I’ve created a Facebook page for TAPA! I’m not really sure what to do with it. Heck, I can’t even figure out how to repost my blog entries on the fb page. If anyone knows anything about that, please send me an email.
Speaking of Facebook, some people who seem to know what they’re doing have started PA Nation. They’ve got job listings, funny pictures, and random venting. Kinda like TAPA.
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And now, the first origin story, from a reader who would prefer to stay anonymous:
I’m from New York and I got my start in NY. I went to a fancy expensive film school in NY because I was lucky enough to have parents that would support that idea (financially and otherwise) and I thought it seemed like a fun way to delve deeper into my high school weekend hobby of making goofy short films. Whoa boy, film school was a little bit different from using my parent’s old video camera and hanging out with the theater crowd.
In film school, the concept of PAing on older students’ films was encouraged and required (to an extent – I think we had to do 3 shoots or the equivalent of 36 hours or something like that) by school and as the years went on, people took on bigger roles on each shoot as we (supposedly) learned more. I was given the advice by an older student that it would be an utter waste of time to crew on fellow students’ films and that my time was better spent interning. I mainly took this advice – I aspired to be a producer, so I (line, though in film school all the crew title names are mixed around and don’t make sense) produced a couple of student films to get the experience, but other than that, I did indeed focus on interning. I did learn a lot while producing student films – mainly how to handle disasters, not to trust anyone when it came to locations, how to deal with shitty attitudes, and that I hated being on set. I also made a couple of friends that would help me down the line… but all in all, I don’t regret not spending more time crewing.
My interning life was far more interesting – at my fancy film school, interning was discouraged until your Junior year and they wouldn’t let you sign up for a credit class until then – so you couldn’t provide a letter with proof of credit to the internship you had just busted your butt to get. I was endlessly frustrated with this, and fought it tooth and nail until I was a junior… though I did not do this (I swear!) I knew people who forged letters and lied their way around the requirement. It still makes me mad that this was even an issue! The way I dealt by it was interning at (1) a very small indie production financed by the director/writer’s dad, so they did not require credit and then (2) at a Disney/ABC affiliate that gave you the option of receiving (measly) pay OR getting credit – I obviously chose the pay. Neither of those internships taught me much besides that I didn’t want to work in indie film or casting. I got the first because a friend was interning there as well and the second, I responded to a department wide e-mail that had gone out (I think their HR had contacted our school).
I decided to focus on production, and I finagled myself an internship in a production office – how? By stalking Mandy.com listings for weeks, and as soon as I saw one I liked, e-mailing my resume immediately AND faxed it. I don’t know why I decided to do this at the time (maybe I had read some advice somewhere?) but it was a routine I would follow in the future for other jobs, and it worked a lot of the time – the speed and (non crazy) double whammy shows a real interest, I guess. Within the day, they had called me. This would be a summer internship, and I had been applying other places as well – within a couple of days, I had accepted this internship, but also had offers to intern at the office of the east chapter of one of the big guilds as well as at a very well known indie film company. I hadn’t intended to do multiple internships, but I figured – why not? And decided to take the first two – I had heard the indie film company did not treat their interns well, and their offer had essentially been a panicked call asking if I was available to come in the next day to help them move their offices, so I didn’t feel like I’d miss out on much.
By this time, I was a junior, so I shelled out the cash (ugh fancy film school) for a summer internship credit and began to go to the production office a couple of times a week and to the guild’s office the other days of the week. I was young and shy, and being on an actual movie (not just an indie movie) scared the shit out of me – this was an actual show with production offices at one of the big studios in NY, and even making eye contact with the Line Producer intimidated me so much I could cry. I felt more comfortable, but way more bored, at the guild offices. I was really excited about working on the big movie. In both places I met people I would run into multiple times down the line in my career (not the case for the first two internships) – at this point, because of my shyness but determination to be in the industry – I was essentially a very quiet and nice person who busted their ass at anything they were given to do. I think my bosses and peers appreciated my hard work, but I didn’t stand out to them as someone they’d hire again. While I definitely did run into these people again and they were happy to say hello to me and ask me how I was, none of them ever offered me a job. I didn’t realize what I was doing wrong…. YET.
