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When You Don’t Know Their Name

Steph writes in:

I am in the process of sending over my cover letter and resume to an open crew call for a new series. I am putting my name forth to be a Set PA. My issue right now is that I am unable to verify if the AD or 2nd AD that worked on the pilot (as I found on the IMDB page) is still in charge for the new episodes that will be shot later this year. I have Googled their names and checked LinkedIn to no avail.

Would it be okay if I simply put “Hi” as I did in this email, then go into my cover letter? Would that look bad?

It doesn’t look bad at all. They know you probably don’t know their names. Hell, you meet so many people in this business, the two of you might have met and don’t even remember

Starting your cover letter with a first name is a bonus, a way of connecting you and the employer as people. But if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. No harm. It’s much worse to get the name wrong.

For those of you who may be confused about why this issue would come up in the first place– many series turn over their entire crew between the pilot and series. One big reason is that California’s tax incentives give money to shows that return from out of state. It can make sense financially to film a pilot in, say, Georgia, and the series in California.

Also, networks like to hire feature directors for their pilots.1 Those directors will often bring their key departments heads (including and especially the 1st AD) onto the pilot, only to take them to their next feature once the series is under way.

And then there’s the simple fact that there’s usually a several-month gap between the pilot and the series. Many people find other work in the meanwhile. Remember, just because someone worked on the pilot, doesn’t mean they worked on the series.

Not that that prevents the pilot director from being listed as an Executive Producer on every episode. Yet another reason to not trust the credits.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. A foolish idea, in my opinion, since its the episodic directors who really create the series over the seasons.
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3 Responses

  1. A similar phenomenon is at work in the multi-camera world. Of the seven shows I’ve done as a member of the core crew over the past ten or fifteen years, I did the pilot for only two. Other crews did the other five. And of the countless pilots I’ve done — many of which were picked up for series — most ended up being done by other crews. Producers of pilots understand that certain directors (Jim Burrows, in particular, but there are others) have the Midas Touch when it comes to guiding a pilot to series, so these people are in high demand come pilot season. Many of those directors like to work with certain cameramen — who they can trust to make the show look right on camera — and bring them along on all their pilots. That’s why Burrow’s crew did something like seven pilots last year over a period of five weeks. But a DP can only take two multi-camera shows at the same time once the season starts, so even if all seven of those pilots went to series, other DP’s and their crews (production as well) ended up doing the shows.

    Thus do the rich get richer, but a few crumbs trickle down to the rest of us peons…

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