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

Working at a Rental Place

Sorry, no Crew Call episode today. We conducted an interview, but the recording got messed up.1 Instead, here’s a regular ol’ blog post.

Lana writes in:

I currently work at a camera rental house and am constantly in communication with production coordinators on shows around town. I recently have been talking through email with a coordinator on a show that we just did some work for. I’d like to approach them about work but, for multiple reasons, I’m slightly hesitant.

I understand the boss could find out, but I’m not too worried about that. I just want to approach this person professionally and defiantly but in the circumstances I’ve been given.

Speaking of Crew Call, several of our guests have suggested doing exactly this– get a job at a rental house, so you can get to know the people that work in production. Now, obviously, working at a camera place, you’re more likely to run into camera assistants than anyone else, but as Lana demonstrates, you never know who you’ll meet.

The first thing to keep in mind is, don’t just straight-up ask for a job. The most likely answer is “No,” and you’ll sound presumptuous.

Instead, develop a rapport with them. Be friendly and professional. Do your job very, very well. (Why would the coordinator hire you if you’re not doing your current job well?)

It looks as if Lana has followed the above steps. After you’re comfortable, you can send an email (or have a chat on the phone) where you mention that you’re interested in working in production. You’d be happy to send along your resume, if she has an opening, or knows someone who does.

That’s it. Simple as that. I don’t imagine the coordinator would mention it to your boss, or that your boss would care. This sort of thing happens all the time.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Irreparably, this time.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Not Personable

Em writes in:

I’m terrible at networking, which is a great hindrance on the progress of my career. I have a lot of social anxiety especially when I first meet someone. Just the thought of a meetup with a bunch of strangers gives me a panic attack.

What’s worse is that a lot of early work in almost every department is day-playing gigs. The best connections I’ve made only happen after a few days of working with the same people when I start to get comfortable and come out of my shell.

I’ve been told I’m likable but the first day or two working with people I’m all business, very serious and not all that personable. If all I get is that one or two days with those people, I never hear from them again which is always a bummer.

I practice my craft on unpaid projects or by sharing my work anonymously online and have seen the quality of my work increase a lot from when I first started. Yet I feel like I should be much further along professionally if only I could make things easier for myself socially.

There’s only one good way to put this: fake it.

Like anything else, networking takes practice. You have to practice being friendly and practice smiling. You have to be aware of your posture and facial expressions. All of these things take a certain amount of mental energy and focus. But if you keep reminding yourself, you’ll get better.

The nice thing, if you’re shy or an introvert, is that you don’t have to be outgoing. People love a good listener. Pay attention to what others are saying, be interested.

If it takes you a couple days to get comfortable talking with the rest of the crew, that’s okay. Just hang around. Be part of the group, even if you don’t have something to say. Especially if you don’t have something to say.

I know it seems daunting, now, but keep at it. You’ll get better, I promise.

Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged | Leave a comment

No College Degree

Jen writes in:

I’ve been a PA, Set Dresser, Costume Assistant, and Location Scout on films, commercials, and photo shoots. I’m thinking of moving to LA soon. My goal is to be a writer. I thought the best way to start, is to get a job as a reader at a studio or an assistant in the writing department for a tv show. I didn’t finish my college degree. It seems to be a requirement on the UTA job list. With this in mind, is it likely I’d land a job as a low level reader or writing assistant? Is it all based on who you know?

As you’ve read many times on this blog, you don’t need to go to film school.

But not having a college degree at all can be harmful to your prospects, as Jen attests.

It’s not that going to university necessarily makes you smarter.1 All a degree really proves is that you were able to maintain a minimum grade point average long enough to finish college.  So why is this a requirement for so many jobs?

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Think about it– four years2 is a big commitment. For most college-aged students, it’s about 20% of their lives. It shows an ability to follow through on long-term goals. Yes, you could point to some rich, legacy students who can skate by on their family name, or athletes who get tutored through remedial courses,3 but they’re the exception.

