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PA vs. Intern

Haley commented recently:

Thanks for your Blog of awesomeness!

So, I just got an interview to be an Art Dept. intern on a new Showtime series (yay!), and I had two questions for you. 1) What is the difference between a PA and an Intern on set?

Legally, it means you can’t work. No, really. Don’t take my word for it:

In order to qualify as an unpaid internship, the requirement is simple:  no work can be performed that is of any benefit at all to the company.  That is, you can not deliver mail, sort files, file papers, organize a person’s calendar, conduct market research, write reports, watch television shows and report on them, read scripts, schedule interviews, or any other job that assists the employer in any way in running their business.

That’s from the Labor & Employment blog, which sounds official enough to me. You’re supposed to get college credit for interning. Which means you should be learning something.

Now, in reality, movies and TV shows hire “interns” all the time as free labor. This is accepted practice because… well, mostly because they can get away with it. It’s a question of supply and demand: thousands of people are trying to get started in this business. When supply in any market is saturated, the price goes down.  Be thankful, I guess, that you don’t have to pay to be an intern.

Oh, wait.

So, in practical terms, there is no difference, other than the whole not-getting-paid thing.

On to Haley’s second question:

2) This comes after weeks and weeks of sending resumes and NO response. When I originally called about the job, it had been referred to me by a well known Production Designer (after many annoying emails asking if he had any contacts for me). This definitely gave me an in, and when I sent in my resume, they said that I had an amazing resume and were so excited to meet me. Does this mean that NO one looks at resumes unless they’re referred, and all the sending-resumes business I’ve been doing has been for nothing?

There are a few possibilities you’re not considering– they could be lying; maybe your resume is not amazing, but they want to suck up to the well-known PD.

Another option– perhaps you’re amazing, but there was someone slightly more amazing applying to those other shows. Remember what Jerry Seinfeld said:

In any case, a good recommendation can’t hurt.

Here’s the priority of hiring people:

  1. People who you’ve worked with in the past.
  2. People who’ve worked with people you know in the past.
  3. People who attended the same school as you.
  4. People who sent in their resume first.

A recommendation doesn’t trump #1, but it does put you in slot 2, which isn’t bad. Barring either of those, there’s still a non-zero chance that you’ll get a job by sending your resume in quickly. That’s how I got my current job.

Between your connections with a well-known designer and your current internship, you should be able to hit the first or second spot on your next job hunt.

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5 Responses

  1. I did the resume thing, but it never ever got me a job. I got my very first paying PA job while “interning” on a set. Yes, the not-getting-paid type of interning.

  2. I just wanted to add in my two cents. I’ve attempted submitting to a MILLION places using methods 1-3. As a matter of fact, I’ve even had people give my resume directly to COOs (I’m on the corporate side) and people responsible for hires. Ironically, the only method that has worked? Serendipity. Sending in a resume right when a company needed someone with my experience, interviewing, and qualifying for the position.
    :-/

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