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Cold Calling, and Music Videos

I googled "Yoshi tongue", and... ew.  I didn't know furries' tastes extended to dinosaurs.

Reader Yoshi writes:

One major thing you’ve omitted is getting work on commercials and music videos.  I got all these leads off various sources, but I’m not sure what the protocol is when cold calling them, since you’re not calling a p.o..  Who do I ask for and what do I say?

I wish I knew.

From what I hear, the pay on commercials and music videos is ridiculous.  Money coming out their ears.  In a way, this makes sense, since the work is far less steady.

But I’ve only worked in features and television.  This is one of the bizarre things I’ve learned about the Industry.  Different mediums don’t really mix.  Television people don’t know movie people, movie people don’t know commercial people.  I honestly don’t know if commercial and music video people ever intersect.

It’s just one of those things.  Honestly, I didn’t even know they didn’t have production office.  Perhaps one of my other readers can help you out more?

Also, you got any tips on how to NOT be intimidated by cold calling p.o.’s?  This whole deal with calling someone in the middle of their workday to ask for work really intimidates me for some reason (even though I’m usually really outgoing).

The way to deal with this is the same way you deal with hitting on a hot girl at a bar.  Know going in that you are going to be rejected.  There are literally hundreds of other people who want the exact same position you do.  (Take that in whichever sense you want.)

The only option for you is volume.  One girl/job rejects you?  Talk to another one.  And another one.  And another one.

It’s an mathematical certainty you won’t get the job.  Now, go ahead and be pleasantly surprised when you do.

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10 Responses

  1. I work commercials and music videos as a PA. I’ve been doing it about a year now, and I don’t get as much work as i’d like. I get paid 200/Day on large scale, union crew, music videos and commercials. The big companies in Los Angeles that produce music videos are HSI. RSA. BLACK DOG. PRETTY BIRD. DNA. SMUGGLER. ARSENAL. etc…. These companies have production offices set up for freelance teams, so there are offices. Then the production office is in a MOHO or stage on the day of the shoot. Most of the PAs I know got on as a must hire of the A.D., Producer, E.P., or Director and simply worked hard and got to know coordinatiors and production managers to call when they were in need of work. I’ve also met quite a few PAs that were on music video sets that the record label put on as must hires that are interns for the record label (they usually suck and dont last) Also the production companies that are running these jobs sometimes have a lucky intern they will put on a video. Good luck to all – its not very easy to be a PA.

  2. This is an older post but im reading my reader backwards…. just wanted to say I also don’t rec the “show up and blow up” approach, the professional shows will get uuuuber pissed at you. Don’t touch a stranger’s stuff man. If you wanna be pushy, find a person with a walkie and start talking to him when he looks bored.

  3. I work commercial production as a PA in Chicago.
    The only way I know of to break in is to make friends with some of the other PA’s and get them to toss your name to coordinators to day play. From there it’s all about working hard and finding a way to be remembered. I would also advise against showing up uninvited although I have seen it work, I have also seen it backfire. Mostly, I would suggest patience it took me more than a year of freelancing to start getting steady work.

  4. I worked on an indie feature in NYC last summer and everyone on the camera crew was doing a mix of indie features and television shows which they preferred for the longer, steady work commitments. The camera operator had done over 400 music videos, tons of TV and movies.

    Could be one of those east coast / west coast differences.

  5. Jamie, please be careful advising people to just show up and just start working. 1, it’s an insurance liability to have people working that aren’t employed by you. They aren’t covered by worker’s comp, or if god forbid they should break a piece of equipment or something, the insurance doesn’t have to cover it because they are not covered by the contract. 2, the person just showing up and working has no idea what unions are involved. If you’re not in the electrician’s union, most times you’re not allowed to so much as run a stinger 20 feet across the set, etc.

    Also, asking questions is the only way you’re going to learn what to do. Just be smart about who and when you’re asking!

  6. If you can find out where a commercial production is shooting, show up and just start working. Grab a sandbag and start carrying things. Offer to help, and don’t say no. I’m serious. It works. You need to start knowing poeple that work. Unfortunately (and for good reason) you have to work for free for a while til people can see a reason to hire you. Either way, every niche has it’s pool of people that you need to meet. The sooner you dip your toes into the pool, the sooner you start making working relationships.

    Cold calling sucks, and it is just like being at a bar and hitting on a girl. Do it, and do it often and you might land something. If you have references and a resume, that makes you look better.

    Don’t be the schmuck who ask’s really green questions and tells people what you want to do in the industry. That’s the most obvious and annoying trait of a PA. I like pa’s that work hard, don’t talk, and do exactly what I ask of them. In return, I answer any questions they might have, and I try to hire them again. Don’t try to accomplish too much in one gig. It takes time.

  7. Mr. Jefferson is right. It’s theoretically possible to get a commercial PA job by cold-calling, but the odds are about the same as buying a winning Lotto ticket.

    Commercials are a very high-pressure deal, which means they never take a chance on somebody they don’t know or who doesn’t come highly recommended. You really have to know somebody — an AD, UPM, Coordinator, a PA who works for one or two production companies — or even a crew member. During my dozen or so years as a commercial gaffer, I recommended a couple of good PA’s I’d met on crappy jobs to coordinators for solid commercial companies, and both of those kids were subsequently hired.

    I’ve been out of the commercial loop for a decade now, and from what I hear, life is a lot tougher. Competition from Canada and the other states sucked the life out of commercials in the U.S. during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Some of the biz has come back, but now the crew mostly works on 12 hour rates, and usually with very short manpower. Back in my day, commercial PA’s got anywhere from $125 to $150/day. I have no idea what they make nowadays, but it’s probably better than features or TV due to the short duration of a commercial job.

    If you don’t know anyone who can recommend you, the best bet might be showing up at the production company office with a resume in hand. Let them see you — that way you’ll be more than just a disembodied voice on the other end of the phone. Be polite but persistent, and keep calling back after that personal visit. Stop by once a month or so, and be nice to the receptionist — learn her name and don’t forget it. Eventually you might happen to call or visit at the exact right time to catch a break and get a job. When you do, make it count.

    I don’t know how you pay the rent and eat in the meantime, but everybody starting out faces that problem.

    If you work your ass off, have a good attitude,and demonstrate some smarts, they might call you back. Impress them enough, and your name will begin to circulate — then you’ll be on your way up the shit-stained ladder of Hollywood suck-cess.

    Along with commercials, I did way too many music videos back in the day. I soon came to detest the goddamned things — and I love all kinds of good music. The idea of working on a video sounds great at first, but the reality is unbelievably loud and endlessly repetitive. If you like the song at the start of the day, you’ll hated it by wrap, after being sonically bludgeoned for 12 to 24 hours. But the same rules should apply — show your face, be polite, have a sense of humor, and keep trying.

    It’s not gonna be easy, though, especially now. These are some of the worst times I’ve ever seen in this town. Still, good things can happen if you put in the work and have a little luck.

  8. Most of the work I used to do was in commercials. As a PA, you want to get to know the production coordinators. They are the ones who hire the PA’s.

    How do you get to know a production coordinator? Good question. Usually, it’s through someone who knows someone.

    When I first started, I got my first gig as a PA via an add in Dramalogue. Yes, I’m that old. But that was a dead end.

    Back in the early 90’s I got a tour of the Quantum Leap set. While there, I struck up a conversation with some crew members. One thing lead to another and they invited me back. Working for free of course. Then one day, one of the crew members gave me a name and phone number of a now defunct production office. That’s how it started for me. I got to meet one PC, which lead to another, etc. At the end of my first year as a PA, I had a list of about 15 PC’s I could call for work.

    I moved to LA, didn’t know a soul and was able to make it. Hard work, paying attention and not grossly screwing up adds up to repeat work. LOL

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