Back to Jen’s question: what if you didn’t get your degree, for whatever reason? Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it was a good reason (working hard to support your family) or a shitty one (you got kicked out for partying too hard). In most cases, all you’ve got is a resume and a cover letter, neither of which is long enough to accommodate your life story.

At this point, you probably don’t want to go back to school, and who can blame you? But you can get production experience without a degree, as Jen clearly shows. And with that experience comes a network of friends and acquaintances who like you, like your work, and want to help you out.

So, in a sense, yes,  it is “all based on who you know.” But that doesn’t mean you have to be a Barrymore or a Coppola to get ahead. No matter what your job is, do your best; be the most fantastic PA/set dresser/costume assistant/location scout there is.

Then, make it known that you want to be a writer. Or at least a writer’s assistant. Tell anyone who will listen. When they see what a hard worker you are, they’ll think, “Yeah, I bet she could get my coffee and erase the white boards.”

Don’t be obnoxious about it, but don’t be shy, either. Your path may be more circuitous than people who went to college, but if you forge ahead, you can still arrive at the same destination.

I don’t know why, but that just made me think of this scene:

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Hell, it can make you dumber.
  2. Or more.
  3. Note I said “some,” not “all.” No snotty comments, please.
Posted in Finding a Job | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What’s the Secret to Comedy?

Melanie writes in:

I’m currently in a situation where I’ll need a new job in January. I can’t start any earlier because of prior commitments. I’m primarily looking for work at one of the networks. I know that it may be difficult to find PA jobs at this time, but if I find one is now a good time to apply? If I apply now, get an interview at the end of this month or beginning of December, and say I won’t be available until January will I disqualify myself?

The secret to applying for a job is the same as it is for comedtiming.1

You have to apply when they need a PA. Usually, that’s, like, the day before. Apply too late (i.e. a day or two after the job posting), and they’ll never even see your resume. Apply too early, and your resume will be filed in a binder, and will never be seen again.

Applying months ahead of time isn’t going to work. Even assuming you get an interview, they won’t hold the job for you. They need someone now.

However, something about the tone of your email implies to me that you’re new to the business. If that’s the case, you may actually get something out of applying for jobs that you know you can’t take.

First, you can try different looks for your resume, and see which ones get a response. If you do get an interview? Great! Time to practice. See what it’s like. The odds are still against you landing the job, but you now have a new contact and a new experience.

But don’t for a second hope that they’ll hold the PA job until January just for you. They’ve got a show to make.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. I can’t find video of this sketch online, but believe me, it’s hilarious.
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November Networking at the One Up

Once again, TAPA is teaming up with Film Industry LA (and their organizer David Mendez) to co-host another Industry-wide mixer.

Sunday, November 23rd, we’ll be gathering at The One Up, which describes itself as “a bizarre Love Triangle between a cool neighborhood bar, a sexy lounge and an 80’s arcade…with delicious food to share.” They’ve got 15 arcades with 400 classic arcade games.1 Plus, we’re meeting during happy hour, which starts at 4:00pm. It’s going to be awesome.

The One Up is at 13625 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423:

Invite your friends on the Facebook event page.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. For my younger readers– it’s like playing a game your cell phone, except the cabinet big enough that you could fit inside, and can hold only one game at a time.
Posted in The Industry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Transportation Coordinator Michael Perrotti

Play

Today’s guest is one of my favorite people in the world, even though he doesn’t know I’m me.1

Michael Perrotti has been a transportation coordinator since before I even had a license. He’s done movie, TV shows, commercials, you name it. He’s currently the head of the transportation department on Teen Wolf, which should tell you how awesome he is. Also, the Veronica Mars movie! Basically, Mike is in charge of all the cars on my favorite nerd shows.

Even if you’re not into cars (which I’m totally not), you’ll enjoy the wide-ranging discussion that covers everything from the work ethic of teamsters to actors who can’t drive. Also, he has some great advice for dealing with traffic, something most PAs will appreciate.

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

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

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Well, he knows me, but he doesn’t know I’m TAPA.
Posted in Crew Call, On the Job | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment