Email Miscellany

I’ve noticed a trend in emails, lately– footers that are dozens of lines long. This is a bad trend. Don’t do it.

The end of your email should look like this:

Best,
[name]1
(###) ###-####[[2]]

That’s it. Done. Press send. Maybe put your email address, if you want to be doubly sure the recipient has it. But really, that’s redundant. They can just hit “reply.”

Here’s a list of things you don’t need to include:

  • Your Twitter account
  • Your Facebook page
  • Your Instagram feed
  • Your Linkedin account
  • Your website
  • Your reel on Vimeo
  • Your short films on YouTube
  • Your music demo on Soundcloud
  • Your physical address
  • A legal disclaimer you copy-and-pasted from someone else’s email

You’re a PA. (At least, I assume you’re a PA, if you’re reading this blog.) Not one of these things pertains to your job. They certainly don’t matter enough to include in every single email.

But what’s the harm, right? You want more Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers, and this is one way to get them.

The harm is, you look like you don’t know how inconsequential these things are. You look like you think, if the DP gets struck by lightning, the director will point at you and say, “You there! I’ve seen your reel, from the callsheet email you send every night! Get behind that camera and start shooting!”

And there’s more. Anyone over the age of 35 regards social media with suspicion. They don’t really understand the point. Twitter is for solipsistic navel-gazing, Facebook is for shut-ins pretending they have real friends, and Instagram is for taking pictures of your lunch.3

In twenty years, things will be different; no one will care because everyone will have grown up with computers. But while the Baby Boomers are still alive and Gen Xers are your immediate supervisors, socializing on the Internet will be considered something that children do.

As far as your website and reel go, again, this has nothing to do with anything, unless you’re applying to a department outside of production. If you’re in post, it’s safe to assume you eventually want to be an editor; an art PA probably wants to be a production designer some day. The coordinators of those departments are aware, and probably factor that ambition into who they choose to hire.

But if you’re an office or set PA? Name, number, hit send.

And the “THIS EMAIL IS CONFIDENTIAL” nonsense at the end? Don’t ever do that.

First of all, again, you look like you’re having delusions of grandeur. You  think your email is so important, someone is going to… what, steal it? I don’t even know.

Second, those disclaimers accomplish nothing. Most of the time, these things are unenforceable. “Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited.” Yeah, good luck imposing a unilateral contract.

Basically, when you add it all up, one (or all) of these things help you in no way whatsoever, but definitely create a negative impression. Skip them.

[[2]]That’s your phone number.[[2]]

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Put your actual name here, in case that’s not clear.
  2. That last one is true.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Coffee, Movies, and Networking at Jumpcut Cafe

We go out drinking a lot, don’t we? Maybe it’s time to cut back, before we start running into each other at another famously anonymous meeting.

This month, I thought I’d shake things up a bit by hosting the TAPArty at the Jumpcut Cafe. It’s a coffee shop, so we’re talking caffeinated rather than alcoholic drinks. At least you’re ordering just for yourself, and not 15 producers and whoever else happened to be standing around the office when you got sent on the coffee run.

The party starts at 11:00am. As usual, we’ll be there for at least a couple of hours; don’t feel like you have to arrive right on time. However, we’ve got a special surprise at noon, so watch out for that.

If you’re on Facebook, let us know you’re coming! (It helps the cafe from being overwhelmed if they know how many people will be there.)

The address is 13203 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA, 91604.

Posted in TAPA Meetup | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I Have Experience… Should I Still Go to PA Bootcamp?

Lonnie writes in:

I have two questions: First, what kind of help are you requesting for your new video? I’d like to be involved.

That’s easy. Since there have already been several TAPAs, I got the idea that we could all be TAPA. So, I’m asking a bunch of readers/listeners to record themselves giving the Kickstarter pitch.

Whether you do it on your cell phone or your Blackmagic Cinema Camera (which I know some of you bought on Amazon last summer), it doesn’t matter. It’ll be a kind of crowd-sourced video. Plus, you’ll be helping to get Crew Call Season 2 off the ground!

Second…I’m new-ish to this field. Started out doing quite a bit of work with some documentary film projects, I’m still doing those jobs, but also doing work with local TV stations. I moved to the SF Bay Area a couple of years ago, prior to that, I lived in a town with almost no opportunities to work in film. Anyway…my question…I am volunteering and doing freelance work, but I’ve been wondering if I should consider taking a PA bootcamp or training course. Are they worth the money…do they help PAs find work…and if so, which one(s) do you recommend?

