Animator Jason Bierut

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It’s the final episode of Crew Call for the year!

Today’s guest is an experienced animator, and now technical director. Jason Bierut has worked on The Powerpuff Girls, Mucha Lucha, and most recently, Jake and the Never Land Pirates. He talks about the state of modern animation, and what it takes to break into that industry. You can even take classes from Jason at Studio Arts!

Also this week, CAPS Payroll is sponsoring another contest! They’re giving away a pair of tickets to Crew Call listeners for their VIP suite at the Staples Center. The winners will get to choose from a range of events (concerts, sports, etc).

Winners will be chosen at random on December 14th during the next TAPA networking event. (You don’t actually have to be physically at the event to win; just pay attention to your Twitter feed, wherever you are.)

Chris Henry wrote the Crew Call theme. Follow him on Twitter at @MrStonebender.

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.

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Motherhood

Meg writes in:

I’m about to finish the first year of an engineering degree (if nothing else, it taught me I will never be an engineer) and my neighbor has offered me a job as a runner on a show in my area, my question is, down the track, is a career in the film industry going to make it impossible to have a family?

I know this is way in the future, but in considering career moves and such I was wondering if you knew anything about women in the industry, is it sort of expected that having children will end your film career, or are there specific departments or positions that may allow you to keep working?

I’m not going to tell anyone how they should parent, since I’m not one myself. There are some things we can all agree you should or shouldn’t do to kids (feed them and beat them, respectively), but beyond that, I’m not super qualified to tell you how to balance your career with your familial responsibilities.

I can tell you I know plenty of people in every area of filmmaking that have kids, both men and women. Some are single parents, some have a stay-at-home spouse, some have partners that are also working. I know people who have multiple nannies do all of the hard work of raising a child, and just spend a couple of fun hours with the kid per week.1

It certainly is possible to be a mother and continue your career. How much it affects your career can vary greatly.

One of the few nice things about working freelance is that you can just decide to not look for work. You’re not going to be paid maternity leave (again, freelance), but you can take as much time as you want.

If you work in television, your stretches of work will be longer than in commercials or features, so you may end up leaving in the middle of the season. But it would take some kind of asshole to hold that against you.2

Precisely when you’d have to take off probably depends on just how physical your job is. Being a female electrician comes with a lot of challenges anyway, but carrying 100lb runs of 4/0 cable while six months pregnant is probably one you shouldn’t even try to overcome. On the other hand, a writer/producer could probably work up until her water breaks.3

The higher up the ladder you are in any given department, the less physical work you do, too. Camera operators can spend entire shooting days sitting on the dolly, while the dolly grip and camera assistants move everything, including her. The best boys4 spend most of their time on the truck doing paperwork and making phone calls.

I’d be curious to hear from any readers who’ve worked while pregnant in the various departments. I have no idea how long you could do hair and make-up (standing on your feet all day) or costumes (moving around the cast dexterously and lightly).

Another thing to keep in mind is, you’re young. You don’t really know what you want out of life, yet, which is totally fine. Set life may turn out to be just as bad a fit for you as engineering. You may find you want to leave your career behind to be with your kids; you may find you don’t actually want kids, after all.

If you do want kids and you do take some time off, re-entering the work force can be tricky. If you spend a season away to be with your child, the show you were on will have to hire somebody else to do your job. They can’t just fire that person because you found a good day care and want to get back to work.

You’re going to have a big hole in your resume, but that isn’t too unusual. Shows get cancelled mid-season all the time, and anyone can wind up with a nine months gap without even a baby to show for it. This is why TAPA recommends not showing dates on your resume, anyway.

Once you do get back on the job, we’re back in the I-have-no-idea-how-people-do-that territory. You’ll spend twelve to eighteen hours a day on set. That’s a long time to be away from your children, which I imagine is a blessing and a curse. You’ll have to pay for daycare, baby sitters, or a stay-at-home spouse, none of which are cheap. But as I said, I’ve seen it done.

There is a lot of sexism and unfairness in this business. Biology itself is conspiring against you to some degree– nine months is a long time to be pregnant, and our offspring don’t come out able to run around like other mammals. Baby humans are basically helpless for at least a decade.

But like many areas of life, modernity helps. You can control the timing of your pregnancy. You live in a civilized society where maternal death is extremely rare. We have a capitalist system, where people exchange specialized skills for currency that can be saved, rather than hunting and gathering or subsistence farming.

