Emailing Strangers

Danielle asks:

I recently graduated college, during which I had internships on the corporate side of three different television stations (all headquartered in NYC). Since graduating, I’m looking to move into the production side but don’t have the contact base required, since the stations outsourced to external production houses.

Through some serious stalking, I uncovered the email addresses of several AD’s who shoot primarily in NY. The issue is that the email addresses aren’t work-related – i.e. one of them is for the AD’s extracurricular band. Do you think it’s completely unprofessional if I reach out for a job this way?

Yes.

While it’s not unusual for people to use their personal emails for work, that doesn’t mean they want unsolicited emails from strangers.  You even said you had to do some “serious stalking.”  It’s not like these ADs have their email address on the navigation bar of their websites, under “Do you have a question? A story you’d like to share? Maybe a complaint? E-mail me.”

The only exception I can think of is if it’s clearly a work-only email.  Something that ends in, say, cbs.com or warnerbrothers.com.  In that case, it’s probably okay to send something like,

Hi, AD X.

I’m a recent graduate of Film School X.  I have interned at WXYZ, WZYX, and WYXZ.  My goal is to move into production.  If you have any openings on your show, even as a day player, I hope you will consider me.

I’ve attached my resume for your convenience.

Best,

Danielle.

Don’t expect a response anytime soon.  ADs aren’t big on higher PAs without recommendations.

Even though your stations outsourced everything, someone there must know someone in production.  Maybe not directly, but a friend of a friend of a friend.  All you have to do is ask.

– – –

This was a rather serious post.  Here, enjoy some Cyanide & Happiness:

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11 Comments

  1. I sent the original question/email to APA and I went against his advice (sorry) and sent an email to the AD anyway, fully aware that I might receive a lashing in return or never hear back from him. I’m more on the ‘take risks’ side of the fence and in this case it paid off. The AD did email me back and could not have been nicer and more informative. He said he normally didn’t do the hiring but would inquire about available openings with his 2nd AD’s. He even made a comment about how hard it was to break into the industry and wished me the best of luck.

  2. I think that with the kind of financial situation you’re in is probably what should influence your decision.

    If you Need the job badly, you should go on a limb and email the guy.

    If you don’t, or if you want to play it safe, you should try to official way.

  3. The hard thing about anything is starting, and in the case of the film industry it is getting your foot in the door. Thanks for the application letter template here – it’s straightforward and clear, and I will probably use that in my next application. In return I wanted to share this blog post listing many filmmaker resources, from festivals, to contests and schools – it helped me a lot as well.
    http://clicky.me/filmmaker

  4. i think the main problem with the post’s example and abby’s example is that the person emailed asking for a job. don’t email asking for a job! email asking for advice or an informational meeting. emailing for a job without a relationship is a quick trip to the trash bin. emailing because you admire their work, success, and experience and want to pick their brain may ultimately end up with employment

  5. Abby – all that your story proves is that SOMETIMES it doesn’t work. Some AD’s are grumpy and overworked and hate their lives. At least your friend tried. She may not have gotten a job out of it but she was 100% guaranteed not to get a job if she didn’t try at all.

  6. It can absolutely hurt you to email an AD’s personal email address. I have a friend who wanted to work on a movie in town, so he called the production office to get the ADs email address. Whatever PA that answered the phone gave him the AD’s personal email instead of his work one. Not knowing this, my friend send the AD a friendly email explaining that he was looking to pick up some work, and if there were any openings on the set he’d love to be a part of it. Friend attached his resume so AD could see that friend actually did have some experience and wasn’t just a schmuck off the street. AD emailed my friend back LAMBASTING him for sending an email to his personal address and swearing he’d never hire him for any job because of it. Friend emailed AD back apologizing, explaining the mix up, but the AD did not respond and still hasn’t hired friend for any jobs. And it’s been two years. So please be careful sending blind emails.

  7. I strongly disagree with you APA (and Matty Matt). It’s not dumb. True, 99.9% of the time it wont get you a job. But nothing bad can come of it. It’s all about networking. If the AD doesn’t want to help you, then he/she wont respond. I’ve done this quite a few times, and I’ve had ADs invite me out to set for a visit, or a meet and greet. A few have told me emailing them and other ADs is the right thing to do when looking for work. 99% of the time you wont get a response. But there’s no secret websites black listing annoying wannabe PAs who email ADs. If you don’t play the lottery, you can’t win. Networking, Networking, Networking.

    It also depends on your level of “stalking”. I like to think of it more as research. 🙂 I figure the internet is this century’s phone book. If you want to opt out of the phone book, make your facebook profile private (wink, wink). 🙂 if you’re really worried about it, google yourself, find out what’s out there, and remove the info. User responsibility folks. In my opinion, the only exception to that is Facebook. Facebook can be touchy. With all the privacy settings changing all the time, it’s hard know what’s supposed to be private and what’s not. We’re still figuring out the culture with that website and what’s acceptable and what’s not. sometimes it feels like someone peered in your bedroom windows if you get an unsolicited email or message on that site. Again, it all depends on what you mean by stalking. “Dear AD, I was doing research online and came across your email….” rather than “Dear AD, I found your email after I went through your trash outside your home after I followed you home from work.”

    It also depends on what you want to do. You’ll have better luck emailing ADs if you want to be an AD and you specify that. I’ve found that ADs like PAs who want to be ADs (which makes a lot of sense). Not PAs who want to be grips or boom ops, let alone above the line.

    And Hollywood Assistant is right on the money in his area. If you’re looking to be someone’s assistant or something like that, email that person directly. I’ve known quite a few people in this line of work and they always say it’s worth a shot.

  8. Taking risks does not mean sending unsolicited emails to an ADs personal email address. That’s just dumb.

  9. I strongly disagree. It’s really really difficult to get a job in entertainment these days and if you don’t go out on a limb and take risks, someone else is going to do it and they’re going to get hired over you.

    If you want to get ahead, you CANNOT let ANYONE outwork you. You need to be doing everything in your power to get noticed.

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