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Mail Bag

I haven’t kept up with the ol’ mail bag like I should’ve.  Time to play catch up.

Rob writes:

You had mentioned that you walked into an interview and impressed them despite wearing a t-shirt and jeans and being unshaven. You got the job.

Do you have any tips on how to ace an interview? Especially for someone like me who has never worked as a PA before?

Tip one: Shave.  (You too, ladies.)  It was a stupid risk I took, coming in all sloppy.  I’ve done it on another occasion, and I failed miserably.  Don’t mistake a humorous anecdote for actual advice.

Tip two: Do your research.  Figure out who the players are and find something, anything, you can talk to your interviewer about.  There will be small talk, so at least have something prepared.

Tip three: Be friendly. 90% of the interview is to ensure that you’re not creepy or a drooling idiot.  They already liked your resume.  The job is basically yours to lose at this point.

– – –

Ben writes:

I graduated from film school in California last year and have been living in London the past 6 months freelance PAing (on set), mostly working on music videos. I am planning on coming back to California in a matter of a week or two and am beginning to freak out over my lack of contacts in LA (and the fact that 90% of the work I have managed to get since graduation has been in music videos and commercials rather than features or TV, which is where I ultimately want to work).

What I am wondering is how I can best land a job PAing in general, and on pilots this season specifically. Is it too late for me this season? If not, do you suggest cold calling production companies, or is there a better way these days?  I managed to get work over here in the UK by interning unpaid for a production company for a couple weeks, and they began to send jobs my way and threw my name around with their contacts. Is such a plan feasible back home? I don’t usually hear of such internships in LA, so I’m concerned as to how to get going in a new town.

Interning is a great way to make contacts, but you can’t intern without being in school.  It’s against California law to hire someone without paying them; also, there are liability concerns.

As far as how to find jobs, just click the “Finding a Job” category on the right side of the page and read on.

And pilots?  They’re done.  You’re looking for series now.

– – –

Joyce asks:

I’ve been thinking I should get business cards to pass around. Your opinion? And if yes, would it just have my name and contact information?

I’m sort of divided on this.  On the one hand, a business card makes it look like you take yourself way to seriously.  On the other, it gives people you meet something physical to remember you by.

Truth be told, I don’t know of any PAs that do it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.

– – –

Joel writes:

I’m sending in some resumes and cover letters to a bunch of different productions and I was wondering if it is appropriate to specify which department you want to work in.  I’m interested in working in camera– should you call the production office and ask for the camera department and talk to someone with them, or is that not really an option?

The camera department probably doesn’t have a phone.  They’re on a truck.

Every production office I’ve ever worked in collects resumes for all the departments, and I’ve never once seen a department head ask for those resumes.  It’s a weird sort of kabuki we do.

Generally, department heads hire people they know.  The way to get to know a department head is by working in lesser positions and making friends.  It’s why I work in the office, to meet writers.  You should get a set PA job and make friends with the ACs.

– – –

Lastly, Nathan, my second fan, offered me this news:

PA Bootcamp has both of our blogs linked on their homepage now.  I’m not complaining, but WTF?

Cute.  All publicity is good publicity, I guess.

Although, they do list me as “Anonymous Assistant,” when the title of the blog is properly “The Anonymous Production Assistant.”  I registered with WordPress as “anonymousassistant” with the hopes that, someday soon, I would be a writer’s assistant, and the blog’s title could change without affecting the address.

Going further afield of the point, when I first started, googling “anonymous assistant” would land you with this chick. I wasn’t even on the first 100 pages.  Now, I’m the top hit.  Woohoo!

Anyway.

I received a few emails from Das Bootcamp last month, including one addressed to Nathan.  (They even invited me to meet them at a camp session, seemingly missing the point of the whole “anonymous” thing.)  At my wife’s behest, I discontinued my baiting of the group, and never responded to those e-mails.  Still, in the spirit of today’s post, I present to you those e-mails, in all their glory.

These are, by the way, copy-and-pasted from my inbox.  I’m not going to go and [sic] the hell out of these letters, much as they may deserve it.  Just assume the spelling and grammatical mistakes are the writer’s own.  Or, possibly a secret code activating their sleeper agents trained in a “P.A. Bootcamp.” (Which, I should note, is a misspelling in and of itself.)

From April 7, 7:39 AM–

P.a. Bootcamp Thank you for your posting.

Your negative “opinion” could cost us. But you have the right to it, and if you don’t care about others helpful services who are we to be critical. As long as your readers understand that this is your OPINON and not based on any FACTUAL EXPERIENCE with P.a. Bootcamp, we wish your blog all the best.

You have people however now jumping on the ban bootcamp bandwagon and it will continue to cause a stir. We understand it is getting your blog more attention which is great but it has the potential to hurt others in the process.

