The Decision

I’m currently an Office PA on a studio film. It definitely has its perks, but it’s not without its troubles (which I’ve documented in detail). Fortunately for me, this job will keep me employed through the end of the year, which, for a movie, is like an eternity. They might as well be offering me a 401k.

Over the weekend, a Production Supervisor that I’ve worked with called to offer me a Director’s Assistant position on her new movie – a low-budget horror film. I was at the Arclight when I found out about this interview. This was my response:

I figured that this was the key to someday directing on my own. I’d quit my current job, take this new one, impress the director so much that he would inevitably offer me his agent and a three-picture deal. (My over-active imagination is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness.) When I got home, I made a list – just to cover my bases – of what this new job would have to offer in order for me to quit my current job.

  1. Comparable pay.
  2. Continued employment through at least Halloween.
  3. A job that I’d be excited about going to, i.e. I don’t want to just get coffee and make copies. (I already do that now.)

Monday, I went into work, having already told the APOC about the interview. That afternoon, I interviewed with the Production Supervisor, and it sounded like the dream job that I pictured in my head.

Then she told me that the movie wraps in mid-August… less than eight weeks from today.

I'mma Take My Talents to Brentwood
I understand you now, LeBron. I was ready to take my talents to South Beach, too!

I was up front with her. I couldn’t afford to take the job. I thanked her for the opportunity. But before I left, she asked, “TAPA, what do you ultimately want to do?”

I reluctantly admitted, “I want to write and direct.”

She shook her head slightly and said, “That’s fine, TAPA. I understand that you have bills to pay. But at some point, you’re gonna have to take your shot.”

I’m pretty confident I made the right decision. I enjoy the show I’m on. I enjoy the people. I’m almost positive that they’ll hire me again or that I might be able to parlay this into a Director’s Assistant or Producer’s Assistant job in the future. This show will allow me to pay off my credit card debt and travel and buy my family Christmas gifts.

But I don’t think I’ll ever forget what she said: “At some point, you’re gonna have to take your shot.”

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7 Responses

  1. You’re bugging. You are always going to have bills. You have to invest in yourself and risk going broke if you want to make it big. Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’re still amongst those stars.

  2. She’s right.

    It’s easy to get comfortable and take P.A. job after P.A. job because you enjoy the people and it more than pays the bills. But if you want to make that jump, someday you’re going to have to leave that behind.

    It’s hard to give up a steady paying gig that lasts that long, and I know plenty of people who would (and have) made the same decision you did. But three years later, they’re still in the same place (which is fine in a sense, bills being paid and all) while they watch others come and go.

  3. Most people I know get into that heart/head situation at one point. All the best things come with some bitter pill. I can at least tell you that Directors Assisting will still have you making copies and coffee though, and is often so focused on scheduling and coordinating it feels like a route to producing. It can be quite disappointing for someone with directing aspirations. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t kill for the job though. Give it to me!!

  4. I too want to write and direct some day, anon. Just for the sake of argument, and so you can see the other side of the coin. This is my plan…

    I’ve never held a directors assistant job, nor a real office PA job. I worked as a day playing PA (both on Set and in the office) on some TV Shows between 2008-2010. But ultimately decided that the route of assistant wasn’t for me. I had a family I have to support, and so I parlayed my experience into the technical side of editorial. Which is nice. Get to see how a film is finished, know the insides and outs of editorial. Know how to edit, etc.

    The editorial job I have allows me the flexibility to have weekends off.

    My career path is two fold, one is the more proactive plan: direct spec commercials (one per month until I have a solid demo reel) and maybe a short or two. Submit my reel to prodco’s and try to get hired as a commercial director.

    Write everyday, give myself real deadlines and hold myself to them. Finish a first draft, revise it. Once I have three solid screenplays I am proud of, submit them to an agent. Try to sell them, but at the very least try to get work writing on commission.

    The second, more passive way: Continue to work at my job as an Assistant Editor. Work my way into editorial. Continue to write and direct and when the time is right, after working as an editor for a few years, push my way into directing.

    Everyone’s path is different, as long as you keep working at it, you’ll eventually get your shot and you have to be ready for it when the time is right. But if you want to write and direct, the best thing to do is write and direct something. No matter how small. I wrote a reply on reddit to someone asking how to get into directing, take it with a grian of salt, as I’m also still in the early stages of my career but you can read it here.

    All the best, Anon. You’ve given me so much information on your blog. I wish you the best of luck, and if you’re ever available in LA, lets grab coffee. 🙂

    PS. I have no doubt you’ll be a writer/director one day, the #1 thing it takes is tenacity and drive. You definitely have both.

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