D writes in:
I have a few friends in the industry who have told me to NEVER work in reality production. I recently moved back to LA from Atlanta and have a lot of experience producing independent film and TV.
I know the game is bigger in LA and am happy to start off working as a PA. I can’t seem to find a position as most of my experience is producing and I am not starting at entry level.
I know I could get hired in reality, but many of my friends have told me that if you start off in reality you will never be able to make the transition to studio or on the lot shows, which is ultimately, where I want to be.
Do you know if this is actually the case? If you work reality, do you get pigeon holed into that forever?
Not necessarily forever, but it is hard to get out. Especially because the money gets good really quickly.
Basically, reality is a ladder with two branches. Either you can climb the ladder within reality, and move up to coordinating and producing rather quickly. Or, you can step sideways from being a reality PA to a feature or narrative TV series. This is obviously an extra step, but if you have no experience, it’s a place to start. That’s what I did.
Fairly or unfairly, folks in scripted television look down on reality TV.1 Because it’s non-union, there’s very little oversight, and crew members can form bad habits that would never fly on a real show.
And since the budgets are incredibly low, so is the pay. The presumption is, if you’re really good at your job, you’d do it for more money on a union show. But you’re on a reality show, ipso facto, you’re not that good at your job.
If you work on a reality show, and you’re great at your job, I’m sorry. I’m just telling you what the common perception is.
My usual advice in D’s sort of situation, though, is to fudge your resume in the opposite direction people usually do– put yourself down as a PA or production secretary for those films. If you say you’re a producer, people will assume you either don’t know what you’re talking about, or the show wasn’t serious. After all, why would a producer apply for a production assistant job?
Don’t worry about whether or not this matches your IMDb page. First of all, they rarely check your IMDb page, anyway. But if they do, just tell them your show was overly generous with the credit, to make up for the low pay and long hours.
- Totally fairly.↩