Poster JOSH is saying that we go after people who don’t praise us. That isn’t true. We feel unfairly passed judgement on by people who trash us before having any right to. If one of your posters were to attend, find it not worth their time and money than they have every right. Would you say a meal is going to taste bad before trying. Would you day a movie sucks before viewing. Would you comment to a set of parents that having children is a drag to everyone?

If you don’t care and this doesn’t effect you, so be it. We have the right to speak, as much as you do, so we are sharing our thoughts.

Telling you that attending could make a believer out of you, you addressed that on your blog. But then implied that isn’t enough. What would you like? Our staff to not be able to pay rent and bills and provide you all that we teach?
This seems a bit stupid for business sense no?

We’d like suggestions from you. You are so wise at this, how would you go about making P.a. Bootcamp sound worth it? Close up shop and start giving these years of accumulated knowledge from multiple crew members out to people for free? Try for quantity and not quality? Don’t help production, or the A.D.’s just tell everyone the same rule applies to every show and every department? Mislead people who really want to learn?

From April 7, 9:45 AM–

We wanted to take the time to thank you.

Hello. We would like to take the time and thank you for your blog.
You have helped us gain more campers, surprising, with the economy being what it is. As often as blogs do, it stirs interest. We are quite happy with these results. You set out to do that, you have succeeded, and helped our small business in return. Thank you again. We hope we can return the favor some day.

We don’t want to cause any controversy on your blog. We won’t be participating in comment (until we need free press again maybe)
But we wanted to take a minute to thank you.

🙂

All the best.

-P.A. BOOTCAMP STAFF www.pabootcamp.com

From April 7, 2:52 PM–

Hello.

I’m assuming this is Nathan,

My name is Charles Canzoneri.  I am not an owner of P.A. Bootcamp, but I do work for them.

Things have quickly turned unfortunate, and rereading the posts, I see it is not entirely your fault.  You initial post contained a flippant comment about the “course guide”, but it appears that reader Josh has really fanned the flames with his remarks.  From there, a couple of members we have on staff to look for internet traffic have taken it upon themselves to protect the company’s interests.

For some, this has become a main source of income during the production slowdown brought on by the current economy and lack of a SAG agreement.  (I’ve been lucky to be working full time on “The Office”.)  That is why the replies from our side have been harshly defensive.  We apologize.

You state that you are traveling and that you may blog about all this.  Before posting a judgement, I would like to invite you to meet with members of our staff, perhaps even during a camp session.  We are a legitimate business whose members work within the Film and television industry in a variety of positions (mostly P.A.’s and A.D.’s.)

Of course, you can post what you wish, and I know you have no control over your readers and their comments.  But I would like you to see the camp for yourself, and ask your questions to us directly about the camp’s content and price.  Maybe we can help you to see (as you put it) “the point.”

When I first heard of P.A. Bootcamp, I was completely unconvinced.  I thought you could train somebody everything they need to know in an hour or two.  I was invited to see the camp and was amazed by how much there is to learn.  And yes, some of it can be learned in a “trial by fire” basis over time.  But with the camp, P.A.’s arrive completely ready to handle the rough sets and the harsh A.D.’s.  They don’t burn the bridge of the first sets they get on.  The camp weeds out people who have the wrong idea about what’s required and how a set really operates.  While everybody retains their own knowledge and learns at their own pace.  There is a definite improvement to a Bootcamp trained P.A. over an untrained one.

After seeing the camp, I was convinced, and asked to help them out.  That was 3 years ago.  The camp is so much better now than it was then.

Charles Canzoneri
P.A. Bootcamp Staff

And again from Chuck, on April 7 at 7:15 PM–

Hello, from Chuck Canzoneri

Wasn’t sure if you received it at my account from work, so I’m using the main Bootcamp computer.

I’m assuming this is Nathan.

My name is Chuck Canzoneri.  I’m not the owner of P.A. Bootcamp and I don’t run it, but I do work for them.

Things have quickly turned unfortunate and rereading the posts, I see it is not entirely your fault.  Your initial post did contain a flip comment about the “course guide”, but it’s the reader/commenter Josh that really fanned the flames with his remarks.  You questioned the need for such a camp, while he called us an outright “scam.”

From there, a couple of members we have on staff that do internet research, email replies, site updates and network traffic watching took it upon themselves to protect the company’s interests.  They even got a couple of former campers to respond.

For some, this business has become a primary source of income during the production slowdown brought on by the current economy and lack of a SAG agreement.  (I’ve been lucky, working full time on “The Office.”)  This is why the replies from our side have been harshly defensive.  We apologize.

