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.

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:

How to Roll Calls: Tips for a Production Assistant

how to roll calls

[Post Updated August 8, 2018]

One of the primary responsibilities of an office production assistant is to answer phones. So let’s learn how to roll calls.

First of all: What does “Roll Calls” mean?

It’s pretty simple. Rolling Calls involves answering phones, connecting calls, transferring calls to appropriate parties, setting up conference calls, and things of that nature. You basically just sit at a desk all day and press buttons.

For and office production assistant, the majority of “rolling calls” involves answering and transferring.

The thought of learning how to roll calls when I got my first office production assistant job was honestly terrifying. Not only did I have a fear of not knowing what I was doing — I had a fear of not knowing what I was doing in front of a bunch of people.

When you’re in a production office, generally all the production assistants are set up in a bullpen. No cubicle dividers — just a room full of desks. So everyone can hear everything you say. You have a phone on your desk with many buttons (and every fucking phone is different and way more complicated than it needs to be) and it rings all day long.  It was scary… but an unjustified fear. Rolling calls is one of the most natural things in the world. Suffice to say, I learned fast. So here are some tips on how to roll calls.

Pick up the phone on the first ring.

You’re sitting at your desk. The phones ring. Pick it up as fast as possible. If possible, don’t let it ring more than once (you can get in a friendly competition with the other office PAs and see who can answer the phone the fastest).

Answer. “Production, this is [Insert Name Here].” Some people just answer with “Production.” But I like to let people know who they’re talking with.

One of the first things you should do if you’re on a new phone system is to figure out how to transfer a call. Transfering calls IS how you “roll calls”.

Like I said, every phone is different. But generally, there are two types of transfers. Blind Transfers and Consult Transfers.

A “blind transfer” simply transfers one call to another phone.

A “consult transfer” transfers YOU first so that you can inform the person on the other line who is calling, e.g., “So and So is on the line, would you like me to put them through?” and the person you’re talking to will either say, “Yes,” and you will complete the transfer, or, “No, take a message.” In which case you don’t complete the transfer, but return to the caller and take a message.

You usually only have to do a “consult transfer” it’s someone important… or if you’re transferring to a person’s cell.  Like I said before, if someone calls the production office for someone in a different department (such as ART or HAIR or LOCATIONS), just say “Yes, please hold.” And then blind transfer them to that department. No need to consult. (You will be given a phone list with department extensions, keep this taped to the desk or the wall near your phone.)  If the person on the phone is asking for someone in YOUR department (Apoc [assistant production cooridnator], Poc [prodouction cooridnator], another PA, etc..), you can just put them on hold and tell that person what line they’re on. E.g., “Hey, Jess, So and So is on Line 1 for you.”

Get the right information.

9000 times out of 10 the person on the other line will say “Hi, can I speak to so and so?” Without giving you their name or why they’re calling.  It’s annoying. If it’s for another department, just transfer them over without asking the caller’s name. But if the call is for someone in YOUR department (production), you need to find out two things. Who are they? And why they’re calling?

Start off with, “Yes, may I ask who’s calling please?”  If it’s a name you recognize or know to be important, it’s probably okay to just walk up to the person in your department and be like, “So and So is on the line for you.” But if it’s a name you don’t recognize, you need to be all like, “May I ask what the call is regarding?” I had so much trouble with this when I first started out. How do you ask someone why they’re calling without sounding like a little shit? You can’t just ask, “Why are you calling?” That just sounds bad. Asking what the call is regarding seems to be the best way to ask that question.

Always get the correct name.

Also, if the person on the line doesn’t have an easy to understand name, like John Smith, and you’re not exactly sure what they said their name was… (Hello, my name is Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele) an excellent way to find out is by asking “Can you spell your first and last name for me, please?” That way, when you tell the producer that Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff is calling for him, the producer actually knows who is calling, instead of just handing them a message note with a bunch of scribbled writing on it.

It’s very important to get the caller names right when you roll calls.

Double checking with the person on the phone is way less embarrassing than getting the name wrong while talking to the producer. Nothing is worse than telling a producer someone called for them, and not being able to tell them who it was or give them the wrong last name.

DONT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS ON THE PHONE.

Get the information down correctly. Get their name spelled right. If the dude on the other end of the phone is an irritated piece of shit, it’s not like they can reach through the phone and strangle you. Remember, you’re just doing your job. Get the name right. Ask what the call is regarding, and then place them on hold and transfer them (or however your overly-complicated mess of machinery works).

Same thing for taking messages. Name. Who they’re with. Why they’re calling. Note down the date and time, and ALWAYS ask for a callback number. Unless the caller is a person you know to be very familiar with the person they’re calling for, always ask something along the lines of “And what is the best number to reach you at?”. Even if you know the person you’re giving the message to has the caller’s number, you’ll save them the time to look it up. Which makes your boss like you. Which makes your boss more likely to hire you in the future.

So that’s how you roll calls!

There is always three-way calling and conference calling and connect to an outside line — but every phone is different, so I can’t tell you how to do that. All I can tell you is, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask another PA or APOC to teach you how to use the phone system.

Don’t be afraid to fuck up. I dropped a lot of important calls when I started out. It happens to everyone.

I hate phones. Fuck phones. I love lamp.

Deadlines and Job Finds!

Sweet April! many a thought Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed; Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought, Life’s golden fruit is shed. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Briefly — I jumped on a pilot as an Office PA until the end of April. I have 36 days to finish my screenplay if I want to drop kick it into the Nicholl Fellowship on time. I have acquired over 400 screenplays via internet deviance. Perhaps I will read and review a few?

Until next time…

Don’t Be a Bitch Part II: Coffee Run Woes

Make sure you check out part 1 of the Dont Be a Bitch series.

If you see the Director or Producers walking around with a special cup of coffee, that means there was a coffee run and YOU WEREN’T INCLUDED. So fucking deal with it. Don’t bitch about it. Even if bitching will eventually get you your special brew, you’re still that guy who was bitching on set. But “it’s not fair!” Yeah, OK, you know what else isn’t fair? The producers day rate compared to yours. He probably secured the budget that got him that coffee in the first place. Now you’re the guy making him spend more money so that your below-the-line ass can have a double machiato frapawhataver. You also take up the AD’s time to send a lucky PA(me) on another coffee run. You see that brown box on the craft service table? That’s called a traveler. That’s what you drink out of. When you decide to become a producer or director, you can have special coffee also.

Lesson? Don’t be a bitch.