How to Interview

[Redacted]1 asks:

I just got a call to come in for an interview next week on a new show. Over the past decade of my production experience, every significant job I’ve had came from word-of-mouth, friends, people I’ve worked with before, etc. – I’d never even had a resume till recently, and I’ve never actually interviewed for a production job. I inevitably get stuck on set in some capacity, but this time I would actually have a choice – set or office. I ultimately want to work closer to the writers’ room, since that’s where I’ve always wanted to end up. SO! I have two questions for you:

(1) Is it foolish to make a transition to the office, when I’ve always been on set; is the devil I know better than the devil I don’t?

(2) Do you have any interview tips?

For your first question, the office is WAY easier than set. Don’t stress that you won’t be able to do the job. You’ll be fine. And it’s really where you want to be, so go for it.

As to your second question… Wow, how have I never written a blog post about interviewing?

Dress like you’re on the job. Bring a copy of your resume, even though 90% of the time they’ve printed it themselves already. Watch an episode of the show beforehand, if you can, and be prepared to say something nice about. DON’T be a crazy fan.

They’ll ask you what you want to do with your life someday. The answer is, yes, you want to be a coordinator, a UPM, eventually a producer. Even though that’s not true. The only thing worse than a wannabe actor PA is a wannabe writer PA.

They might ask what your biggest shortcoming is. My favorite answer is, “I put too much pressure on myself to do everything. I prefer to do something myself, so I know it’ll be done right, than delegate a task to someone else.”

They also always ask if you have any questions. This is a surprisingly subtle landmine. You have to be very careful that your question doesn’t sound like you don’t want to do something. “Would I have to do a lot of runs?” for instance. If the answer is “yes,” then they’ll give the job to someone who isn’t worried about doing a lot of runs.

I tend to just ask what the rate is, and if there’s insurance. (I don’t know why that’s something the coordinators don’t bring up themselves.)

If I really can’t think of anything to ask, I’ll say, “No, this sounds like a pretty standard PA job.” Make it sound like you’ve done this a million times, and there’s no curveball they can throw that you won’t hit.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. The reader will be going on the interview soon, and I don’t want the interviewer to think this reader is just parroting what I wrote here.
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7 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t say office PA is easier but I prefer it over set. As an office PA you’re stuck getting lunch for 30+ people (freaking annoying), answering phones all day, work for a disgruntled coordinator, count 1,000 of scripts and you’re stuck on runs all day (foot and car).

    1. Oh! The OP, that’s me!

      I ended up getting the job, even though I felt like I bombed the interview. I was chatting with the front desk about office furniture and how good the Commissary at that particular studio is, while Art Dept. guys wandered in and out with deal memos. This went on for about 10 or 15 minutes before I realized I was actually IN my interview. I thought I was waiting for my interviewer to come out and get me. Turns out the guy at the desk was the POC.

      LESSON: Ask questions on the phone when you get a call to come in, like, get the name of the person you’ll be interviewing with! Granted, he didn’t identify himself on the phone – or his position – but I should’ve clarified it. Perhaps I got the job because I was so casual and comfortable with him, but I still feel like it was a fluke, and I would’ve done all the typical homework on him first. At the very least, I would’ve felt a lot better on the way out, had I not sat swiveling in a janky office chair like an idiot for most of the “interview.”

  2. Well then.

    Just as I start to read this post, I get a phone call from out of state that I try to answer, can’t hear the other end, lose the connection, and only get generic voicemail upon call back.

    Now all I can think of is that it was a production, and since they couldn’t reach me, they moved on. 🙁

    …Or it was just a wrong number.

  3. I just moved to LA and I’ve been doing some low-no paying pa jobs to make connections. Do you have any advice on what to do to make money while doing the low paying pa jobs?

  4. I’m sitting in the production office right now and I can vouch that the office is incredibly easier (almost tediously so) than set. What you’ll find most difficult to cope with (maybe) is that you’ll be hearing all the chaos that’s going on and you’ll want to jump in to help, but you’ll be chained to your desk and phone.

    But bring your computer and have some things you want to research. Blogs and webcomics to read. Get creative with making the kitchen pretty. Judge what the producers are saying.

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