Don’t feel held back by your desire to have children and a career. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Okay, I lied. I will tell you not to do that. You’re not a parent at that point; you’re a kindly, if remote, benefactor.
  2. Of which there is no shortage in Hollywood, but still.
  3. Funny personal story– when my mother’s water broke with me, she called my father at work to tell him. He asked if he should leave work right away to take her to the hospital. “No,” she said, “you can finish whatever you’re doing. We’ve got time.” My dad left work at the normal time. To be fair, I was the fifth kid, so they knew how long this was gonna take.
  4. Yes, they can be female; no, they’re not called “best girls.”
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“I’m Not Negative, I’m Just Honest”

You’ve probably heard this, or something like it, from jaded old crew members. (Or young ones who like to think they’re jaded.) And whatever it is they’re being negative about, odds are they’re right. But in the words of The Dude–

Outside of the context of discussion with a very good friend, “I’m just being honest” is up there with “I’m not a pessimist; I’m a realist.”

Don’t ever say it. And if you’re ever in a situation where that seems like a necessary defense for whatever you’re talking about, then you’re already in trouble.

Nobody likes to hang around negative people.1 And as a PA, you are extremely replaceable, so they don’t have to hang around with you.

Of course, sometimes you must point out something is wrong. It could be as minor as someone printing the sides wrong, or as major as a safety issue.

There’s basically two questions you should ask yourself before saying something negative, about anyone or anything on set–

  1. Is this a specific, discrete event?
  2. Can anything be done about it?

In other words, if this issue is a general, systemic problem, you’re just complaining. If you’re not going to be able to fix it, you’re just complaining.

We all need to vent; I get that. But work is not the place for it. Tell your friends, tell your mom, tell your cat. Anyone but your co-workers.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Or excessively, fakely positive people.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged | 1 Comment

Resume Paper

Eric writes in:

When I go to an interview, should I print out my resume on nice resume paper or is regular copy paper okay? In the past, I used nice resume paper because I had a lot, but now I am out. I’m wondering if I should spend the money when they usually print out my resume already, or should I have backups ready, in case they don’t?

Like a professional email address, nice resume paper isn’t going to make or break you, but it does put your best foot forward. Personally, I think it’s worth the twelve bucks to keep a case on your shelf. I do.

But regardless of the type of paper, you should always, always, always bring your resume. It shows that you’re prepared, and that you think ahead. Even if your printer breaks down, or your cat chewed up the entire case of watermarked, 32lb ivory stock, make a Kinkos run. You don’t want to show up without a resume at that one in a thousand interview where they didn’t already print out a copy.

The same principle applies to bringing a notepad with you to every meeting. As a PA, you’ll rarely need to write anything down. The job is pretty simple, after all. But having it on hand shows everybody that you’re ready to listen.

Plus you can doodle silly pictures while you’re bored.

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How to Book a Food Truck

A coffee truck (or food truck or ice cream truck) is a great treat for the crew. It’s a nice excuse to get away from the stage and mill about with your co-workers, without actually having to do anything.

But finding the right truck can be kind of a pain in the ass. Luckily, Diana from Peaches’ Smokehouse & Southern Food Truck has some advice–

As food truck owners in L.A., we get to interact with a lot of production assistants. So we get to see how hard you guys work. Whether you’re new to booking trucks or just looking for ways to make the process a little easier, we’ve put together a few simple tips that might make life a little easier:

Have a date and time window. We appreciate when organizers tell us: “We think we’ll need service to start at 3PM but that may move up to 2PM.” This helps because if we have a scheduling conflict, we can let you know immediately. An hour can make a difference, and things will go more smoothly if the food truck gets enough set up time.

Give a budget. If you have a budget, we’ll try to work with it. If we can’t, we’ll tell you, which helps save you time. Do mention if your budget is all-inclusive (for example, “$1500 for 100 people, tax and service charge included”).

For bigger productions, make sure the food truck you book can handle “fast service”. Because everyone is breaking at roughly the same time, sometimes that means a lot of people get in line at once. Some food trucks can handle volume and others may not. Be sure to ask if the truck can serve quickly.

Go for a limited menu. As a general rule, the smaller the menu, the faster the service. For example, at Peaches’, if you choose a menu with 3 entree and 2 side options, we can serve each guest in less than 30 seconds. If you choose a menu with 2 entrees and 1 side option, we can serve your food almost immediately. Every food truck is different, so try to find out what their ticket times would be and ask for a limited menu if you need your food fast.

Provide options for special diets. Every vegetarian on your set will love you for making sure they have something to eat. If you think you might need special dietary accommodations, like gluten-free or vegan options, ask ahead so the food truck can come prepared.

As you work with more food trucks, you’ll find you have your own preferences. We work with enough trucks to have our own favorites, as well (for example, we love working with Baby’s Badass Burgers and Me So Hungry, among many others), so don’t be shy about asking for food truck recommendations! We’re always glad to help

Have questions we didn’t address in this blog? Ask them in the comments section! We’ll happily answer any question!

Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Final Meet Up of the Year

It’s almost time for winter hiatus! Which means I’ll get to go back home and remember what real cold is like.

