angeles. It is possible (but not probable) to become a screenwriter writing movies not living in LA, but it’s near impossible to become a TV writer if you don’t live in LA. There are some tiny exceptions, but the vast majority of writers’ rooms are in LA.

Now, the #1 way to get a writing job in TV is by knowing someone who will champion your work and fight for you to get a job in a very competitive field.

This means meeting people and building relationships. It kind of works the same way that it works when trying to become a production assistant. There are tiers of hiring. The first person someone wants to hire is someone they have worked with before and enjoy working with. If that person is not available, the next person they hire is someone recommended by someone they like and trust. The very last person someone hires is a random person they’ve never met.

Now, when it comes to a writing job, unlike a production assistant job, your writing samples (original scripts) play a factor in everything.

If you have a fantastic writing sample, it can open doors for you.  But, the sad truth is that it doesn’t play as big a factor as you may think. I know PLENTY of people who have become television writers who are not very good writers. But, to be honest, no one expects a staff writer (the entry-level tv writing job) to be a great writer. The VAST majority of staff writer jobs go to showrunner/producer assistants, writers’ assistants, writers’ PAs, and diversity hires. This is because a lot of writers like to “keep it in the family” and promote from within. YOUR job is to try and gain entry into one of those families by working from the bottom up as an assistant.

What is a diversity hire you ask?

Most writers’ rooms are full of white men because for a long time white men were the majority of people writing TV shows. But now there is a gigantic push to diversify writing rooms, so, in many cases, the NETWORK will PAY for that diverse writer. It’s a free writer for the show. And even if they don’t pay for that writer, they lay down a mandate. You HAVE to have a diverse writer on your staff. Which, to be honest, I think is a GOOD THING in theory, but it’s kind of turned into a total shit show.

These networks don’t GIVE A SHIT about actually diversifying writers’ rooms. I’ve seen it first hand. They only care about what the media will say if they don’t diversify a writers’ room. And their bosses are breathing down their necks to diversify writers’ rooms because there is a large public outcry to diversify writers’ rooms (for a good reason).

So these networks, in some cases, basically pay a show to hire a woman or person of color. But most shows aren’t hiring diverse writers for upper and med level writing jobs (TV writing jobs that go to writers with more TV producing experience, they pay more, etc.). These shows are only hiring diverse writers for entry-level writing jobs. Staff writer jobs. (THIS IS THE PROBLEM). This means if you’re a woman or person of color trying to get a TV job as a low-level staff writer, you odds have VASTLY improved. If you’re a white male, your odds of landing a staff writer job have VASTLY decreased. However, if you’re a woman or person of color trying to get a med to high-level writing job, your odds are still very low. And if you’re a white male trying to get a med to high-level writing job, your odds are pretty much the same as before the diversity mandate. And people will argue this point until they’re blue in the face, but it’s true.

Maybe only hiring minority staff writers is the single way to get diverse writers the experience they need to become med and high-level writers. I don’t claim to have the answer, but it doesn’t FEEL right.

Also, showrunners aren’t promoting their diversity hires (There are multiple positions as a TV writer, each promotion comes with more pay and more responsibility). These showrunners keep the diversity hires as staff writers (entry-level, low paying writers) or fire them after one season, and then hire on a new diversity hire staff writer.  So now we have a system that only employs low-level diversity hires. The same system doesn’t promote these low-level diversity hires, because all the med to high-level writers making the hiring decisions ARE ALL WHITE MALES. They’ll be fine. It’s not their jobs in jeopardy. They just run these diversity hires through a meat-grinder and never promote them.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

So you’ve moved to Los Angeles and now need to start making connections.

The best way to do this is by grabbing up any entry-level entertainment industry job you can find. Work as a production assistant, work as a producer’s assistant. Try to get work anywhere where you can start meeting writers and producers. (And if you’re wondering what a PA is and how to get a job as one, read the rest of my blog. Check out the Tips for PAs section…)

The best thing you could do is land a writers’ assistant job or a writers’ PA job.

However, these jobs are very hard to come by. You want to start forming personal relationships with writers and people who have the clout to make moves in the industry. People who have friends in high places. And the best way to do that is to work on TV shows or in production companies that produce TV.

What do you do once you have these friends?

Let them know you’re a writer and that you want a TV writing job — and get them to read your fantastic script!

That’s right; if you want to be a writer, you have to fucking write… who knew!?

The entire time you’re out in LA schmoozing around and making connections, you HAVE to be writing. Constantly. The only way you can improve your writing ability is by writing. And no manager or agency is going to take you on as a client unless you have material they can sell. This is a business. You are a product. If you follow my advice, there WILL be a time when someone who has the connections to get you a job will ask, “Oh, you want to be a writer? Let me read your script.” And if you haven’t done your job and written that brilliant script, you’ll have nothing to say and nothing to give them. Your opportunity just walked out the door. Sucks to be you.

Once you have the best script you’ve ever written, that you think is on par or better than every script you’ve read that is selling these days, then you try and get that influential person you know to read it. Maybe they’ll help you out. If they’re a showrunner, perhaps they’ll hire you on as a writer or writers’ assistant or writer’s PA on their show. Or maybe they’ll send that script over to another showrunner. Or maybe they’ll help you get representation.

Agents and managers are much more likely to read a script recommended by someone they know and trust than from some random person like you.

The HARSH truth is, most new writers have to get their first job, and even their second job, by themselves! Agents and managers have a tough job trying to staff a new writer. Your first writing jobs are going to be gained solely through relationships YOU make while working in Los Angeles.

So in short.

1. MOVE TO LA.
2. FIND ENTRY LEVEL JOBS.
3. MEET PEOPLE AND MAKE FRIENDS.
4. WRITE YOUR ASS OFF.
5. GET YOUR NEW INFLUENTIAL FRIENDS TO READ YOUR SCRIPT AND CHAMPION YOUR WORK LANDING YOU REPRESENTATION OR A JOB.

There are a million things I could talk about within this topic, so ask away in the comments, or shoot me an email via the ASK ME A QUESTION button at the top of the page and I’ll be happy to answer if I get to it.

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.

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.

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

Production Assistant Resume: Tips for a Production Assistant

Production Assistant Resume

[Post Updated August 8, 2018]

This article focuses on how to make a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT RESUME.

What everyone says about this industry is correct, it is all about “who you know.” Most of the time your production assistant 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 is what will land you the interview. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, let’s start!

I was recently hiring production assistants for a new production office, and I would say 8 out of every 10 production assistant resumes went immediately into the trash pile. Why?

When hiring a production assistant, 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 production assistant?

Look at your production assistant resume. If any of this shit is on there, take it off.

DON’T INCLUDE ON YOUR PRODUCTION ASSISTANT RESUME

  • 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 film/tv 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. It will make you look dumb.
  • 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, as most people hire production assistants based on referrals.
  • 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, why would you think a production coordinator hiring you to go pick up lunches for people gives a shit about your screenplay? NO! I would immediately throw that production assistant resume in the trash (and I did).

Now, here is what your production assistant resume SHOULD include.

INCLUDE

  • Name and Contact Info – Email, phone number, home address.
  • Job History – Name of Show (or movie or commercial or photo shoot), Position (Set PA, Office PA, Art PA, etc), 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. (AND PROBABLY NOT BE INCLUDED AT ALL) Your production assistant resume should look like a list. Name and contact on top, below just a list of all the production assistant jobs you’ve held.

Chances are you haven’t worked that much. If you need some padding see below: (ALSO CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE ON NOW HAVING MUCH WORK EXPERIENCE)

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT RESUME PADDING

  • Schooling – No one 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. (Still, no one cares).
  • Skills – A producer friend of mine says he likes it when skills are listed on a production assistant 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, a good internship at an agency or production company is basically a non-paid Office Production Assistant job. In this case, “internship” is an easily dismissible word when the experience you gained shouldn’t be dismissed. I would just change the job title from “internship” into whatever job you were doing  — Office PA, producer’s assistant, development assistant… Looks better and it’s basically the same 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 not to be monotonous.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT RESUME 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. Or, god forbid, they try to make it “artsy”. 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 in the trash can. If I have to read too much… sorry buddy… you’re in the trash.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 a 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 you are qualified for a job where you get lunches and answer phones, you’re doing it wrong. You get a quick glance. That’s it.
  • 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. This is a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB. One page only. Or it will go in the trash.
  • 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 production assistant resume template here!

12PTRESUMETEMPLATE082714-page-001Also check out:

Production Assistant Career Paths: What Kind of Jobs Do You Get?

production assistant career paths

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 insane move to LA. I’ve been here for a little over four 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 production assistants, 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 production assistant 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 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.

Production Assistant Career Paths

What kind of production assistant career paths are out there? It all depends on what department YOU want to work in. If you want to be an AD (assistant director), you can work your ass off as a set production assistant 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.

BEING A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT DOESN’T GUARANTEE YOU ANY JOB.

The production assistant career path is not like most career paths. There isn’t a standard promotion hierarchy. Being a production assistant helps you learn about the industry by working IN it. It’s WHAT you do WHILE working as a production assistant that counts. You want to work in the art department and become a prop (property) master 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. Then you can use that experience and your new art contacts to try and get into IATSE, the union all the art people are in.

Do you want to be a grip? While working as a PA, talk to the grip guys and let them know. Do 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 to another position.

HOW LONG DOES SOMEONE STAY A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT?

This also depends on the person. There are production assistants out there who are PAs 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 four 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. (I don’t want to be an AD).

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 PRODUCTION ASSISTANT?

Only if you’re serious about working in the film/tv 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 nonstop 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…