On the Subject of Subect Lines

Yesterday’s post was on the topic of when to move on. Here’s the subject line from the original email:

To Grow My Hair, Or Chop It Off And Start Fresh?

Now, that’s a lovely metaphor and everything, but seriously, this does not tell me what the email is about. I actually thought she was asking me for hair styling advice, for some reason. I mean, have you seen my logo?

No, that's steam from the coffee mug, doofus.

I look like a lesbian Harry Potter.

I’ve said this before, but I guess it bears repeating: The subject of the email goes in the subject line.

Simple. It’s the eponymy, stupid.1

A clever subject line might catch the reader’s attention, but a too clever subject will just get ignored. The aforementioned reader is lucky I wanted to see what kind of fool thought I knew anything about hair.

But when you’re applying for a job, you might not be so lucky. If the job notice says they need a PA who knows how to make sides, don’t write:

My “Sides” Are Splitting!!!

You’ll go straight to the spam folder. A very simple “Experienced Production Assistant” in the subject line will do nicely.

For any other email, write the subject clearly, with as little ambiguity as possible. The person on the receiving end will either open it or not; that’s out of your control. But you can at least make it easier for them to want to open it.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Like, one of you will laugh at that.
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When To Move On

S. writes in:

I started out as an intern last year on [redacted tabloid show]. Before my internship was over, I was offered a freelance Set PA position. The season ended in May, and I stayed on in the summer to work in the office. A few weeks ago, the EP asked me into her office and basically told me that I will be a Booker PA next season and could possibly be an Associate Producer by the end of the season if I perform well.

My problem is… not really a problem, but I would like to be in a bigger market. I mean, of course, I want the AP position, but I don’t want to get stuck in a 2 year contract, and I also don’t want to be stuck doing this type of television. But I also understand that leaving is basically starting over and its definitely going to be harder to work my way up in a larger market. I really would like to work on something scripted and I don’t know if being and AP here, would allow me that opportunity in the future.

This is the reality television trap. People get promoted very quickly, and their pay rate, while oftentimes less than their scripted TV counterparts, goes up faster.

You really have to decide if this is a job, or an adventure.

If you really (want to) care about your job, you need to seriously think about whether you’ll be happy working in reality for the rest of your career. Because once you become a producer, that’s pretty much where you’ll be.

Some people are perfectly happy with reality shows. Hell, millions of people watch them every week. If you like that, more power to you.

But that’s not you. You want to get into scripted, and wants to work in a major market, like Los Angeles or New York. With a year of PAing under his belt, now’s the time to move. You’re young, you have no responsibilities or anything tying you down. Just go.

Sitting around and thinking about it isn’t going to get you closer to your goals. Doing something will. Go to one of those major markets, meet people, show them your resume to prove your experience, and back it up with skills on the set.

There’s no guarantee you’ll make it, but if you don’t try, I guarantee you won’t make it.

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Two Resumes

Scott writes in:

The NBC Universal Careers twitter tweeted this link about the automated systems that scan resumes for keywords.

I’ve applied to a lot of jobs through these horrible portals such as Brassring and I’ve never gotten a call back. This infographic is interesting, but whenever I see these types of tips I always think they never really apply to TV/film industry type jobs. They aren’t traditional in that sense. A good 85% of my resume is simply position, show title, production company. No dates, explanation or keywords. One thing I did take from this infographic is to spell out Bachelor of Arts instead of B.A. Although the part about not submitting it in PDF form is a bit puzzling. I know when I upload my PDF resume it shows it after it’s done uploading and it looks fine.

So my question is what is your take on this? Should I create a new resume just for these portal job pages geared towards getting the attention of the robot? What do I add/change? Should I add a 2nd page (since it says it’s ok to have a resume longer than 1 page…contradictory to everything I’ve heard) to my current resume and fill it with keywords in size 1 font in white text?

If you’re applying for both PA and assistant jobs, you should definitely have two different resumes.

The reason I offer my resume editing service is that many people don’t know how to properly format a production resume. Like Scott said, it should be in three columns, with position, title, and company. That’s because, on most shows, the job is largely the same.1

For a corporate job,2 the situation is totally different. They expect you to have a traditional resume, where you list your responsibilities and accomplishments, the dates you worked, stuff like that. Hell, they want to know the address of the place.

So, yes, if you want to be a suit, by all means, game the system as much as possible. Add key words and phrases, write an “objective” section, all that nonsense. There’s a million examples out there. Just make sure it’s clear and easy to read.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Well, the responsibilities are the same. No two shows are exactly the same.
  2. Studio, network, agency.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Post Production Coordinator Zach Moss

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Today we hear from post production coordinator Zach Moss, who is recently off the first seasons of Red Widow and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’ll tell us about stock footage, post production security, and the many uses of the back of the actors’ heads. (No, really!)

