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Foreign Experience

Max writes:

I work as an office PA in Malta, which has a small but steadily growing film industry largely based on foreign films shooting here rather than our own local production. We have all manner of shoots here from music videos and small commercials to high-budget, high-profile American films and TV, and everyone pretty much just works on whatever comes along regardless of size. As an example, in the last year I’ve worked on an HBO tv show, a French feature films and the biggest international film to come out of Norway. I would love to some day transfer to the US job market, do you think I would stand a good chance of finding work with a couple of years working here under my belt? Or do you think that I would have to start from volunteer positions again?

(Obviously I am aware of the immigration issue, but that is something I can sort myself, so it doesn’t have any bearing on my question.)

In all honesty, your work environment seems generally a little more terrifying than mine is, but I guess it’s best to know my options.

So what do you think- can a European PA jump into the US job market, or is it back to square one for the foreign girl with the funny accent?

In all honesty, I doubt most people would know where these shows and commercials were filmed.  Write your resume just like any American PA would, and, if you’re legal to work in the US as you said, simply don’t mention the fact that you’re an immigrant.

I’m not saying that there’s a bias against non-Americans. Your written English is superb for a second language (you did write “a French feature films”, which could just as easily be a typo an Ugly American like me would make), and no one will think any less of you when they call and hear your accent.

It’s just that you never know what will turn a potential employer off. You’ll be going up against many other well-qualified production assistants. If the coordinator has had one bad experience with a fresh-off-the-boat PA, that might be enough for her to cut you from the list of potential interviewees.

Yes, even Canadians.
Pictured: how all Americans sees all non-Americans.

But once your foot is in the door, and you don’t act like a crazy person, you’ll have a fair chance at getting that job.

If you can legally work in Los Angeles (or, to a lesser extent, New York), you’ll be fine. Or, as fine as any of the rest of us PAs struggling for work.

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One Response

  1. One time on a show I was on, the unit that went to a foreign country liked a guy they met there so much they brought him back with them and employed him. Maybe try that route – hit up the people you’ve worked with and see if they’ll take you under their wing! If you’re still on PA level, this is a hell of a lot easier than higher up. Might as well go for it!

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