Fall rolled around and I (through a friend and a well crafted e-mail) managed to get myself another internship in one of the departments of an awesome company that is the art house division of a major studio. This was a GREAT experience – they had a well structured intern program that had us meeting with the executives week to week and learning about aspects of the industry that were never even MENTIONED in film school. Everyone was extremely nice there and understood our purpose as interns exactly – once again, though, I was fairly shy – but I was a really hard worker. I was lucky enough to be an intern in a department where all the other interns were total crap – so despite my shyness, I did stand out a bit. I finally started to wise up as the semester came to an end, and I realized that if I had just been a bit more relaxed and friendly with my supervisor, I’d likely have a great relationship that would be lucrative to my future. I realized this a little bit too late to form a genuine friendship, but I did have a solid rep with that person and they became someone I went to many times in the future as both a reference and someone to give me advice.
I’m not sure what made me realize what I was doing wrong – maybe it was just growing up and understanding the concept of networking and creating/cultivating relationships – but it was definitely at the end of that semester that I had some sort of awakening. I realized that I could bust my ass more than any other intern, but if I didn’t make an impression – personality and friendship wise – no one would think to hire me. The bevy of internships I had already completed gave me confidence that I could handle the industry, and this realization helped fuel the flame that would lead to me getting my first actual job. I took a semester off to study abroad, but I returned in the summer before my senior year determined that I would get myself an internship that would lead me directly to my first job in the industry when I graduated.
I once again trolled Mandy.com for a production office internship, as soon as one popped up that I wanted, I fired off my resume immediately and also got a call immediately. I went in for my interview the next day and got the job immediately – I was going to be a production office intern in the office of a humongous film franchise – this was going to be it.
I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be shy – I would be outgoing and friendly – but still bust my ass. And that’s what I did – I concentrated a bit more on the friendly part – I picked up the production office slang and typical conversation topics… I learned how to look the LP in the eye. I worked for an APOC who REALLY appreciated hard work – and I made it a game for myself to get any task given to me done as quickly and expertly as I could. The POC appreciated goofing off a bit more – and by then I had picked up how to goof off in appropriate amounts in the office. By a couple of months in, the APOC would introduce me as “Our intern – but more than intern, really”. People started asking me what I wanted to do when I graduated, and around October when I realized that I could technically graduate from my fancy expensive film school a semester early, I asked the coordinator’s advice – as a friend. They immediately said they thought it was a great idea and that if I were to graduate early, they’d do what they could to help me find a job. At this point, I trusted them – and I decided to graduate early to save my parents a bit of money. Lo and behold, a month before I was done with school one of the PAs decided they were going to bail on the project a little early (side note, this will give you a BAD rep) – and the next day the coordinator sat me down and asked me how I’d like to step up into the PA position the week after I was done with school.
And that’s about it, in a nutshell. The same APOC and POC got me every single production job I had for the next year, and by then I had accrued enough experience to work with another set of APOC and POC who liked me enough to bring me onto a second project, which was my final project in NY.
By the time I decided to move out to LA and get out of the production world, I had a bunch of great people who knew other people who knew people in LA and I had even worked with many people from LA who had flown out for NY projects. Not to say that finding a job in LA was that easy – I was determined NOT to work in production and I think if I had been willing to do that my options would have been wider – but I managed to get work. My first job out here I got from the UTA job list – a small company that was unlikely to be hiring from within – and the second job I got because I knew a couple of people at the company and I had accrued the exact skill set required over the years.
I think that you’re totally right that there is no one way to do it – everyone’s got a unique story. Hopefully mine is a bit interesting – if I had to sum it up, my advice would be to intern intern intern and be outgoing and friendly WHILE busting your ass, because the outgoing and friendly part will get you further but the busting your ass will ensure that you keep your job.