The producer of today’s episode was Chris Henry, who also wrote the theme.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on iTunes. You can also subscribe via Stitcher, or with the Crew Call xml feed. Back episodes of Crew Call can be found on the Anonymous Production Assistant website.

To help support Crew Call, simply click on the Amazon banner before you go shopping.

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Awkward Conversation

An anonymous reader writes in:

Recently, the 2nd AD kinda said something inappropriate and made me feel uncomfortable. I kinda just told him I wasn’t comfortable with what he said, and we moved on. So I thought.

After that incident, I haven’t really heard anything from him as far as work was concerned. When I contacted him, he was short and not really giving me any information. Just said that he loves having me around and he will see.

I connected with a few of the actors and the  director, who all say they would love to keep me on to work, but I also haven’t heard anything from them. I truly understand they are busy, but its been a little over a week and I haven’t heard anything. What do I do? Just assume the worst and try to get on as a PA at another movie or continue trying to contact them?

First of all, a week isn’t that long. You can sometimes go months between jobs.

There’s no reason to think your awkward conversation is what caused the problem. It sounds like you went about it the right way– be direct, but not confrontational. It’s perfectly alright to say something makes you uncomfortable, and most people will respect that.1

The truth is, you never know what’s going on in other people’s lives, or with the show or company. It could be literally anything, from funding falling through to political must-hires to someone just having a shitty day and not wanting to reply to emails unless they have to. (A PA looking for work is rarely a must-reply.)

That being said, always be looking for another show or movie. If they’re not employing you right now, you need to look. If you find work, let them know you’ll be unavailable unless they tell you otherwise. This will light a fire under their butts, if they really want you back.

If they don’t call you back at that point, well, you have your answer. Again, this doesn’t tell you what their reasoning is; you’ll never truly know what other people are thinking.

That scarf must smell good...

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of ADs?

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Not everyone, of course, but learning to deal with assholes is part of being an adult.
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When You Don’t Know Their Name

Steph writes in:

I am in the process of sending over my cover letter and resume to an open crew call for a new series. I am putting my name forth to be a Set PA. My issue right now is that I am unable to verify if the AD or 2nd AD that worked on the pilot (as I found on the IMDB page) is still in charge for the new episodes that will be shot later this year. I have Googled their names and checked LinkedIn to no avail.

Would it be okay if I simply put “Hi” as I did in this email, then go into my cover letter? Would that look bad?

It doesn’t look bad at all. They know you probably don’t know their names. Hell, you meet so many people in this business, the two of you might have met and don’t even remember

Starting your cover letter with a first name is a bonus, a way of connecting you and the employer as people. But if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. No harm. It’s much worse to get the name wrong.

For those of you who may be confused about why this issue would come up in the first place– many series turn over their entire crew between the pilot and series. One big reason is that California’s tax incentives give money to shows that return from out of state. It can make sense financially to film a pilot in, say, Georgia, and the series in California.

Also, networks like to hire feature directors for their pilots.1 Those directors will often bring their key departments heads (including and especially the 1st AD) onto the pilot, only to take them to their next feature once the series is under way.

And then there’s the simple fact that there’s usually a several-month gap between the pilot and the series. Many people find other work in the meanwhile. Remember, just because someone worked on the pilot, doesn’t mean they worked on the series.

Not that that prevents the pilot director from being listed as an Executive Producer on every episode. Yet another reason to not trust the credits.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. A foolish idea, in my opinion, since its the episodic directors who really create the series over the seasons.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged | 1 Comment

Assistant Production Coordinator Jasmine Barceló

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Today’s guest is someone most of my readers would like to meet– an assistant production coordinator.

Jasmine Barceló started out as a PA on Dexter, just like you or me, and has worked her way up to a position of authority. (At least, as far as PAs are concerned.) If you’re the kind of person who spends her days on set, Jasmine has some insights into what goes on behind the behind-the-scenes, up in the office where the paper is pushed.

The producer of today’s episode was Chris Henry, who also wrote the theme.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on iTunes. You can also subscribe via Stitcher, or with the Crew Call xml feed. Back episodes of Crew Call can be found on the Anonymous Production Assistant website.

To help support Crew Call, simply click on the Amazon banner before you go shopping.

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What’s a Base Camp PA?

Justin writes in:

Recently I was on a passion project as a PA with a very knowledgable 2nd AD. I told him I was interested in being an office PA, and he showed me paperwork that office PAs have to work with, like something called an “exhibit G” and getting out times and such. He mentioned something called a basecamp PA and I was wondering what the basecamp PA does as opposed to the office PA?

Base camp is where all the trailers are. A base camp PA is a specialized type of set PA. Usually a higher-ranking, more experienced PA.

The base camp PA’s first responsibility is ensuring that the set has everything they need, whether that’s equipment, crew, cast, or the director, when they need it.1

Take the actors, for example. After rehearsal, they return to base camp to get their make-up and hair done, while the stand-ins go stand in for them. It’s the base camp PA’s responsibility to be listening on the walkie for the AD to call in second team (if they’re not hanging around set already), and send them in.

Meanwhile, she receives the actors and directs them to where they’re needed, whether that’s make-up, hair, costumes, or their own trailer, if they have time. She has to check with the various vanity departments to get an estimate on getting the actors cleaned up, and relay that information to set. When the AD calls for first team, the base camp PA reverses the process.

The base camp PA also frequently helps the 2nd and 2nd 2nd ADs with paperwork, such as the G and background vouchers.2 She’ll sign out the actors and extras, double-check the paperwork, file it properly in the football. Hope you have a good pen!

She’ll often deal directly with the logistics of the base camp itself, helping the teamsters decide where the trailers will physically park. And no one is ever happy with where their trailer is. A base camp PA is not paid enough for the grief she gets on this topic.

As I’ve described it, it sounds like a pretty straightforward job. It’s really not. It takes someone who’s both organized and socially adept. You have to deal with a lot of personalities, and balance the needs of the various crew and cast members, usually with very little time to make a decision.

It’s not a job I envy, but if you’re good, it can be a pretty clear path to becoming an AD.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Not that they’re ordering the equipment; that’s the production office’s job.
  2. Again, similar to a time card, which is given to SAG-AFTRA as proof that you worked as an extra that day. This is one way to join the actors’ union.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Twelve Hours Not Guaranteed

In the last year or so, I’ve noticed a trend among the bigger studios– no 12 hour guarantee for production assistants.

I knew I shouldn't have replied to that Craig's List ad.

Safety not guaranteed, either.

Technically, the law took effect on January 1st, 2013, but not every studio has pressed the issue. Others, like Warner Brothers, have realized that they can save money by not guaranteeing a twelve hour day–

As of January 1, 2013, California law changed and it now clearly prohibits the use of weekly guarantees for non-union, hourly employees. For your convenience, we have attached to this email the new provision in the law; please see section 515(d)(2).

Employees must be paid only for actual hours worked. This change will impact employment arraignments for the 2013-14 Season. [emphasis mine]

This is a pretty big change, especially if you’re on a multicamera show. On single cam, you generally shoot at least twelve hours no matter what. Unless you’re on the late shift in the office, in which case, you can write whatever out time you like, since no one else is around.

For those of you new to the business, here’s how it use to work: whether you worked eight or ten or twelve hours, you put twelve hours on your time card. If you worked more than twelve hours, you’d report that overtime as thirteen or fourteen or whatever it was in reality.

Of course, you have to add a half hour for lunch, because you never get a half hour break. It must be reported, because it’s illegal for an employer to force you to work six hours with out a lunch break.

That right there should tell you that time cards are complete bullshit. The idea that the studio is suddenly concerned with veracity when it comes to your out time is ridiculous. Obviously, they’re only worried about it when it saves them money.

So, here’s what you do if/when you come up against this whole “no 12 hour guarantee” issue– report more than twelve hours. Not the same amount every time, either. Sometimes put down 12.1, sometimes 12.5; maybe even throw in 11.5.

If they add up to around 60 hours for the week, the UPM won’t notice or care. but here’s the beauty of it: working 12.5 one day and 11.5 five the other adds up to more money than working 12 hours for two days.

Why? That 0.5 over 12 is time-and-a-half. So, it’s actually like 12.75 hours one day and 11.5 the other. It’s not a lot of money, but it’ll be enough to buy a ticket to Planet of the Apes over the weekend.

There is one possible issue with fudging your time card, and that’s liability. Suppose you leave at 5:00pm,1 but put your out time as 6:00. Then, you get into an accident at 5:30 and get hurt. According to your time card, you were working then, so this must be a work-related injury, right? And therefore, your employer’s workman’s comp insurance must pay up.

This is not a situation the studio (and by extension, producer, UPM, and/or accountant) wants to be in. You have to be careful that you don’t do anything that might cause your boss worry. If you go nuts with the time card foolishness, someone will notice.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Ha! Yeah, right.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Cinematographer Joaquin Sedillo

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You guys, Joaquin Sedillo shot Veronica Mars (the series, not the movie). Do I really need to say anything else? Oh, he’s the director of photography on Glee. So, he’s pretty much awesome.

Listen in on a great conversation that covers the beauty of Kristen Bell, making marriage work between entertainment industry professionals, and brewing a great cup of coffee.

The producer of today’s episode was Chris Henry, who also wrote the theme.

If you like the show, please rate and review us on iTunes. You can also subscribe via Stitcher, or with the Crew Call xml feed. Back episodes of Crew Call can be found on the Anonymous Production Assistant website.

To help support Crew Call, simply click on the Amazon banner before you go shopping.

 

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