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.

Working for No Pay Part 3

speedup_630

Just stumbled on a new reader question that I feel like addressing in a post.

…what is a reasonable amount of PA work to be doing gratis before you can expect to be paid? I don’t want to shoot down opportunities but at the same feel like I am being used. Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget? I worked 35 hours on a 3 day shoot thinking I was getting paid and then I didnt. I even paid out of pocket for lunch and didnt get reimbursed. They want me to work for them again and say it wont be paid (a pretty decent sized indie studio). I told them I would do it but expect to be paid in the future. Am I out of line? Am I burning bridges? Did I shoot myself in the foot? The whole if you wont do it, someone else will line is getting old. People have to live. People have to pay bills. I cant keep working for free, can I?

– Josh

Okay. So I wrote briefly a while back about DOING free jobs to get noticed. And then a little while later I did a quick follow-up about being WARY of free jobs.  I’m going to go a little deeper.

I would ONLY take free work if you know there is a high possibility that it could get you paid work in the future. I’ve only worked for free 5 times. I will lay them out here.

1. The very first job I took in LA was a non paid 2 day job on a music video. I knew somebody working for a production company out here and they told me “Hey, the production company is super over budget on this music video and are looking for some free labor. I know you just moved out here and are looking for work. These guys do a lot of work. If you work your ass off for free I’m sure you’ll get noticed and get more work.” …or she said something along those lines.  It was my first week in LA and I didn’t know anyone… so what the hell. I took the job, worked my ass off for free, and it TOTALLY paid off. I ended up getting about $900 worth of work from the same producer the next week on two more shoots. Which then led me to getting work with their company doing freelance shoots up until the now. Last shoot I did with them was a few months ago. I also networked my ass off and got work later down the road from the Set Dresser and the Production Designer as an Art PA. So… I did this job because A). I didn’t have anything to lose. B). It was the first and only opportunity I had to get on set. C). My friend who worked there told me there was a good chance I would get paid work if I proved myself.

2. The second free job I did was a 3 day super low-budget TV pilot. I had already been working freelance a bit and another friend I met in the industry shot me an email. Basically he knew an AD that was going into production on a big hour-long network drama in the fall. So he got me in contact with her 2nd AD. The 2nd AD told me they were shooting this low-budget pilot for a friend (they were all working for free… even the ADs.) And if I came and worked on it, it could be like my interview. If I proved myself, I could become a candidate for a PA position on the show. So, of course, I took the free 3 day job. Long story short — They got a few political hires (producer’s nephew or something) and hired another one of the PAs I was working with for free… who was a girl. Girl ADs… wanting to hire Girl PAs… I feel like they stick together in this industry. But in the PAs defense, she was one of the best PAs I’ve ever met. A god damn super PA. You’ll know a super PA when you meet them. They carry like tool belts and shit. You can’t compete with them. Anyway… I didn’t get the job. Months later I got a call from the ADs wanting me to day play a few days on the network drama. So I did that. It was a miserable couple days. And I haven’t heard from them since. BUT! A few months after that, the DIRECTOR of the super low-budget free pilot I worked on called me up. (I had kept in contact with her. NETWORK!) Turns out she was an AD as well… on another big network half hour comedy. So — I got a few day playing days as a SET PA with her… Then one day she called me up because there was an OFFICE PA out sick. So I lied and said that I had been an office PA before (first… and only time I have lied while trying to get work… i just don’t like to do it… but it paid off). So I came in. Was super terrified about answering phones, but got over it quick. (fake it til you make it). Then I became the go-to day playing office PA for the show. (Every time one of their office PAs was sick or had jury duty they would call me to come in). Then the coordinator from that show (who I will call Coord. A) hooked me up with a coordinator friend of hers (who I will call Coord. B) who was working on another pilot. I did that show. Then Coord B. hooked me up with a coordinator friend of hers (who I will call Coord. C), and I went down to Atlanta and worked on movie with her… and now I’m back in LA working on another pilot with Coord. B.  CANT YOU SEE NOW THAT THIS INDUSTRY IS ALL ABOUT MEETING PEOPLE! Anyway. I guess that free job paid off. It didn’t pay off the way I wanted it to at first… but it definitely paid off in the end. I took that free job because A). There was a chance I could get a PA job on a big network drama.