You state that you are traveling, but will probably blog about all this.  Before posting judgement, I would like to invite you to meet with members of our staff, perhaps even during a camp session.  We are a legitimate business whose members work within the Film and Television industry in a variety of positions (mostly P.A.’s and A.D.’s).

Of course, you can post what you wish, and I know you have no control over your readers and their comments.  But I would like you to see the camp for yourself, and ask your questions to us directly about the camp’s content and price.  Maybe we can help you to see “the point”, as you put it.

When I first heard of P.A. Bootcamp, I was also completely unconvinced.  I thought you could train somebody everything they need to know in an hour or two.  I was invited to see the camp and was amazed by how much there is to learn, stuff that I just take for granted. (Over 270 terms…we really do speak a different language.)  And yes, some of it can be learned in a “trial by fire” basis over time.  But with the camp, P.A.’s arrive completely ready to handle the rough sets and the harsh A.D.’s.  They don’t burn their bridges on the first sets they day-play on.  They can move into staff positions immediately.

The camp also weeds out people who have the wrong idea about what’s required and how a set operates.  While everybody learns and retains that knowledge at their individual skill level, there’s a definite improvement to a Bootcamp trained P.A. over a completely green one.  Think about a screenwriter.  They don’t need to read “Adventures in The Screen Trade” or “Story” or take Robert McKee’s seminar to write Pulp Fiction.  But there’s a reason why these resources are so popular.  They put your head in the right place so you can deliver what’s expected.

After seeing the camp, I was so convinced that I asked if I could help out.  That was 3 years ago, when they only had around 150 terms and the cost was $175.  P.A. Bootcamp is constantly evolving, and the camp of 3 years ago is a pale shadow to the current incarnation.

Chuck Canzoneri
P.A. Bootcamp Staff

Phew.  Those have been sitting in my in-box for a month, staring at me, pleading to be responded to.  But I think I’ll leave the responses to you, dear readers.

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13 Responses

  1. Love it !!!!
    I went to PA boot camp last week, I was very skeptical at first and I can honestly say that I wasn’t disappointed, its worth it.

    Leigh and her crew compress more than 20 years of experience into a 2 day weekend hands on class on ‘everything P. A’. We had experienced P.A attendees that were eager and prepared to get back into the entertainment industry and try out P.A bootcamp’s new skills. I learned a lot about making film from prep to post and every departmental functions and my involvement as a P.A
    I wasn’t bored because they kept us busy and we all enjoyed every aspect of the class.

    Highly recommend Quixote P.A Bootcamp.

    I forgot to mention, they genuinely want to see every attendee succeed; they are helping me with my resume and they have my name on their work data base. They are very busy but they still find the time to email me and answer questions. I also know a few people that have found work after attending PA Boot camp.

    THANK YOU QUIXOTE P.A BOOTCAMP

  2. “P.A. Bootcamp” doesn’t seem like a scam to me. It looks to me that their primary focus group are those who have very little experience within the film industry. I doubt a person with 5 years of experience or someone fresh out of film school would be attend, but somebody who is seeking a career change or an alternative to film school may be a little more interested.

    It’s also a nice way to network which is a plus no matter what.

  3. I swear the next time they email you, they’ll be from Nigeria and will need your help to get some widow’s money out of the country.

  4. Ever notice that they ever rarely reply just ONCE and wait for another comment/e-mail? They usually reply two or three times in a row. Honestly, it’s kind of creepy. It looks like someone with multiple personalities.

    This is a question for people who DON’T work at “P.A. Bootcamp” –
    Have you ever seen a legit company be this fervent in answering critics on a blog? I certainly haven’t. Between the comments on blogs and the multiple e-mails, they show that they’re defensive, aggressive and unrestrained. These e-mails just cement what I already have figured out and will continue to say . . . “P.A. Bootcamp” is a scam.

  5. All this discussion really is doing is cementing the fact of why I shouldn’t spend the money on this “boot camp” I think working for 5 years as a PA for both public and commercial television is quite enough.

    The only thing I could see to get out of it is industry contacts, but I figure if I just grin and bare it and work a few shoots for free, I can make contacts that way too.

    Carry on sir.

  6. I’m highly amused.

    Since I don’t see them linking me as claiming that I endorse them, I’m not going to get my panties into a twist. (I still don’t claim to have enough first hand knowledge about them to either endorse or to pan them.)

    Three points though…

    1. They’ve reworked their website quite extensively, not only naming some people who endorse them, but actually naming an owner and credentials. I probably would have had little or nothing to say if that’s how their site looked the first time I went there.

    2. One of those emails you got said they’d stop commenting here…but someone else didn’t get the memo. (See comments to the Anniversary Post).

    3. I still want to know if the first person to send me a barrage of emails was suitably slapped down for stupidity above and beyond the call of duty.

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