Listen up, all of you who are trying to get your start in this business. This is the most important advice I will ever give you. In fact, it may well be the most important advice anyone ever gives you about Hollywood.
FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF.
I realize it’s oxymoronic to advise not asking for advice, especially on an advice blog. It’s also ironic, coming from someone who religiously listens to the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast, and reads at least a dozen writer blogs.
Nevertheless, it is true advice.
The other day, my boss was telling me about his first day as a PA. His boss asked him to pick up some crafty from the grocery store. Instead of asking where the store was, my boss just took the list and walked out the door…
To the parking lot, where he sat in his car and dialed 411. (This was pre-smartphones.) He got the address of the closest Ralph’s, looked it up in his Thomas Guide (I guess it was pre-GPS, too), and went on his merry way, in what I must assume was a Model-T.
The point is, he didn’t bother his boss with trivial matters. He figured it out for himself.
Contrast that with the daily emails I receive that ask, “How do I get a job?”
Now, there is a link at the top of my page that reads, “HOW TO FIND A JOB.” Seriously, it’s big and bold and everything. There’s also a search bar on the right, just above a list of categories that includes “Finding a Job.”1
I don’t mean to impugn my readership, but seriously? Seriously.
Every time I screw something up, my boss tells me, “You’ll never be a director until you can do this job perfectly.”
It’s a scary thought, but true.
Figuring things out not only shows initiative, it’s actually part of your job. The whole purpose of a PA is to do shit no one else wants to do. And more than anything, no one wants to worry about the details. Every production coordinator and AD I know would love to have even a single PA who just does what they’re told, without having to ask a million little questions.
A PA who can figure it out.
This doesn’t apply only to PA’s, either. As William Goldman pointed out, and countless others before have quoted, “Nobody knows anything.” This business is unpredictable, and unforgiving. No one will ever really be able to tell you how to succeed, not even the people who are successes themselves.
You’ll have to figure that out for yourself, too.
- Edit: The layout of the site has been modified since this was originally posted. Still, the general point stands.↩