3. The third free job I took was a First A.D. job for a super small Funny or Die video. No one was getting paid. I did it because a friend asked me to. A friend who had gotten me work in the past. You have to do favors in the industry. You don’t want to be the guy only asking for stuff and never returning.

4. Fourth free job. Also First A.D. on a short film for a friend. Again, favors.

5. Fifth free job. Set PA. Favor. Friend.

So there you have it. Only  take a free job if you think it’s going to help you in the long run. Personally to me… it sounds like these guys are fucking you over. If you feel like you’re getting fucked over… you probably are. Go with your gut man. That’s all I can tell you. But think about your options as well. If they’re not going to pay you… but you have no paid work… are you still willing to work for free to make contacts and get experience? If so, do it. But look for more work in the meantime. And the second some paid work comes in, leave them. Just say, “I appreciate the opportunity, but I have to take this paid job, I’m sure you understand.” And if they don’t understand, fuck ’em. And… unfortunately… if you don’t do it. Someone else will do it. But then they’re the ones getting fucked over.

P.S. — and as far as the “Is this something negotiated before hand? Does it depend on budget?” 99% of budgets include paying PAs. And yes… it is negotiated beforehand. How you ask? Easy “Is it paid?” You say. “Yes” They say. That’s it. Feel free to ask how much. It will be anywhere from 112-250 a day. Usually more on the 112 side of things.  And if this company led you to believe you were going to be paid… and then didn’t… fuck them. Fuck them forever.

A Bitter Taste

Fuck It

When I started working in this industry I noticed something. Everyone seemed like they hated their lives. I would run around as a PA, so eager to serve, and notice that all the grips, teamsters, and props guys were all really angry people. Everyone pretty much seemed like they would rather take a hammer to the eye than work another day. Don’t get me wrong, I became friends with a lot of them, but I noticed how bitter everyone was. As if their job was the worst thing on the planet. I didn’t get it. Why were they working in the industry if they hated it so much? I was overjoyed to be working on set. Watching how everything came together. Meeting a ton of new people. Making connections. Working on TV shows and movies! Living the dream and starting a life. A new adventure every day.

About 5 minutes ago I realized I have turned into that bitter, angry, below-the-line ball of stress and nerves. I have become what I didn’t understand, and it only took 2 years.

So let me educate those who were once like me, eager and free. It comes from getting paid way below what you think you should be getting paid. From working 14 hour days making minimum wage — where overtime isn’t worth your time. From figuring out that working your ass off and hardly working yields almost the same result in pay, respect, and recognition. The eternal lingering sense that you’re not doing what you really should be doing to get where you want to go. It’s a real kick in the balls of motivation. But you need to continue. You need to work harder, and stronger, and faster. You need to show everyone how much they depend on you. But the harder you work, the worse it feels when you don’t receive the recognition you deserve. Which makes you angry. It makes you bitter. It makes you hate everyone around you. But you stay.

Why do you stay? Because deep down you wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. This is exactly what you want to be doing, you just want to excel at it. Make more money at it. Be better at it. Gain the appreciation and affirmation of your peers. So you stay. And you hate. And the more you try to change the world around you, the more it shits all over you. And when you clean up all the shit and become a reinforced blank canvass ready to take on the world, you get shit on again. And this happens forever and ever until your that 50 year old prop master with a permanent scowl. Ready to snap at any moment. But you still stay, because something about your job makes you happy, and keeps you going, and you’re not exactly sure what it is. But it’s there, rooted deep in some unyielding part of your being, telling you that you can make it. That you will be happy some day.

I now understand.

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…