Previous TAPAs have had some negative experiences with PA Bootcamps in the past. I’m a bit more ambivalent. I think there is some value in education, especially for people who prefer to learn in a structured environment.

But if you already have as much experience as Lonnie, you pretty much already know everything there is to know about PAing. At least, everything they could teach you in a weekend bootcamp.

The various bootcamps claim they can help you find work, but I honestly have difficulty believing that. The student-teacher ratio is something like a dozen to one, and some of them offer courses every single weekend. Even though most of the instructors are working ADs, there simply aren’t enough PA gigs to offer to that many students. Sure, the instructors know other ADs, as well, but again, their network can stretch only so far.

On the other hand, if you’re new in town or a recent graduate, that’s more of a network than you have right now.

Maybe someone who’s been to one of these camps could enlighten me in the comments as to what they do to help?

And, let’s not forget, you’re not just networking with the instructors. You’re meeting fellow PAs, as well. Networking with your peer group is vital, if you want your career to last.

Of course, you could network with your peer group for free at the next TAPArty (announcement coming soon).

I won’t recommend a specific bootcamp, because I’ve never been to one. (I didn’t know they existed when I started out.) But I will say, with a decent resume and some connections (like Lonnie should have formed working for free), I think most bootcamps would agree that you’re already as prepared as one can be.

Posted in Crew Call, Finding a Job, Podcast, TAPA Meetup, The Industry | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Want Your Own Office?

A lot of you, like me, are aspiring writers. You write from home, or at a coffee shop, or even while at work. That’s all well and good, but wouldn’t it be nice to have your own space?

Well, The Office is offering just that.

Announcing the 2015 Fellowship to theOffice

If you’re looking for the perfect place in LA to leave the distractions of life behind and finish that screenplay/novel/short story/what-have-you, enter now to win a FREE 6 month Premium Membership to theOffice.

theOffice is a quiet, communal workspace on 26th Street in Santa Monica (across from the Brentwood Country Mart). There are 26 ergonomic workstations in the room equipped with Aeron chairs, wifi, a reference library and all the coffee & tea you can handle. Charter and current members include JJ Abrams, Matthew Carnahan, Clark Gregg, Gigi Levangie Grazer, Jen Celotta, Gary Glasberg and many more. It’s where serious writers go to GET IT DONE.

You send in an example of your best piece of writing along with a paragraph or two explaining why this fellowship would help you. They’ll select one winner who will receive 6 months of free 24/7* access to the space. This is equivalent to a Premium Membership, the highest level of membership we offer, worth upwards of $2500. The contest is free to enter. All of the details are on theOfficeOnlineBlog.com.

Hurry!!  Deadline to apply is April 15th.

Send Submissions to: theOfficeFellowship@gmail.com

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Suing for Unpaid Overtime

Steve writes in:

I am an executive assistant working for a production company. I am paid hourly, fixed at 44 hours/week, whether I work 40, 44, or 70 hours. Basically, I am trapped in the office until my boss leaves at night. Through my employment, I have been shorted about $10k in overtime, lunches, and PTO.

From day one, they told me if I didn’t like it, quit! I know I have a case with the Labor department if I quit or was fired. The company can’t fight paying, only disputing the amount I claim to be shorted. Is it in my best interests to file a claim against the company after my employment? I really need the money, but am wary of stirring the pot.

I have a rule: I never do anything just for the money.

Obviously, I need money. We live in a capitalist society,1 and money is how I pay for gas, Netflix, and peanuts.

Everything I know I learned from the Simpsons.

Ohhhhh… now I get it.

I don’t work for free if I can avoid it. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to intern. But I also don’t get paid nearly enough to put up with some of the shit I get in this job. If I wanted, I could do the same job in a corporate office, make twice the money and work fewer hours.

So why do I do this? I’m not going to be a PA forever. I’m going to make connections, get promoted, sell my script, all that good stuff. PAing is the first rung of a very tall ladder.

Plus, it’s fun. I enjoy being on set (especially when I’m an office PA, and nobody expects me to do any actual work). Back in school, I worked a few summer jobs in the real world, and I never once met the kind of big personalities you run into in Hollywood. I don’t mean actors and celebrities; just about anybody on the crew could be crazy.

You don’t get stories like this in the real world.

What does this have to do with Steve’s question? Well, you probably wouldn’t consider suing your employer unless it was all about the money in the first place.

And it sounds like they were up front with Steve from the beginning. Granted, he may not have fully understood what he was in for when he signed up, but if he really is owed $10,000 in overtime, he must’ve worked there at least six months (or was getting a massive hourly rate).

That’s probably a good time to decide the job isn’t for you. You need to consider not just the tangible benefits (such as pay), but the intangibles, like connections, fun, etc. That math just isn’t working out for Steve.

It’s definitely time to quit. But should he sue? That’s a much more difficult question.

Steve agreed to these terms up front. Suing after the fact is kind of a dick move. But they sound like dicks, so return dickery unto dickery, right? Hang on.

While it’s true that “You’ll never work in this town again” is an idle (and frankly silly) threat, you’re still burning a lot of bridges when you sue someone. Not just with them, but anyone they know. And believe me, if they’re being sued, they will tell everyone they know.

Is that worth $10,000?2 I have no idea.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Which is a good thing.
  2. Minus lawyer fees and your time, of course.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Want To Be in a TAPA Video?

The new season of Crew Call is fast approaching, which means the Kickstarter campaign is approaching even faster.

And what Kickstarter campaign would be complete without a video? That’s where I could use your help. If you’re a fan of the podcast (or just really like the blog), I could use your help. Shoot me an email at anonymousproductionassistant at gmail dot com, if you’re interested in participating.

Posted in On the Job | 1 Comment

What Kind of PA Was I?

Jo asks:

Does one usually specify the department they PA’ed in? For example, I just PA’ed on a TV show pilot, but it was in the costume department. Do I need to specify that in my resume? Or just list it as PA?

The great thing about sending your resume electronically is, you can change it literally every time you send it to someone.

You should always move the most relevant positions to the top of your resume, regardless of the date. The more prominently it’s placed, the more likely your potential employer will see it.

You can also change the titles (as long as you’re being relatively honest). If you’re applying for a job in the wardrobe department, and you’ve done that before, by all means, write down that you were a costume PA.

But if you’re applying to be an office PA, and your resume lists six costume PA gigs, they’re going to wonder, “Does Jo really want to work in the office? Is she going to jump ship the moment there’s an opening in wardrobe?” In cases like that, it’s safe to just write “production assistant.”

What about the reverse? You’ve worked as an office PA, but want to be a costume PA. That’s not as much of a problem, because everybody starts as an office or set PA. Those credits don’t look weird to the costume supervisor.

Granted, more experience in the department of your choice is better, but you gotta stick with what you have. Never outright lie. That can bite you on the ass later.

Stick with the truth, but also present the truth in the best possible light.

Posted in Finding a Job, On the Job | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Living at Home

Alexandra writes:

I am a graduating senior in college, and I have plans to move with another student to LA after graduation. I wouldn’t be relocating far (my family is in north Orange County). My mom has been very supportive, but she worries. She advises me to stay home for a year and save money, and then move out when I have a job lined up. Now I understand where she’s coming from, but as it is I have nothing keeping me at home, and it wouldn’t be any easier getting a job from so far away.

My plan is to move out asap and get a job– any job– so I can live and network and slowly move up the ranks. I have little experience, but the higher the stakes, the harder I work. Do you think it is wise to do this? I don’t want to be blinded by my own ambition and really it screw up.

And finally, if you agree that moving out is the best option, what should I tell my mom to put her at ease?

Sorry, Alexandra, but your mom is right.1

If you live driving distance from LA, stay at home. Living in Los Angeles is expensive, and it’s going to be a while before you’re consistently earning a paycheck. You need to save up for as long as possible. Living at home goes a long way towards that goal.

Most people don’t have that option, but you do. Living at home definitely sucks, especially if you lived at home throughout college, too. You’re at the age where you want to separate yourself from your parents, define yourself as a different person. It’s hard to do that when you’re on top of each other all the time.

Plus, frankly, it’s a little embarrassing. I totally get that.

But it’s totally worse if you move up to Los Angeles, run into hard times, then have to move back.

There is something to be said for the motivating factor of starvation and eviction. Those of us who couldn’t rely on the kindness of parents figured it out, because we had to.

Or didn’t. My Facebook friends list is strewn with people I worked with on shows three or five years ago, but have long since moved back to their respective home towns.

In conclusion, my advice is what it has always been: use the advantages you have.

Stay at home as long as you can stand it, which probably means once the commuting gets to be too much. It will take a while, I promise, because you won’t get that much work to start with. It might take six months, it might even take a year before it makes sense to move.

Hell, you probably live closer to Manhattan Beach Studios than I do; get a job on a show there, and you could live at home until the series gets cancelled.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. No one likes hearing that.
Posted in On the Job, The Industry | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dogs at Work

I love my dog. She’s great. She’s adorable and fun and a very good listener.1 We spend hours at the dog park every weekend, then she curls up in my lap and we watch Transparent together. She even sleeps in my bed, and if she doesn’t approve of a date I bring home, he’s gone. I take her almost everywhere.

Except work.

Why? Because she’s my dog. I think she’s special, but I’m aware that nobody else gives a fuck. And that’s okay. She’s my dog, not yours.

Our production accountant doesn’t feel the same way. He brought his dog to work every day. Until today.

INT. ACCOUNTING OFFICE – DAY – FLASHBACK

The office is a mess; stacks of paperwork cover every available surface, from desks to filing cabinets to empty chairs. A big, hairy GOLDEN RETRIEVER sits in the corner, barking at, apparently, nothing.

A dopey, balding, bespectacled man (obviously an ACCOUNTANT) points a stern finger at the dog.

ACCOUNTANT

Barkley! No!

The dog ignores him.

LINE PRODUCER (50s, barrel-chested, greying at the temples) strolls into the room like he’s the boss of everything. Because he is.

LINE PRODUCER

Accountant, we need to talk about Barkley.

ACCOUNTANT

Awesome! I love talking about Barkley. Isn’t he great? He’s so cute and friendly, and--

LINE PRODUCER

Erm... no. I mean, the fact that he’s here. When you first started at Big Damn Network Show, you assured me he wouldn’t disrupt the office.

ACCOUNTANT

He hasn’t! In fact, I think he boosts morale.

Barkley continues barking at the wall.

LINE PRODUCER

He barks at everyone-- the writers, the PAs... ghosts, apparently? Seriously, what is he barking at?

ACCOUNTANT

Dogs can sense danger.

LINE PRODUCER

Fantastic. Every paycheck I’ve gotten in the last three months has been covered in dog hair.

ACCOUNTANT

He licks the envelopes for me.

LINE PRODUCER

And I’m sure that’s the most efficient way to do it. But I’m afraid you’re going to have to stop bringing Barkley to the office. It’s unprofessional.

ACCOUNTANT

You’re just not a dog person.

LINE PRODUCER

No, I love dogs. But I leave mine at home. He’s loud, he smells, he makes a mess of things.

ACCOUNTANT

The same could be said of babies, and you let Costume Designer bring hers to work.

LINE PRODUCER

Do you know what the difference is between your dog and her baby?

Accountant gives him a quizzical look.

LINE PRODUCER (CONT’D)

One is a dog, and one is A HUMAN FUCKING BEING. Bring your dog into this office again, and I will find a new accountant!

Okay, I wasn’t in the room, so I didn’t hear it work for word. Except that last part. The line producer really did scream that at the accountant, which is both terrible and hilarious.

Lesson is: don’t bring your dog to work. You may think she’s your baby, but she is not. She’s just a dog.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Yes, I realize I’m insane.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Don’t Use an Email That Ends in .edu

The headline says it all.

I’m a little surprised it has to be said, but it’s come up a lot recently while fixing up readers’ resumes. Several people have left their .edu address on their resume.

In a way, I sort of get it. When you’re 22, college has taken up almost a fifth of your life. It feels like a major accomplishment. It’s the same reason people put “Education” at the top of their resume.

But in this business, almost everyone has a college degree. Even going to a top-tier film school doesn’t really set you apart very much.

What a .edu address tells me is, you have no experience. If graduating from UCLA is your greatest accomplishment, then you haven’t actually done anything.

It’s like when guys complain that “girls don’t want to date nice guys.” Being “nice” is a minimum basic requirement; it’s not sufficient reason for me to go out with you.

So if a college degree is necessary1-but-not-sufficient, what next? You need experience. And now we enter that famous paradox which is in no way exclusive to Hollywood–

Yeah, that's a Sports Night reference.

It’s a vicious circle. Just keeps going round and round. Never ends. That’s what makes it vicious. And a circle.

There’s one way out, and that’s working for free. It sucks, but after a little while, you’ll have amassed enough credits and experience that college won’t seem like such a big deal.

Then you’ll get a normal Gmail address, like everybody else.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Not, strictly speaking, necessary. But you will have to work harder to prove you’re serious if you don’t have a degree.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments