International Advice

Kristal writes:

For the last few months I’ve had only one goal – to work on the production of one of my favourite TV shows. I live in Australia and am currently studying media at University. I had decided that once this semester was over, I would gather all the money I’ve saved, defer and move myself over to Los Angeles… I know I’ll have to work hard and I’m very determined to do so. At most I’ve been hoping for an unpaid internship while working part-time somewhere else. As I said before, I had a show to work on in mind but you brought me to the painful realisation that that’s probably not going to happen. At least not right away. I’m ready to take the risk, figure out working visas, exchange rates and international roaming on my phone.But am I being naive?

Holy shamoly, girl, don’t do it! Don’t you dare! Running off to another country with a temporary visa for an unpaid job that you don’t even know you’ll get? First of all, you’ve narrowed down your job options to only one business that may not even have any available positions. And what if this doesn’t work out? Are you aware that the US is currently encountering protests in most major cities regarding inequality and falling living standards? That Los Angeles has hovered around 14% unemployment not just this year but the last three years? That minimum wage doesn’t allow for the “luxuries” of paying for chest exam if you have a cough, or a look at a pain in your ankle that started after you stepped off the curb funny? That apartments for rent in Los Angeles for some reason don’t include refrigerators so you have to buy one?

If you’re in another first world country, stay there. The US is no place to be right now.

That said, even if we were in good times, it boggles me what it is about the fantasy of Hollywood that makes a person lose all practicality. Lets say you were a fashion designer, would it be a good idea to travel randomly to Paris to work at Dior, and ONLY Dior, without looking up whether they even have open positions? What if you were a reporter who moved to New York with no experience and sat on the steps of the New York Times just hoping to be handed a job inside? Or a photographer who suddenly wants to work at National Geographic? There are so many more fashion houses, publications, magazines, and thusly, production companies, to make your life interesting and vivacious.

The fashion designer moves to Paris to work in Paris, not to just work at Dior. Even worse, if you’re obsessed with the one show, I hate to break it but… shows end. At least Dior has been around for forty some years.

You don’t just bet on one company. That’s insane. You can try really, really, really hard and send as many perfumed letters as you think will get you noticed, but imposing such limits on your career is surefire downfall, especially in such an unexpected field. I’ve even had job promises from inside the production itself sink in quicksand… those hurt much more because they’re personal.

Move to LA to work in the industry, not to bet the house on just a single, non-existent job. Otherwise, you’re just as big a fool as the thousands of actors that move here to be stars, rather than to be actors. It’s sad and desperate and unsustainable.

And that’s that.

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7 Responses

  1. Kristal: Don’t go to LA. Work in Australia to test it out. And then, if set suits you, Come to Vancouver. It may not be where your favourite show is made, BUT, lots of awesome shows are made here, and if you work as a PA here, you’ll be PAID for it. We don’t do internships, and PAs are union members.( I get paid $210/day, and that’s not even as a key PA.) I can’t stress this enough.

    Then, after working up some credits in Van- and now is a good time, there are more shows than ever filming here- THEN you go to LA and try your show. All the usual barriers that TAPA talks about are here, but don’t give up.

  2. Hi kristil, like you I want to eventually break into tha American film market and move to LA. However, it takes more than just one semester at university studying media. My advice is to finish your university degree and better still maybe enrol in a film degree which is based on practical film production. Ive just completed a 3 year film degree in Brisbane and the access to equipment, and access to the industry has been fantastic.
    Also do work experience ( although tedious st times) it does add something to your cv. Earlier this year I worked on a few episodes of a kids tv show ( which is shown on Abc3), worked on a studio based show ( another kids show- loved working in the studio) and got a 3 month internship at a film and tv production.
    at the moment I’m working towards volunteering on short films through qpix ( different names in different states; open channel etc) this is a great place to start and offers lots of contacts on the film industry. Start building yourself here in australia first sorry if we all sound negative but it’s a hard business to break iinto ( which il sure you are aware 🙂 You don’t want to be like countless aspiring actors or film makers that go to LA and work in hospitality for like 6+ years before they get anywhere. Also have you considered other jobs in the industry not just production assistant? However saying that work hard and don’t give up your dreAm of working in LA!

