2 questions that I get all the time are, how did you get started in the industry? How do I get started? Well, here’s my answers:
I started out working as a PA (production assistant) for the first year or so, much of that time volunteering my services for free. Being a PA sucks, but it allows you to see how a set runs and hopefully find your way into a certain department. That department for me was the production team or the producing staff. Eventually I started coordinating on commercials and indie films. Then I worked my rear end off with one company as a PA on a television pilot, and as that show went further into development, they moved me up the ladder. I became an associate producer, and then a producer on the series. Even though I have produced, coordinated, and managed sets, when I’m not busy and a new company calls me for a few days to work as a PA (for a good day rate) I almost always take it. I believe in networking, and the opportunity to work with new people opens up more doors. Put yourself out there and do it! Let others know you want to work!
Getting to this point in my career was a ton of hard work and a bit of luck. ANYONE can do the same if they set their mind to it. I am constantly learning, growing, and expanding my career. Never quit pursuing.
Oh that dream of working in the movies….
Photo courtesy of Mark Totten
If you’re dreaming of one day working in the biz, I recommend putting yourself out there to PA on set. Go to local film schools and ask if you can assist on their projects, or find local production companies and ask to apply as a PA for upcoming productions. Don’t worry, no experience necessary. All you have to do is show them that you want it bad, and you are willing to work your tail end off to get it. Create a quick resume of your skills. If you need help with what to put on your resume, ask anyone that knows you well or knows your talents.
Want to move up?
If you have been PA’ing for months or even years, and are asking yourself, “how do I move up?” the answer is easy. Ask to move up. When you work with a new crew, network like crazy. Keep in touch with anyone that you connected with. Even just to say a quick hello or hit them up on facebook. Give them a reminder that if they have anything coming up, you are available to work. If you’ve recently worked on a big project, let them know. Ask them how they recommend taking on a higher position. If you show interest in it, they will likely recommend you in the future. You never know when someone from two years ago will call you to do such and such for their upcoming film. And if you are lucky, that person will ask what you are currently doing or trying to do and bring you on in that position.
If you found a department you want to work in, ask if you can work as a PA in that department. Or hire you as an extra person within that department at a lower pay. If you can find an independent film to work on, they will likely take less experienced people. Get on Mandy.com or craigslist to see if you can find some local jobs. If it’s driving distance or you know someone that lives nearby that you can crash with, go for it. even if it’s far away. If you are applying for a bigger budget film, particularly a studio film, it’s a bit tougher to get on to their crew. Don’t be discouraged to apply. If you are bound and determined, find their production office and ask for a place to apply. Sit in the room until they get you someone to talk to in person. In person is ALWAYS better. You are much more likely to get the job. Persistence and Determination are key.
If you have any questions, please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org