Before I go, let’s have one more PA get together. This time, we’ll meet at Q’s Billiard Club in West L.A. to shoot some pool. Festivities begin at 2:00pm on December 14th.

11835 Wilshire Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90025

Once again, the good folks at Gratafy will be there, offering drinks to TAPA readers. Gratafy is the app that lets you send drinks, dinner and more as gifts to your friends, from local bars and restaurants. Download it for free in the app store before or at the TAPA happy hour, and they’ll send you your first drink! Check out this video to learn more, and watch them on KTLA

Invite your friends on Facebook!

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Mail Boxes

Here’s a weird conversation I had recently.

A teamster came in and asked to check his start work. He wanted to make sure his paycheck was going to his P.O. box, rather than his home.

Curious, I asked, “Why don’t you want it going to your  house?”

“The jerks won’t deliver to our house.”

“Really? I didn’t know they could just decide not to deliver to an address.”

“There was an incident with the dog.”

And I think, That’s a strange way to describe it…

But he continues: “He bit the mail man.” …unless you’re trying to downplay the fact that your dog bit someone.

“It wasn’t even in our yard,” he says defensively.

“Oh, someone else’s dog bit him, and they won’t deliver to the whole block?”

“No, it was our dog.”

Soooo… your dog was loose in your neighbor’s yard and bit a human being… and somehow the post office are the jerks?

Obviously, I didn’t say that. Gotta hold your tongue sometimes. Especially if you want a fill’er up later on.

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Aiming for a Specific Company

Krithika writes in:

I am based in India. At this point, I do not have a US work permit. But I really want to work with a few specific companies in the US, Shondaland being the top of the wishlist.

How should I go about this?

I have no more experience than previous TAPAs when it comes to immigration. To quote an earlier post:

The US limits work visas to people who bring skills that can’t otherwise be found in America. (There might be other ways to get a visa, but again, I’m not an expert.)

Unfortunately, for you (and me, honestly), finding PAs in America isn’t hard. Hell, a lot of shows won’t hire PAs from out of state, much less outside the country.

Granted, the immigration situation in the US is kinda messed up right now, so who knows?

But there’s another issue Krithika brings up that will apply to most of my readers– she wants to work at a particular company.

While I agree that working at Shondaland would be awesome, you need to be careful about focusing your goals quite so tightly. Most (good) assistants stick around for a couple of years. The producers at Shondaland can’t go without their assistant for very long; they won’t spend more than a couple weeks looking for a replacement.

That’s a very narrow window of opportunity. You basically have to hope that they need an assistant at the same time you need a job.

The same goes for any PAs who want to land a specific series. It’s so hard to know if and when they’ll need a PA, and what specific qualifications they’re looking for. Sometimes they want an experienced PA, sometimes they want someone they can train. Sometimes they want eye-candy to hang around they office while the other PAs do all the work.1

When looking for work, you gotta go with the shotgun approach. Apply to any and all jobs that you’re qualified for and can tolerate for the length of employment. Otherwise, you’ll spend a long time in the unemployment office.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
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The Importance of Variety

No, not the magazine. I mean variety in food.

As a PA, food will unfortunately take up quite a bit of your brainspace. It can be frustrating, because you didn’t go to film school to become a caterer, right?

Often times, this means you’ll go into auto-pilot when it comes to crafty, second meal, or what have you. This is why an entire fridge gets stocked with Coke, Diet Coke, and water, or of the fifteen pizzas by crafty, ten are pepperoni, four are cheese, and one is veggie.

It’s because these flavors are standard. Pretty much anybody will take a slice of one of those pizzas, or grab one of those sodas. But the thing is, they’re not anybody’s favorites

See, people like different things. (I know that’s obvious, but sometimes obvious things need to be stated.) So why not get different things?

If you’re ordering fifteen pizzas, sure, get three pepperonis. But also get Hawaiian, bacon,1 barbecue, veggie, supreme, and on and on. They will all get eaten, I promise, and odds are, one of those is someone’s favorite.

Same with the soda; if you’re only getting a couple twelve packs, start with Coke and Diet Coke. But if you’re stocking up for the whole office for the season, throw in some Cherry Coke or cream soda or ginger ale. Give people some options.

This principle applies to any kind of crafty or snacks, from fruit to candy, too. You’ll learn pretty quickly which flavors people like, and which will sit on the shelf for 22 episodes.

Like oatmeal raisin cookies. Nobody fucking likes oatmeal raisin.

Fuckin' oatmeal raisin.

Will you ever not fall for that?

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. I swear to Christ, every time I suggest ordering bacon, people look at me like I have three heads, and every time, it’s the first pizza that’s gone.
Posted in On the Job | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Music Video Shoot

No post today, because I’m PAing on a music video for the first time today. I’m actually kind of excited.

Anybody have any advice for me for once?

Posted in On the Job | Tagged | 4 Comments