  3. Thanks for a good blog. Well Film Industry have same rule in every corner of world. After being working for Five years freelance TV Film production here in India I’m still unable to convince people in TV and good Production houses that I’m worth of a production job. But I guess they won’t listen. Even the biggest plan comes to end … So thinking it I started my own corporate video production house doing it for two years .. but even that doesn’t provide you regular income … so in nutshell this line sucks and biggest mistake i done in my life was doing a Film Making course …

  4. DONT DO IT!
    “For the last few months I’ve had only one goal – to work on the production of one of my favourite TV shows.”
    This is NOT a reason to work in the film industry. Not only will the show you are coveting end up facing cancellation, but chances are you will NOT want to actually watch the show after you work on it. Try working as a PA on a show you “favor” and see how you feel about the talent after-wards…

    “I live in Australia and am currently studying media at University. I had decided that once this semester was over, I would gather all the money I’ve saved, defer and move myself over to Los Angeles… I know I’ll have to work hard and I’m very determined to do so. ”

    Sadly, working hard and determination doesn’t always add up to a job in this industry. Especially with you coming from a foreign country, you will want to have a resume from your home country (i.e Australia) to show that you are capable of your job of choice.

    My advice – work in Australia (which I hear has some great opportunities), build up a resume, VISIT LA to decide if you even like this town, and than proceed to LA with caution.

  5. You need to firstly get unpaid experience in Australia, learn what you want to do in the industry, where you will be best applied, build on your strengths, local network before venturing to L.A for the BIG DREAM. It is okay to dare to dream but you need experience and you need tons of them. I am still trying to figure out where I stand in the industry and though I have been working on shows and films, I have over 2 years of unpaid experiences on shorts, low budget features and internships at production houses to my name and though I have worked on the big budget hollywood-type productions in Aus, it is not all glamorous, the hours are long, there is a lot to learn about the intricate workings from production-shoot-post and it is a crazy world. Those who work in the industry love what they do, not what they are working on.

    My ultimate dream is to work on period dramas in the UK and I am still building on my skill sets and connections before making the big trip over there. Research needs to be done on the employment available for your destination and you need to be sure that you can survive there, an empty purse will lead to an empty stomach which will get you nowhere any quicker than starting in your own local industry.

    You need to be 100% dedicated to what you want to do before you head overseas to pursue it. Also, if you are Australian, there are great funding schemes and plenty of opportunities to build your career here first.

    Support your own industry before going overseas and learn about networking, in this industry it is primarily who you know that will get you work not just experience. Go to ScreenAustralia’s website and connect with your local state’s film/tv bodies, buy local film magazines such as Film Ink and Inside Film, that offer an insight to what local/international productions are on and start making those phone calls. Film Victoria has a great article on Early Career Practitioners – Also great link resources to be found here –

    Continue to dream but in the meantime, streamline them into goals and it will really help you clear the path towards what your real dreams are.

    Good luck!

  6. First of all, why the hell would you ever want to leave Australia. I know so many people that have left LA to travel there and have ended up moving shop. However, aside from that issue, both the editor and the first comment make solid points, very solid points that are, once again, VERY true.

    My advice in this matter, so not to repeat the other comments, just because you love watching a show does not mean working on it is going to be as spectacular. Every single production is different and is ran differently just solely on the fact that everyone has their own preferences. This ranges from the top notch people all the way down. UPM’s, Production Coordinator’s, Costumes, AD’s, etc. all expect, want and do things the way they want it. The film industry is just full of absolute retards and stubborn people, no way around that.

    To my main point, I know this because I’m working on a show right now in which the main actors were on my favorite show when I was in high school. On paper I was so excited to start and work with all these people. No, no and no. I’ve never heard of or seen such a poorly ran show. There is no fun. When it is super slow you find yourself surfing the internet only to get yelled at because box rental paperwork has not gone to accounting. The smallest things are the biggest deal and everyone loves to play the blame game, no joke. It’s never about fixing the problem on this show, maybe others, but not this one. It’s about finding out who did what to yell at them. Granted you have your dicks who are also idiots which really doesn’t help anyone, but of course they don’t get fired. It’s the people at the bottom who accidentally forget to have the back side of a call sheet calendar style and not book style and get fired.

    So my Aussie friend, I wouldn’t live a life with regrets so do what you need to do, but my suggestion would become the next flyhalf or outside center for the Springboks.

  7. Also, the film industry is active outside of LA. If one were to move to the USA right now to work in the industry, my recommendation would be to move to Louisiana. It’s muggy as hell and there are a lot of problems with the cities in Louisiana, but they’ve had a LOT of work and I’m not sure what kind of a crew base they have. The number of people going for each job available has to be smaller than it is in LA or NY.

    Before heading to the states, get involved in film and television in Australia. You don’t know how many times in the past year I’ve thought to myself… “I wonder if New Zealand has much production going on?” I know that’s a different place… point is… LA is not the beginning and end of it.

    I’m sure you guys have some reality shows, independent films, commercials… and those things are where most people get started in America. Start in Australia, get a few gigs whether or not you’re getting money from it… you might find that you can pursue your career without ever having to come to the USA. If that’s not the case… then pick a city in America that is having unprecedented growth in the film industry (I picked Atlanta, 6 or 7 months in and I’m finally paying my bills.), go there, and network as much as you can.

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